DEAR ABBY: I am a 62-year-old widow. My husband died two years ago. We were married 40 wonderful years. Determined not to fall into depression, I arranged my finances so that my future is secure. If anything should happen to me, my four sons will not be unduly burdened.
During my late husband's long hospitalization, a friend of more than 27 years, "Norman," made it his mission to keep my spirits up. Four months after the funeral, he insisted I get out of the house and go with him to the movies, the beach, for a drive, etc. I have always been comfortable with Norm. He is caring, concerned, affectionate and active in our church and community.
This past year, we have gone on trips together, and he never fails to make me laugh. Norm is financially secure, and we have no plans to live together or marry. I've made that clear to my sons. However, they are very upset that I'm seeing him!
They have informed me that they are not comfortable with including Norman in holiday and family affairs or vacations we take together. They have known this man since they were kids, and he has done nothing to account for their attitude. Norm's children have no such qualms and have extended me an open invitation to their homes.
I have never made any of my sons' friends, girlfriends, lovers or wives unwelcome in my home -- whether I liked them or not. My sons' "significant others" were always included on vacations.
More and more, I am angry that Norm is not welcome at family gatherings. I don't want to cause a scene or estrange my children, but I will not exclude someone I care about.
What should I do, Abby? Christmas is just around the corner, and Norm is not invited. As much as I want to be with my sons and their families, I am tempted to stay home. -- NO NAME PLEASE IN CHARLESTON, S.C.
DEAR NO NAME PLEASE: Why stay home? Spend the holidays with Norm's family. In time, your sons will get the message that excluding Norm is driving you away.
Life is for the living, and you have every right to be happy.
DEAR ABBY: I was 8 years old and it was the last day of school. I was living in a less-than-caring foster home and worried about the 50 cents I owed my school for several lost books. Unless I paid for the books, I would not get my fourth-grade report card.
When I heard that news, I left school crying and running, and didn't see the tall man until I ran straight into his legs. He asked me what was the matter, and I told him about the 50 cents. He reached into his pocket, took out two quarters, and in a kind voice said, "Things will be all right now."
Overjoyed to have the money, I paid for the books, got my report card, and shortly thereafter, my mother was able to take me back to live with her.
The year was 1942; the world was at war. Our state of Florida was still in a depression, and that 50 cents was a lot of money in those days.
Abby, to this day, every act of generosity I perform -- every dime I give to a cause -- is in honor of that man. I don't remember his face. I only recall his brown shoes, which I saw first when I ran into him. His kindness to a crying child made all the difference in my life. -- MARILYN IRLBACHER, NASHUA, N.H.
DEAR MARILYN: Your letter is a relevant one for this season of giving. He who takes care of the least of us invests in the best of us.
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