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by Abigail Van Buren

Desire to Comfort Widower Goes Beyond Friendship

DEAR ABBY: A few months ago a longtime friend and business associate I'll call "Brian" lost his wife. They had been married for nine years. Brian and I have shared many conversations over the years and know details of each other's lives. He's a remarkable person with outstanding values and a wonderful heart.

I have been legally separated for a year and am in the process of getting a divorce.

I feel terrible for Brian. I know he loved his wife and was committed to her. I feel an overwhelming desire to comfort him, but have held back because it might be a problem because of our circumstances. We have much in common and really enjoy each other's company, and I do feel drawn to him. But I don't want people talking negatively about us, as if there were something going on.

How can I let Brian know I'd like to be there for him without revealing that I would like more? I realize it is inappropriate to infringe on his period of mourning, but I would like him to know I have a genuine interest in him. -- FROM A DISTANCE

DEAR FROM A DISTANCE: It would not be an infringement on this man's period of mourning to pick up the phone, tell him you heard the sad news about his wife's passing and offer your deepest sympathy for his loss, because you know how devoted he and his wife were to each other. It would also not be an infringement to invite him for a home-cooked meal if he wants one.

But don't be surprised if he tells you the last thing he needs is a home-cooked meal because these days, when an eligible man is widowed, the eligible ladies are often not as restrained as you are, and line up at the widower's door within days of the funeral. "The early bird gets the worm."

DEAR ABBY: May I pass on some information that may be helpful to your readers? I work at a mail-processing center.

Some people use the self-addressed envelopes sent to them by businesses and organizations for other purposes. These envelopes have bar codes on them. When people recycle them, they cross out the organization's name and address but forget to cross out the bar code. Therefore, the envelope gets sent to the business that provided it, rather than to the party to whom it has been readdressed.

Sometimes this happens even after the bar code has been blackened out. We have received tax payments, personal letters, credit card payments -- you name it. We do return this mail to the post office, but I am sure it takes a while for it to get to the correct address. I feel bad for people having to endure the delay this causes.

My advice: If you must use these envelopes, please make sure you completely cover up or black out the original bar code. -- TRYING TO HELP IN ILLINOIS

DEAR TRYING TO HELP: You are helping. I am sure many of my thrifty readers will thank you for the heads-up.

DEAR READERS: It's time for my "timely" reminder that Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 this Sunday morning. Don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour tonight when you go to bed. (That's what I'll be doing!)

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.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600