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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Let me tell you about the best Father's Day gift I ever received:

In 1987, my daughter, "Joan," who was 27 years old at the time, told me that she was having a difficult time selecting a Father's Day gift. She said she wanted to give me something special, but felt that I had everything. So she asked me what I wanted.

I told her that she had something in her power that was very special -- it was something that only she could give me.

I said, "If you will quit smoking for Father's Day, it would be the greatest gift you could ever give me. I would cherish this gift and celebrate it every Father's Day for the rest of my life."

Well, she quit smoking as a special gift to me, and now I not only have a daughter who can expect greatly improved health, but last year, she presented me with a beautiful, healthy grandson who also will enjoy a smoke-free environment. -- DICK BLANKENSHIP, LONG BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR MR. BLANKENSHIP: Your daughter not only gave you a gift, she also gave your entire family a gift.

DEAR ABBY: Last year, before Father's Day, you suggested that children send a letter to their fathers telling them how much they loved them rather than the traditional Father's Day card.

I wrote my dad a letter and told him how much I admired him knowing that every morning he had to go to work to support a wife and eight children. We never went without a meal, we had the basic necessities, and we were always warm in the winter. And we had the love of two parents.

I remember in the seventh grade I sometimes spent the lunch money Dad gave me for candy and cigarettes instead of lunch. At the end of that year, Dad had to pay the school $16 for lunches I had charged. He never questioned the bill -- he just paid it.

In my Father's Day letter to him, I explained why he was sent that bill and enclosed a check for $16. He read the letter, cashed the check, and never mentioned the incident.

Mom later told me that she didn't know what I had written in that letter, but whatever it was brought tears to Dad's eyes, and several times since, she saw him in his room rereading that letter.

Thank you very much for the idea. It certainly has brought peace of mind to me, and finally I have been honest with my dad. -- MARY FUGATE, WEST COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR MARY: Words of gratitude are wonderful to hear, but when they are expressed in writing, they can be cherished indefinitely. Trust me, I know.

DEAR ABBY: While scanning my newspaper I saw several ads for Father's Day gifts, which brought to mind a poem I clipped from your column many years ago. Please run it again. -- MILWAUKEE FAN

DEAR MILWAUKEE FAN: Here it is:

YOUR NAME

You got it from your father,

It was all he had to give.

So it's yours to use and cherish

For as long as you may live.

If you lose the watch he gave you

It can always be replaced,

But a black mark on your name, Son,

Can never be erased.

It was clean the day you took it

And a worthy name to bear.

When he got it from his father,

There was no dishonor there.

So make sure you guard it wisely;

After all is said and done,

You'll be glad the name is spotless

When you give it to your son.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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