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by Abigail Van Buren

Toast to Life Helps Widow Look for Good Times Ahead

DEAR ABBY: I know you occasionally print letters about "random acts of kindness." I'd like to share what happened to me in Albuquerque 10 years ago.

I didn't know a soul in New Mexico. I needed to be totally alone to finally acknowledge and accept the fact my husband had died.

One evening, I was in a lovely restaurant. My server placed my order, then proceeded to prepare the corner table next to me. First came a large arrangement of fresh flowers, a champagne bucket, etc. Shortly thereafter, a couple was escorted to the table. The gentleman was a famous personality. I tried to be discreet about glancing their way and wished I'd brought a book to read. I was feeling melancholy. My first vacation without my husband was not a happy one.

Evidently my demeanor was interpreted as "unhappy lady." The server appeared and said, "The couple at the corner table would like to send a glass of champagne to your table. Will that be all right with you?" I glanced at the couple; they smiled. How could I not accept their thoughtful gesture? The glass was placed on my table. I caught their eye and lifted my glass to toast them on their special occasion. The gentleman leaned over and said, "It's not a special occasion, just a celebration of life -- to the good times ahead."

Now, whenever I feel the blues coming on, I think of the "celebration of life and to the good times," and a very special couple. -- MRS. Z ON LONG ISLAND

DEAR MRS. Z: Indeed. Generous, too. People who are happy are usually inclined to spread the joy around.

DEAR ABBY: I am 36 years old. My boyfriend, "Phillip," is 44. We have been dating exclusively for almost four years. I am ready to get married and start a family.

Phillip asked me to marry him one evening a year ago. He'd had a lot to drink. There was no mention about our picking out an engagement ring. The following morning, he changed his mind and said, "That's not how I planned on doing it."

A year has passed. He hasn't asked me again. He says we should purchase a house first. We haven't looked for one because he says he's expecting a huge raise soon. We don't need his raise to qualify for a mortgage. We make plenty of money.

Abby, I want to get this show on the road. I know Phillip loves me, as I love him. But I'm getting more discouraged with each passing month. What should I do? -- RINGLESS IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR RINGLESS: Phillip may love you, but he still isn't ready to make a commitment. Have a serious and sober discussion with him and tell him exactly how you feel. You have nothing to lose by doing so.

You may discover that you and Phillip want different things from this relationship. His answers may not be what you want to hear, but four years is a long enough investment with no guarantees.

DEAR ABBY: I'm in the sixth grade. Many girls in my grade are into makeup, clothes and boys. I have just recently gotten interested in those things, too. But my friends haven't -- they couldn't care less.

Abby, what should I do? I have never been popular, and I fear that if I lose my friends, I'll be alone. I feel too mature for them, but without them, I would be totally lost. -- GROWING UP TOO FAST IN N.J.

DEAR GROWING UP TOO FAST: Be patient. Many of your friends will soon catch up with you. Those who never do will still be your friends. Make room for people who have different tastes and interests. It's called diversity. It's what makes this world an interesting -- and inclusive -- place.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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