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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I would like to utilize your column to reach adult relatives of the children who lost a parent in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11.

I lost my father when I was 9. He was killed in a fire as he repaired his semi. He was a young 32 years old, with five children. My mother was 27.

What my mother did 30 years ago was to keep the memory of my dad alive for us by saving his cologne, so we could remember his smell; his favorite jacket and winter coat, so we could wear them to keep us warm; his favorite albums and 8-track tapes, so we could hear his favorite songs that he loved to sing to us. I was also given a diary and photo album to put down my memories and mount my favorite photos. However, I was foolish. I didn't write down my memories because I thought I would always remember them. Those memories have faded, and now I search for those precious moments.

The surviving parent should have the children keep those precious memories fresh by writing a journal, or filling a scrapbook with things like a wrapper from the deceased parent's favorite candy bar, his or her favorite color, favorite food, way of comforting the children, where he or she liked to take them -- vacations as well as the park -- and articles from the local paper. When a friend or relative sends a condolence card, that person should include a memory of the child's parent, and any photos that could be included in the memory album. If there is more than one child, make separate albums for each, and ask them to draw or write those memories before they fade (all too quickly).

I did this for my siblings when I was 36 years old, so we each have a way to share with our families what their grandfather was like, and how their mother or father resembled him.

Thank you for helping me to help the children. -- KIM DUETSCH, DAUGHTER OF GEORGE H. DUETSCH

DEAR KIM: Your letter is filled with excellent suggestions. However, it's possible that the surviving parents of the Sept. 11 tragedy may be too overwhelmed with their own grief and loss to be as organized and involved as your mother was. If that's the case, assembling a memory book such as you describe would be a priceless gift of love from a close friend or relative -- and a timely one, with Christmas approaching.

DEAR ABBY: For more than 20 years, my husband and I have been giving gifts to his nephew, "Barry." Barry and his family live 1,300 miles away from us. We haven't seen any of them since Barry was 11. We rarely hear from him or his parents except on occasions when we're asked to send a gift. We have never received a thank-you from Barry, other than his endorsement on our check. Now Barry is being married.

My husband and I made a large contribution in the names of the bridal couple to a national charity we care about. We also sent a lovely card congratulating them and telling them about our gift. We hope this will honor the occasion, do some good for people in need, and stem the tide of gift requests. What do you think? -- NOT BUYING IT IN COLORADO

DEAR NOT BUYING IT: Don't count on it. If the pattern holds true, you'll be hearing from Barry or his parents every time a new child arrives and on their birthdays and graduations as well. However, revenge is sweet. By giving them the gift you did, you have guaranteed they'll be solicited by that charity and others till the end of time.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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