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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You recently published a letter praising divorced fathers who sent child support checks faithfully. Then I saw a letter in your column saying that those fathers were merely doing their legal duty.

Well, Abby, what about divorced fathers who do everything possible to stay in their child's life?

I am 13 years old, and my parents have been divorced for 10 years. Dad still lives in Chicago, but he calls me every single Saturday morning just to talk. He has done this as far back as I can remember.

He never forgets cards for all the holidays, and in between, he writes friendly letters. I visit him almost every holiday and in the summer, too.

He never says anything mean about Mom.

One letter in your column seemed to say that the only thing divorced fathers do is fill out the check every month. That simply is not true. -- JANET REECE IN CINCINNATI

DEAR JANET: Here's a round of applause for all those fathers who keep a loving relationship with their children. And another round of applause for a mature and gracious 13-year-old who is undoubtedly a credit to both her parents.

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who calls me occasionally, and I have found out that every time we talk, her husband listens in on the conversation. She doesn't think there is anything wrong with this, but I think it is rude and inconsiderate. When I sense that he is on the phone, I will usually say something like, "Has Tom hung up, or is he still on the line?"

For that reason, I have stopped calling her unless it is something very important. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but if I wanted to talk to the husband, I would ask for him. What do you think of grown people who act this way?

We have read your column for many years and I feel that if you respond in the paper, they would certainly read it. Sometimes it is the little things that ruin a wonderful friendship. -- OVERHEARD AND HATING IT

DEAR OVERHEARD: Grown people who listen in on the conversations of others are childish, nosy and rude. Please write again and let me know if Tom and his wife recognize themselves.

DEAR ABBY: I was wondering what to say to solicitors when they come to the door. My mom is usually busy doing something and my father works upstairs at home.

I'm 11 years old, so I don't want to seem disrespectful by saying, "We're not interested" and slamming the door in their faces. What should I do? -- WONDERING GIRL IN PASADENA

DEAR WONDERING: Never open the door to a stranger. It is permissible to ask the solicitor, through a closed door, to identify him or herself. If your parents have no interest in the product, say, "No thank you." The solicitor will get the message.

Children should be told that under no circumstances should they tell a stranger, "My mother isn't home."

DEAR ABBY: A Mrs. Bierstein wrote about her wonderful life in a retirement center, and you responded that in several European countries, similar facilities were available to most seniors at little or no cost. That is true, and it would be wonderful if we could have them too, but please tell the other side of the story.

In such countries, average people pay about half their income in taxes, some medical treatments are denied due to cost, medical advancements seldom keep pace with ours, and their governments are drowning in seas of red ink -- even more than our own government.

Simply put, "There isn't any free lunch!" Sign me ... TEXAS TAXPAYER

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