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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Regarding the letter you've printed concerning displaying the American flag, I bet no one can top this:

I live in a new duplex-condo community. Our association bylaws forbid any permanent structures of any kind on our front lawns. All the condos are exactly alike -- boring -- and this is meant to preserve uniformity.

An 80-year-old retired Army colonel, a veteran of World War II, who walks with a cane due to an injury sustained during the war, recently moved into our neighborhood. He and his seriously ill wife had always flown the flag -- so he promptly installed a flagpole of the proper size and proudly raised one.

He and his wife would sit in their front yard on summer evenings, and strollers would stop by to visit them and each other. It was a lovely time.

However, not everyone socialized or appreciated his patriotism. More than half the residents deemed the flag "tacky" or inappropriate. An association meeting was held at which the colonel's flag was discussed and voted on by the board. The colonel had prepared a stirring statement concerning what the flag meant to him, mentioning his war experiences. Would you believe the board voted 5-to-3 against him? The old guy was defeated!

The story has a semi-happy ending: The colonel agreed that whoever was willing to do it could come over and remove the flagpole, which had been set in concrete. Abby, no one had the nerve -- and his flag still flies year-round. He still sits and visits with his friends on summer evenings; his wife died three months ago. -- P.H. IN GODFREY, ILL.

DEAR P.H.: I salute the colonel and his devotion to the symbol of our nation. It is sad that more than half his neighbors are not similarly moved.

DEAR ABBY: I am a young widow in my mid-40s. I have a friend who is a widower almost the same age. We've both been alone for a few years. We have children. I live in a small town.

We've gone out a few times and have spent all day together. We talked, laughed, ate, walked side-by-side and listened to music without a spoken word. We've never even held hands, but have given each other playful pushes, nudges, etc., and have sat close together.

It's been months since we've been out, and I know he's not dating because he told me so. Neither am I. Abby, sometimes I'd like to call him up just to talk, or say, "Let's go out," but I don't want him to think I'm chasing him. I need him as a friend and I miss him.

When we run into each other, that connection is there with just a smile. It feels right. Is this all because we shared the same grief years back, or is there more to it?

A small town can be lonely and people talk. What should I do? -- MISSING HIM WITH A HEAVY HEART

DEAR MISSING HIM: Call him. You have nothing to lose but your loneliness.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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