DEAR ABBY: I have been married to the same woman for more than 30 years. My wife has recently been diagnosed with cancer. During all the years of our marriage, I blocked out everyone else because I thought all I needed was her. Now my biggest fear is that if I should lose her, I'll be completely alone. What in my personality caused me to do this? -- REGRETFUL IN LOS ANGELES
DEAR REGRETFUL: It's possible that your wife has fulfilled all of your needs for companionship during your marriage -- and/or you may not be a particularly social animal. Please don't waste your time looking backward and feeling bad about what you "should" have done but didn't. So many advances have been made in the treatment of cancer; your wife could survive to spend many more happy years with you.
If your fear is that, in the event of your wife's death, you will face a bleak and solitary future, please realize that eligible widowers in your age bracket are highly desirable. Rather than worrying about being socially isolated, worry more about holding the "casserole brigade" at bay until you're far enough along in the grieving process that you don't get involved too quickly.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a divorced woman with two grown children. My daughter is 24; my son is 19. I am a professional firefighter and in excellent shape. I recently met a man at the gym, and we were mutually attracted. He's a firefighter in a nearby city, and we have mutual friends. There has been some discussion about going on a date, but so far nothing has transpired.
The problem, as my daughter sees it, is that he's 16 years younger than I am and one year older than she is. She's upset by the age difference and says it is "disturbing." My fiance died suddenly two years ago, and I have only recently begun dating again. I asked her to be happy for me. She responded that she thinks it's great that I'm pretty enough and in good enough shape to attract a 25-year-old, but it's "not right."
I love my daughter, but I don't want to live my life to make her happy anymore. She's an adult. Neither of my kids lives at home. I see them about once a month or so.
My daughter has discussed this with her friends, who all side with her. Because I work with men, I threw the ball into their court. They all said, "Great! Go for it!"
Why can't my daughter be happy for me? She would rather I date someone in his 40s -- and I would, if I met someone who showed any interest.
My profession is a difficult one for the average man to accept. They don't like the fact that I spend so much time around other men. I feel as though my daughter is turning this latest dating interest into something lewd and tawdry when it is far from it. What should I do? -- TINA IN TEXAS
DEAR TINA: Understand that your daughter may feel threatened because you are drawing from the same dating pool that she's fishing in. Then decide that if that man finally asks you out, you're going to live your own life and keep it private. From my perspective, too much conversation has already occurred. You have been put on the defensive, but you don't owe anyone an apology.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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