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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Father's Day is coming soon, and with it comes the challenge of selecting a special gift for Dad. I would like to offer a suggestion: Schedule him for a medical exam to determine his risk for heart attack and stroke -- truly a gift of love and hope.

I know from personal experience how important that exam can be. My grandfather died at 76 of his second stroke (after my mother had been his caretaker for nine years). And I am a dad who had heart bypass surgery 18 years ago, and an angioplasty this spring to widen narrowing arteries near my heart.

I have suffered and watched others suffer. I have lost and watched others lose. I have seen the fear, dread and uncertainty of those who live with someone who has heart disease or stroke.

But there's good news: Although diseases of the heart are the nation's No. 1 killer and stroke is No. 3, for men and women alike, THEY'RE NOT INEVITABLE. Lifestyle changes -- diet, exercise, etc. -- can eliminate some risks; medical treatment can control others.

So, for the sake of Dad's health, please schedule that appointment. It's a loving gift that the entire family will appreciate. -- LARRY SADWIN, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION

DEAR LARRY: While your gift idea may not be traditional, thank you for a heartfelt suggestion. And what better gift can a husband and father give to his family than peace of mind?

DEAR ABBY: I am a single guy and would like to know at exactly what time adults lose their minds after having kids. Allow me to share two recent experiences involving irresponsible parents.

My sister called to ask if I could help her husband fix their car. The repairs were major and would take four to six hours. Imagine my surprise when my brother-in-law showed up with my 4-year-old niece. When I questioned the logic, he mumbled something about it being "his turn" to watch her. But, Abby, he brought nothing along for her to do -- no toys, no books -- nothing. You can imagine how many times we were interrupted by this poor bored-to-tears child. I called my sister after they left to ask her reason for sending the kid. She accused me of not loving my niece and hung up on me!

The next day, some friends showed up unannounced with their 3- and 5-year-old sons. I ran out to get snacks and returned to total chaos. The younger child had trashed my living room and was throwing things at my dog. The 5-year-old had gone into my bedroom and was playing with my new, expensive guitar, while Mom and Dad merrily drank beer in the kitchen, ignoring their children. When I raised my voice, they proceeded to berate me, saying they don't talk to their kids that way, and I should childproof my house! They left in an uproar.

Maybe I'm missing something, Abby, but I don't feel I did anything wrong. Neither party is speaking to me. Any advice? -- SINGLE FOREVER IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR SINGLE FOREVER: Only this. If you want a relationship with these friends and relatives, keep on hand a supply of age-appropriate books and toys "in case of emergency." Not only would it be the kind thing to do, but it would reduce further childish behavior on the part of the adults.

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.)

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