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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I got into a terrible fight with my father and hadn't spoken to him for about three weeks. One night I had an opportunity to talk to him, but because we'd had a rocky relationship for a while, I foolishly chose to remain angry. It was the biggest mistake of my life, because that night he died in a terrible car accident.

I think about my father every day and miss him terribly. It's been 10 years since his death, and every day I have regretted putting my anger before my love for him. Life is short, and there is nothing worse than feeling that it's "too late." I have written a poem that describes how I feel:

I could have been kinder, it's easy to see.

I could have made time for just you and me.

You taught me a lesson I'll share if I may,

There are no second chances, so make use of today.

Go to your loved ones. Tell them you care.

Don't be put off; they won't always be there.

It may not be easy, it may not seem right,

But I guarantee you'll sleep better tonight.

I hope my poem will help someone to reach out to a loved one. You never know if you'll get the chance again. -- LORI IN ONAWA, IOWA

DEAR LORI: Your poem delivers a powerful message. Perhaps you'll find comfort in the thought that others may be spared your misfortune because you chose to share your experience.

DEAR ABBY: "Frustrated 16-Year-Old in Norfolk" implied she was denied an education because she left school and now has a baby. Was this child enrolled in a public high school? Did you call Norfolk Public Schools to find out our policies on admitting teen mothers or dropouts? If you had, you would have known pregnant teens may attend their regular classes up to their due date, or attend a special school for pregnant girls where they receive intensive parenting education as well as their academic courses. Once they have the baby, they return to their home school.

We encourage dropouts to return to school -- either at their home school to pick up where they left off, or in a variety of alternative programs and sites.

One program, the Norfolk Preparatory School, allows students to attend classes at night and earn credits at an accelerated pace so they can catch up with their peers. This program has helped many students earn their high school degree and prepare for further training either at a vocational school or a college.

Abby, are you certain the girl was truly denied admittance? My guess is she and her parents have not even been to school to enroll. If she did go and was denied enrollment, it was because of disciplinary action for fighting, possession of weapons or drugs, but certainly not for dropping out to have a baby.

I am proud to be an 11-year veteran teacher in Norfolk Public Schools. I have taught many students who have children at home, or teens who are returning to school after dropping out. We work hard to educate all segments of our urban population. We have excellent academic and vocational programs in place with an active, caring faculty to encourage our students to succeed. Please be sure you correct the false negative impression this girl made of Norfolk Public Schools. -- JACQUELYN MANGER HULL, VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.

DEAR JACQUELYN: Because the teen gave me very specific information about the name of the school, etc., I did not feel it was necessary to confirm her accusations, although I did withhold the specifics to protect her home high school. Your policies for dropouts and teen mothers are commendable, but I'm wondering if perhaps there is one among you who does not subscribe to your generous policies and who discouraged the teen mother -- against school policy.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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