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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been married 62 years to the same man. I am 84. He is 87. When he is good, he's very good. When he is bad, he is BAD. However, he's always been there when I needed him. I recently fractured my hip, and I don't know what I would have done without him.

Abby, for 62 years this husband of mine could never say, "I love you." So, now I'm lying in the hospital, and I hear this forlorn voice, "I'm lost without you. I love you." I answered, "Pardon me, sir? Who's calling?" (I had to break a hip for him to say, "I love you"!)

So, to you guys out there -- please don't wait until your wife breaks her hip. Say "I love you" now, and mean it. -- BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

DEAR BETTER LATE: I'm pleased you finally got to hear the words you longed to hear. For other wives whose husbands are mute when it comes to the subject of love, read on:

DEAR ABBY: This is for all those women who complain their husbands aren't romantic enough or don't talk to them. I am married to one of those guys -- and I wouldn't trade him for all the Romeos in the world.

This is not to say we haven't had our differences -- we've had some wowzers. My man can't say "I love you" with a straight face, and he once presented me with a weed eater for my birthday.

However, he shows me that he loves me every day. When I get up in the morning, he's already made coffee for me. I never have to ask him to take out the trash -- it's already been done. He empties the dishwasher because he knows it's not my favorite chore. He makes the bed, fixes his own breakfast and feeds the dog. (It's supposed to be my dog, but she has eyes only for him, and loves him as much as I do.)

My husband digs my garden, fills my composter and keeps my car in tiptop shape. He stood beside me through the deaths of my parents and only sister. His choice of comfort words may have left a little to be desired, but without complaint he made sure I ate regular meals and gave me the space I needed to grieve.

He has provided me with every creature comfort (and then some), supported me in all the wacko hobbies I've plunged into, eaten the "strange food" I like, taken me places he never would have gone, and provided for my future should I have to face life without him. He's a terrific lover, fun to be with, and makes me laugh out loud at least once a day.

My husband has taught me patience and helped me to grow up, even though I was 36 when we married. He has yet to declare his undying love for me, and we never talk about "feelings," but he doesn't have to, Abby -- he does the deeds.

Every Valentine's Day he clears his calendar to be with me. Now, that's worth a volume of fancy words! This month we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I only hope he knows how much I love him. Here's one woman who knows that true romance is all in how you define it. -- SANDY IN PHOENIX

DEAR SANDY: Take no chances in letting your husband know how you feel. If words won't suffice, clip this column and leave it on his pillow. From your description he is 99.44 percent perfect.

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

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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