Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Four years ago our son, "Al," got his girlfriend, "Tara," pregnant. Tara was 15 and Al was 18 at the time. A week after our grandson was born, Tara's parents kicked her out of their house, so we took her and the baby into our home where we lived happily as a family.

As time went on, Tara got pregnant again -- also from our son -- and when she became of age to marry without her parents' consent, she and Al selected a date in September (1990). Al was a college student living at our home with Tara and the babies.

One month before the wedding, Al was killed in an auto accident. During his funeral, we treated Tara as his widow.

Tara has since reconciled with her parents, and she and her children have moved back with them. She is now 19, but she doesn't date yet because she's still grieving for Al. We hope that one day she will have a normal life, but she is not interested yet.

She attends all of our family functions, birthdays, weddings, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, etc., just as though she were Al's widow.

Abby, we feel that it may be an embarrassment to her when we introduce her as "Tara, the mother of our grandchildren." Since she and Al were never married, she is not technically our daughter-in-law. So, how should she be introduced? -- AL'S FATHER IN GEORGIA

DEAR FATHER: Introduce her as "Tara, the mother of our grandchildren." Your family and close friends will know the background, and casual acquaintances and strangers do not need to know her history. Or ask Tara how she would like to be introduced and abide by her wishes.

DEAR ABBY: My heart went out to "Guilty in Antigo, Wis." -- the smoker who was made to feel like a leper by society because she smokes.

I am not a smoker, but my mother was. I have inhaled my share of secondhand smoke, which, in turn, may have made me more tolerant of smokers today, but non-smokers should check their own bad habits before looking down their noses at smokers.

Put me next to a smoker anytime on an airplane, in a restaurant or theater, before you put me next to a squawling baby or a loud, obnoxious person! Most of my friends who smoke go outside to do so out of consideration for non-smokers, but how many people do you see actually leaving a restaurant or a theater when their child acts up?

What I'm saying is, we all have habits and/or actions that may annoy others.

If smoking is the only bad habit "Guilty in Antigo" has, I'd love to have her over for coffee and a cigarette sometime. If she can handle my nail-biting and gossiping, I can handle her cigarette-smoking. -- NOT PERFECT IN WESTMINSTER, CALIF.

To get Abby's booklet "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600