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

by Abigail Van Buren

Grandfather Longs to Know Grandson He's Never Met

DEAR ABBY: I am the grandfather of a 2-year-old boy named Alexander. People tell me he is the spitting image of his father, my son. The child is big for his age and has a quick smile and eyes that sparkle with curiosity. I love my grandson more than he will ever know. Hardly a day goes by that he is not in my thoughts.

My heart aches because Alexander and I have never met. My son and Alexander's mother (both college graduates) became estranged shortly after the baby's birth, and his mother married someone else. Because my son gave up his parental rights, I lost my grandparental rights as well.

When the lawyers were sending letters back and forth, I hoped the outcome would allow me to become a grandfather. The day the judge made his decision, I was overcome with sorrow.

I find myself wondering how my grandson's language skills are developing, or how far he can throw a ball. It was mostly the lawyers who decided that Alexander and I wouldn't have a relationship. I was never asked how I felt about all of this, and they didn't ask my grandson either. If he were old enough to read this letter, I would want him to know that this separation wasn't my idea. -- A GRANDPA WITH A BROKEN HEART

DEAR GRANDPA: Yours is only one of the many heartbreaking letters I have received from grandparents who have been separated from their grandchildren for reasons beyond their control. Often in custody battles and adoptions, little consideration is given to the bonds between children and their grandparents.

In most states, it is possible for grandparents to petition for visitation with their grandchildren if parental rights have been surrendered and/or there has been a stepparent adoption. Before grandparents can petition for visitation, paternity must be established. A family lawyer can tell you if your state is one that allows grandparents to petition.

For more information on this and other grandparent/child issues, contact Grandparents United for Children's Rights Inc. This nonprofit organization is committed to pursuing recognition of the natural bond that exists between grandparents and grandchildren. Write to them at 137 Larkin St., Madison, Wis. 53705, or send e-mail to:

DEAR ABBY: A friend wanted to come with her daughter and three teen-aged grandchildren to spend some time with me after Christmas. My home had just been redecorated, and I told her honestly that I was not set up to accommodate five guests. She laughed and said the teen-agers could camp out in the living room -- a room with brand-new off-white carpet.

I told her I was not comfortable with this arrangement. She became outraged, and in an extremely nasty way terminated our 20-year friendship.

Was I wrong to feel so protective of my new furniture and carpeting? And how can I put into perspective such an unpleasant rejection? -- GRIEVING IN HERMOSA BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR GRIEVING: Although you value the 20-year friendship, it obviously meant more to you than it did to your "friend." You had every right to decline the role of hostess to her, her daughter and the three teens. For her to have asked was an imposition.

Don't dwell on it. Putting it in a positive light, her "rejection" frees you to devote more time to someone who is a genuine friend.

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.)

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