DEAR ABBY: It has been 18 years since my first wife died of cancer. She was only 49. We were a typical hard-working couple, having raised our three children to adulthood. My message is to husbands who are too busy -- or forgetful -- to say "I love you" to their wives.

During the fourth of our five-year fight with cancer, I was holding my wife in my arms trying to comfort her as I did every day. She looked up at me and whispered, "I guess you do love me after all." Her statement has haunted me ever since.

At age 26, I resigned my appointment as a U.S. Treasury agent, Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to return to our hometown in order to save our marriage. I also turned down offers in Australia and Alaska for the sake of our marriage. But somehow I neglected to say "I love you" to my wife, as I now realize I should have.

I have been happily married to a widow for the last 16 years, and I try not to let a day pass without putting my arms around her and saying, "I love you." So, husbands and fathers out there, take the time to express the obvious. The results can be truly rewarding. -- ROBERT IN FRESNO, CALIF.

DEAR ROBERT: Twenty-20 hindsight can be painfully accurate. I'm printing your letter so that others will not experience the same regret you do. It takes only a moment to say "I love you." Your message applies equally to husbands, wives, parents and children.

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DEAR ABBY: I've enjoyed reading your letters from readers about acts of kindness, and I have my own to share:

My parents and I were towing a trailer along the East Coast. One evening just after dark, we arrived at a trailer park in Maine. On the way to our space, our trailer got stuck in a huge mud puddle. The more we tried to get it out, the deeper it sank into the muck.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a gang of men -- at least 10; it looked like an army -- came running up. One of them asked, "Are you having trouble?" We nodded frantically, and all of them got behind the trailer and freed it with one mighty push.

We were relieved, but there was still a problem. My father had been looking forward to a Maine lobster dinner for weeks. Now he feared that by the time we unhooked our truck and drove into town, all the seafood restaurants would be closed. One of our heroes heard Dad and handed him a set of keys. "Take my car," he said, and then he gave us directions to the best lobster place in town.

We had a fabulous feast that night. But what really impressed us was the spontaneous kindness of the folks at that trailer park in Ogunquit, Maine. Ever since, we have marveled at how quickly and generously they came to our rescue. It was the most memorable part of a great trip. --STILL SMILING IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR STILL SMILING: Well said. It isn't so much where you go, but the people you meet that make a vacation special.

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DEAR ABBY: I recently learned that the man I've known as "Dad" for 38 years is not my natural father. I now have the name and address of my biological father and would like to contact him for family medical information. Would a letter to him requesting that information be out of line? -- WANTS TO KNOW

DEAR WANTS: It is not out of line to request important medical information that might affect you and your family. Contact your father discreetly, because he may have family that doesn't know about you. A word of caution, however: Don't set yourself up for disappointment if he doesn't want to pursue a relationship with you.

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