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DEAR ABBY: PHOOEY! on that word "love"! Seventy years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was engaged to a man who swore he loved me with all his heart. He did -- until I became very sick. That was the end of our wedding plans.

Years later, I met a man I thought was interested in a mutual friend. I was shocked when he invited me to dinner and a movie. During dinner he said, "I'm not an articulate person." "That's OK," I flippantly replied. "Neither am I!"

We saw each other often after that and time seemed to fly. Then I had an attack of pain that came without warning. My doctor advised immediate surgery. When I told my friend, he listened, then put his hands on my shoulders. In a voice choked with tears he said, "I LIKE you. Will you marry me?" I was so astonished I couldn't speak, for we hadn't even kissed, as unbelievable as that seems.

"You do LIKE me, don't you?" he asked anxiously. "Yes," I whispered. I got no further because I was stopped by our first kiss.

I'm a widow now, and more than 90 years old, nearing the end of my life's journey. Please tell "Feeling Hurt" that a happy marriage CAN be built on two people "liking each other" at the start. My husband of almost 50 years didn't say "love" a dozen times, but by his actions, faithfulness, consideration and dozens of ways, he proved -- not only to me, but also to the world -- that he did.

Now I only want to be with him. -- MISSING MY MATE IN ARIZONA

DEAR MISSING: Thank you for sharing your truly unforgettable love story. It touched my heart.

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