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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been married for 40 years and have three grown daughters who live a few miles from us. Last year, my wife had a stroke that left her physically incapacitated and requiring daily care. She is unable to stand, walk or even get out of bed without help. Our daughters come to visit as often as they can and help with her care.

Their visits usually go something like this: Daughter arrives, knocks at the door and comes in. She nods at me, asks how I'm doing, then heads for the bedroom. From then on, however long the visit lasts, it's "yakety-yak, blah-blah-blah" with Mom, the hired caregiver or each other if more than one daughter is here.

My daughters talk to me only if there's a problem involving finances or bills. Otherwise, it's, "Gotta run. Bye, Dad. See you later!"

I realize I'm not the best of company. I've never been good at idle chitchat or mingling with people, and the present circumstances don't help any. But it would be nice to be included in the loop occasionally, even though I'm not exactly bubbling over with joy these days.

In the past, I've tried explaining my feelings to my wife, but all I got was a sarcastic "Oh, you poor dear!" From my daughters I get, "Think positive, Dad, be upbeat." Then off they go to talk to Mom while I sit in the living room alone. I feel left out of my own family. Your opinion, please. -- GOOD OLD DAD

DEAR GOOD OLD DAD: Your daughters' habit of speaking to you only about certain issues and talking to their mother about everything is not uncommon. It probably was established years ago, when the girls were young.

However, it's not too late to make a change. Be honest with your daughters. Let them know you'd like more than the limited converations you have had with them until now. Begin by asking them personal questions. If you "hear" only "yakety-yak, blah-blah-blah," the situation won't improve. If you LISTEN when they answer, you and your children may discover you're finally getting to know each other.

P.S. Instead of isolating yourself when your daughters come to visit their mother, why not join the party?

DEAR ABBY: Not too long ago, a friend of mine lost his eyesight due to complications from diabetes. He is only 29.

Fortunately, I was given the gift of sharing his first outing since he became blind. He was so excited! After almost sitting on a stranger's lap on the bus, he told me how helpful it would be if the public would just do a few things to enable the blind to function without additional problems when they go out.

These are only a few tips on ways we can help people who are sightless:

1. When you see someone who is blind, start talking. This will let him know WHERE you are. (That way, the person won't sit on your lap or trip over your feet.)

2. Ask if there is anything you can do. You might be able to direct them.

3. Let them take your elbow so that you can lead them to a specific area, especially when crossing the street.

4. Converse with them -- you'll find they have much to say.

Many of us are fearful that we will do the wrong thing, so we don't do anything. I know there must be other helpful tips. If your readers can add to this list, it will be very much appreciated. -- ANDREA RYNER, SAN MATEO, CALIF.

DEAR ANDREA: You've written a helpful letter. I hope readers who have contact with a person who is sightless will take your suggestions to heart.

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.)

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