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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My father committed suicide when I was a teen-ager. My family never discussed his death and considered it a private tragedy.

I now have two pre-teen children. When they asked me about their grandfather, I lied and told them he died of a heart attack.

Abby, should I tell them the truth when they are older, or should I stick to my story? I want to do what is best for them. -– TORN IN NEW YORK

DEAR TORN: One day your children will find out the truth, and when they discover you lied to them, it will diminish their trust in you. They should be told the truth before they hear it from someone else. Give them only the information they can handle at this age, and expand upon it when they are older.

Explain that your father had an illness -– depression. Although your family chose to keep it private when you were a teen-ager, it's all right to talk about it now. You probably SHOULD talk about it so you can resolve your own grief over your father's death. Because depression tends to run in families, and your children are genetically vulnerable, they should be made aware. It is helpful for doctors to know that a family member suffered from the disease, so please don't keep it a secret any longer.

DEAR ABBY: In response to "Best-Friendless," who wrote about the 61-year-old woman who got a DUI ticket and now blames the friend: The writer stated that forcibly taking the woman's car keys from her "wasn't an option."

YES IT WAS! Twice I have had to take car keys from drunken friends who insisted they could drive. (If they had, they probably would have killed themselves or someone else.) Later, they both thanked me.

On another occasion, I tricked a large male friend (who was almost too drunk to stand) by switching his keys for mine. I simply said, "Hey, you've got the wrong keys," holding out mine and grabbing his. Abby, he "bought" it -– and when he couldn't get his car to start, he just slept it off behind the wheel of his car, which was parked in my driveway. Later, upon reflection, he realized what he'd done and thanked me profusely for "saving a few lives that night." (It's been more than four years and he hasn't touched a drop of alcohol since.)

The point is: ANYTHING is better than a drunk driver on the streets or highways. Do whatever it takes -- remember, one intoxicated person is usually no match for two or more sober ones. You can outwit them -– or you can use force, if necessary. Everyone I've mentioned in this letter was at least twice my size. I'm female, only 5 foot 2, and weigh less than 100 pounds. -– BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AND I'LL KEEP DOING IT

DEAR BEEN THERE: I admire your gutsiness and ingenuity in switching car keys with your drunken male friend. However, knowing how unpredictable a person under the influence can be, I would never recommend using force to dissuade someone from driving, because it could provoke violence. It's deplorable, but I've seen it happen.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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