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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Hurting in Virginia," the distraught widow who discovered her previously married husband still carried snapshots of his first wife in his wallet, resonated with me. She feared that it meant he was still in love with his first wife.

I have been happily married for 15 years. We have three great children. My husband's wallet is literally falling apart, so I bought him a new one and gave him updated pictures of the children. They remained in his nightstand drawer. After a few years, I even put the most current pictures into the new wallet and mentioned to him that I had done it so he would throw away the old wallet and start using the new one.

You guessed it. The new wallet is still in the drawer.

Please assure "Hurting" that cleaning the wallet was probably such a low priority it never crossed her husband's mind. -- VERY MUCH IN LOVE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR IN LOVE: You have already done an excellent job of that. Talk about letters that generate letters -- read on:

DEAR ABBY: I have an old boyfriend who was to be married, but right before the wedding the "lady" ripped him off. She ran up his credit cards, wrecked his credit and broke his heart. This happened almost 10 years ago.

He still carries her picture in his wallet -- so he can sit on her face. -- LISA IN INDIANAPOLIS

DEAR LISA: Or maybe it's to remind himself where he felt the pain.

DEAR ABBY: For some reason, we seem to want to look for hidden or ulterior motives rather than simple, straightforward ones. Being a man, my first thought while reading that letter was, "I bet he hadn't cleaned out his wallet in years." It's the same thought that was echoed in your P.S. -- AN UNTIDY MALE IN L.A.

DEAR MALE: Many readers said the same thing.

DEAR ABBY: My parents died within 17 days of each other. I had the grim task of taking apart a household and sorting through personal belongings. It was a year and a half before I could bring myself to go through their wallets, but I had to laugh when I finally did.

There were membership cards that had expired 20 years earlier, sales receipts, phone numbers with only five digits -- can you remember that far back? There was also the worst photo of me ever taken.

I wish I had photographed the contents of those wallets and that "Hurting" could see it. It would put her worries to rest and provide a much needed laugh. -- ANNE IN PERU, IND.

DEAR ANNE: I believe it. One reader related that when she finally got around to cleaning out her own wallet, she discovered a store coupon that had expired in 1989.

DEAR ABBY: One day, a neighbor of mine who had been divorced for many years received an unexpected phone call. It was from a nurse in the local hospital emergency room calling to say that her husband was seriously ill.

My neighbor rushed to the hospital. When she entered what she thought was her husband's room, whom should she find instead but her ex! When he opened his eyes and saw her, he moaned, "Oh my God, have I died and gone to hell?"

It seems the former husband hadn't cleaned out his wallet after he got rid of his wife. She was still the person named as his next of kin! -- FLORENCE IN OTTAWA, CANADA

DEAR FLORENCE: Thanks for an amusing letter with a useful message. I'm sure it will inspire a lot of procrastinators to clean out their wallets today.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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