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by Abigail Van Buren

Nonagenarian Is Wondering if He's Too Late for Love

DEAR ABBY: I am 91 years old, widowed 10 years ago after 54 years of a loving marriage. After my wife's death, I moved in with my widowed stepdaughter in another city. She has since passed away.

I had absolutely NO intention of remarrying. However, a petite, demure, attractive, intelligent, healthy lady of 76 has become my constant companion. We enjoy each other's company and have shared many spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment adventures. I find that I love her dearly, and it seems to be reciprocated.

The actuaries at my insurance company give me 33 more months to live. In her condition, she should look forward to 20 or more years of active life. If we were to marry, in a few short years she would again be a widow -- only older. Also, because of my age, and the fact that I have been celibate for almost 40 years, I could never exercise the conjugal duties of a loving husband. I feel that it would be very unfair to her to propose marriage. She should find a younger, healthier man, but seems indisposed to do so.

Friends of ours, same ages, recently married with the blessing of both their families. Am I selfish to monopolize her time? Am I reasonable in assuming that a marriage would be impractical? Our friends are getting along fine, although he is not as healthy as I am. -- HAPPY IN TEXAS

DEAR HAPPY: If you dearly love that widow, you're addressing your concerns to the wrong woman. Only she can tell you whether your feelings are reciprocated, and whether sex is important to her at this stage of her life. Many women prefer cuddling and affection. You should also discuss your concerns with your physician, because recent medical advances could jump-start your sexual performance, if you're interested.

The ways of the heart are not determined by insurance company actuaries. You could surprise them all and live to be 100. Tell your ladyfriend what you're thinking and observe her reaction. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.