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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: I'll be on vacation between Aug. 18 and Aug. 31. Don't panic -- I've selected some of my favorite letters from past years to fill the gap. I hope you enjoy them.

DEAR ABBY: I am planning to be married next month, and what should be the happiest time in my life has turned into one of my biggest problems. The reason is my mother -- or more specifically, her drinking. She has ruined every affair she's attended.

Last year at my sister's wedding, Mother:

1. Propositioned the judge who performed the ceremony.

2. Started a screaming argument with my sister.

3. Punched me out.

4. Went on a crying jag.

5. Fell on the dance floor.

6. Got mad at the people who were trying to help her and locked herself in the coat closet.

Mother is a darling person when she's sober, but when she drinks, she's impossible. Afterward, when we tell her how she behaved, she doesn't believe us.

I'm planning my wedding half-heartedly, knowing my mother will ruin it. I love my mother, Abby, and can't have a wedding and not invite her. We are considering eloping, but if we do, we will want a reception afterward to celebrate our marriage, and if Mother comes, she will turn it into a disaster.

What should we do? We're not kids. I'm 42, the groom is 52 and Mother is 63. -- SOMETHING BLUE

DEAR BLUE: Talk candidly to your mother. And tell her that only if she agrees to refrain from drinking on your wedding day will you have a wedding. If she agrees, enlist the cooperation of a few close friends and/or relatives to make sure she either keeps her promise or is removed. It's not fair that you should have to elope or forgo a wedding because your mother can't tolerate alcohol.

I recommend Al-Anon. It teaches friends and families of alcoholics how to deal with the problem. And if you really love your mother, you will view her problem as an illness and do all you can to help her.

DEAR ABBY: I don't have a problem. I have a solution to what used to be a major headache in my life. Perhaps others may benefit should you care to print this.

My 90-year-old mother has been confined to a nursing home for the past three years. She is alert and enjoys relatively good health. Her major disability is that she has become quite deaf, but she refuses to wear a hearing aid because she says it will make her look "old." Consequently, visits with her always end up in an angry shouting match, and communication with friends and family has come to a halt. Now Mother sits alone in a silent, frustrating world.

Recently I hit upon a partial solution. Each day I mail her a "bulletin," bringing her news of the family, cheery comments on life and absolutely no bad news. I type six at a time (one can improvise on coming events), using large uppercase letters and double spacing for easy reading. It takes only one hour a week -- a small price for the joy it gives my mother. The results can't be measured. She gets a little present every day the mail is delivered and is no longer a nonperson.

My daily bulletins do not replace personal visits; they make those visits more pleasant. -- R.H.G., ELM GROVE, WIS.

DEAR R.H.G.: I hope you will mention in one of your "bulletins" that a hearing aid does not make a person look "old." It's hardly visible, but if it's noticed at all, it's evidence that the wearer is doing his or her part to stay in communication with the outside world.

And how very thoughtful of you to see that your mother gets something in the mail from you every day.

DEAR ABBY: My mother and I are in total disagreement, and here's why:

My brother and I are both married, and we each have two young children. My mother bought my brother's kids beautiful outfits for their birthdays, but for my kids, she bought a couple of yards of material and told me to make them outfits.

I thought this was very unfair and I told her so. She said it wasn't unfair because my brother's wife doesn't sew and I do. I'll leave it up to you and your readers, Abby. Do you think this was fair? I like to sew, but not that much. -- DISAPPOINTED

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: It wasn't fair, and your disappointment was justified. Youngsters look forward to receiving birthday gifts, and a couple of yards of material isn't nearly as much fun to unwrap as a new outfit.

DEAR READERS: If you would like your letter considered for publication, please include your name, area code and telephone number.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600