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DEAR MISS MANNERS - My family has been in a vicious legal battle for five years - Mom on one side, Dad on the other. Dad wants to give the company he built to his oldest son. Mom wants to see the company shared evenly by all four children, since it was her money that made the initial investment in the company.

The legal battle has been enormously expensive, in both personal and financial terms. Dad won't compromise in accordance with mediators we have worked with, and the eldest son is set on having the successful company for himself.Is it proper to continue to give Dad parties and presents for his birthday and Christmas and anniversaries, or would this be hypocritical? Dad is a businessman who has devoted his life to his company and never participated in the lives of his wife or children.

What would you do - act as if there's no fight, or give him the silent treatment?

GENTLE READER - It is Miss Manners' soft-hearted instinct to try to repair all family feuds, even though she knows that the effort is often futile. Nevertheless, there is a satisfaction in knowing that one has behaved impeccably and done all one can.

If that does not provide enough incentive, allow Miss Manners to put another consideration to you:

Presumably you are one of the three younger children whom your father does not wish to trust with the family business. Cutting off family courtesies will give him the satisfaction of believing that you were ingrates, anyway. Treating him with respect and kindness will, at the least, give him a twinge about not reciprocating.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - My fiance was unusually close to his mother, who passed away two years ago after a long illness. His father has recently remarried.

My fiance has a strong sense of family, and even before his mother's death he was close to his aunt (father's sister). She was extremely supportive of him through his mother's death, his education and our relationship. I, too, am very close to his aunt, and I knew his mother well.

We would like the aunt to act as mother of the groom. Duties include sitting beside the father during the ceremony and standing in the receiving line. This would not mean that the stepmother would be excluded from a seat at the family table at the reception.

I have waited a very long time for this day, after dating my fiance for almost nine years, and although I do not wish to hurt anyone's feelings, it is important to me that I make this wedding day as much his day as mine.

I realize the position of mother of the groom is of much less importance than that of mother of the bride; however, because of certain acquaintances' attitudes, we both feel it would be easier having the aunt act as mother of the groom.

If my fiance's mother were still alive, I would have liked to involve her to a great extent in the wedding plans. I know the aunt would take great pleasure in assisting, but the stepmother would not, as she consistently detaches the father from the rest of the family, often behaving in a rude and selfish manner.

We are caught between hurting the feelings of all the family and very close friends, and annoying the new stepmother. It is likely that the father would not have a lot to say about the aunt being mother of the groom, as he is very aware of the feelings in this situation.

GENTLE READER - Long before Miss Manners got to the end of your letter, she became aware that honoring the aunt was not the only purpose of your peculiar proposal. Although you properly have misgivings about doing so, you also wish to slight the stepmother.

The fact is that it is not necessary to do the latter in order to do the former. Mother of the bridegroom is not a role that you may cast as you wish. But there is no reason in the world that the aunt cannot join her brother and his wife in the pew and in the receiving line, not as an ersatz mother, but as a beloved aunt.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - I am a cashier in a supermarket.

A customer will come up to the register and say, "I'll bet you were just waiting for me" or "I only came in for one item." I have heard these lines so many times I could choke.

I try to be polite and say, "If I had a dime for every time I've heard that line, I'd be a rich woman." I even get tired of hearing myself say that. What can I say to encourage people to think that cashiers enjoy good conversation?

GENTLE READER - You haven't come up to Miss Manners in her line of work and said, "I'd better watch my manners in front of you," have you?

If you have, you noticed that Miss Manners neither choked nor snapped back with an equally common line. Let that be an example.

If you are the Noel Coward of the checkout line, perhaps you could treat the customers to short (but kind) witticisms as they go by. If not, Miss Manners suggests you just ring up the groceries and cultivate good conversation after hours - with people who are not concentrating on the price of oranges these days.

(C) 1990, United Feature Syndicate Inc.