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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was widowed two years ago, and for the first 10 months I cried a dozen times a day for the wonderful man who was taken from me. We would have been married 30 years that June.

Then I became involved with Parents Without Partners, joined its board of directors and became the newsletter editor. I also joined a women's friendship group and put out the newsletter for them. Before that, I volunteered at a local hospital for a year and a half, but I had to quit that because of my full schedule.

In addition to numerous other activities, I finally got my driver's license at age 54. My husband used to drive me wherever I had to go. After he passed away, I found out how much I had depended on him to get around. (In all my activities, I either had to impose on others to drive me around, take public transportation or give up going to events because it was night.) I don't feel 100 percent comfortable driving yet, but every day I do a little more and am beginning to get around more and more.

I'm writing this letter to advise your readers, both male and female, that while it's extremely hard to lose your mate, you can go on and survive and become a stronger person than you were before.

I still cry, and some days are bad (my husband's birthday is Dec. 31 -- so New Year's is a bad time), but on the whole I'm strong and I am sure my husband would be very proud of me. You may use my name. -- MARCIA LEWICKI, BROOKLYN, N.Y.

DEAR MARCIA: Congratulations for being resourceful, and for rebounding from tragedy by volunteering your time, learning new things, and putting yourself in a position to meet new people. I'm printing your letter as a road map for other "lost souls" who might need one.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a woman for the past three years and have never felt this strongly about a person in my life. She's 51 and I am 65. I can't figure her out.

I see her only at her convenience and have yet to meet any of her family or friends. She says that ours is the best relationship she has ever had, that I'm the "complete package," she loves me very much, and there is no one else. She has a summer place in my area, and when she's there she invites her family and friends, but I have never been included.

When I confront her about this, she says, "I prefer to keep my private life and family life separate."

I am very family-oriented and include her in all my family functions, which she says she enjoys. We have broken up several times over this. Abby, I dislike being a part-time lover, and it is driving me nuts.

Should I stop seeing her, or give her an ultimatum? -- PART-TIME LOVER IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR PART-TIME LOVER: The woman's behavior is insulting, and if you have broken up over it in the past, then she is doing it deliberately -- without regard for your feelings. Giving her an ultimatum will probably result in your not seeing her again -- but do it. You have nothing to lose.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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