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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our parents are Vivian and Orlin Rongstad. Last fall, we started thinking about their 50th wedding anniversary. They made it clear they had no interest in a big celebration.

My sister and I remembered a letter we saw in your column about a woman turning 80, whose daughter arranged a mail campaign to friends requesting they send a note with a recollection instead of a gift. So we went to work.

Unbeknownst to our parents, we poked through their two address books and mailed 136 letters to relatives and friends, from California to Norway. (They live in Wisconsin.) We requested the greatest gift of all -- sharing a memory! We had no clue what the response would be.

It was an unbelievable success. Their anniversary was Feb. 9. From Feb. 5 through Feb. 27, they received 166 cards and letters in the mail, with the majority sharing a memory. Our parents were surprised and delighted with their overflowing mailbox of pleasant remembrances. It truly was the greatest gift we could have given them. Dad said, "A party would have been over in four hours, but this lasted three weeks!"

Thank you, Abby, for the idea. We provided a joyous celebration for our parents without having an organized party. -- PROUD DAUGHTERS KAY IN ILLINOIS AND CAROL IN WISCONSIN

DEAR PROUD DAUGHTERS: My belated congratulations to your parents on the occasion of their 50th anniversary. I'm pleased to learn it brought them so much pleasure.

Many adult children ask how to plan celebrations for parents who are adamant about not collecting more "things" at this stage of their lives.

They ask, "How can we let guests know that our parents do not want gifts?" In past columns, I have offered the following solution:

"The children of Iver and Helen Dahl invite you to celebrate with them the 50th wedding anniversary of their parents. A reception will be held May 7, at 2 p.m., at the Elmhurst Country Club.

"We request your help in compiling a book that recalls memories from our parents' first 50 years of marriage. On the enclosed sheet, we ask that you write one memory or experience that you have shared with them, and return it to us by April 26. We believe that the loving memories they have shared with you, their friends, would be the most treasured gift they could receive; therefore, we request that no other gift be sent."

DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from "Confused and Hurting," the 44-year-old divorcee who fell into bed with a 50-year-old man on their first date. After two months of "getting together" every night, he suggested that they end their relationship and just be friends.

What "C and H" needs is a big reality adjustment. She willingly feeds her romantic fantasies about being so special and good to this man she's "in love with" that he couldn't help but love her in return and leave his empty but financially comfortable marriage for her. The fact is, this philanderer made it clear he didn't intend to have anything but an affair and that she was a temporary fix.

At 44, this woman is overdue to grow up. If she would give up her fantasy life and spend her time and effort developing some self-esteem, predatory men would avoid her and decent men would take notice. Change may be painful, but it is worth it. She should seek professional help, if necessary. This from ... THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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