Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

After Dark Visitor Next Door Raises Neighbor's Suspicions

DEAR ABBY: I am a 79-year-old recent widow. Shortly after I was married I had a brief, intense affair with a man at work. I'll call him "Earl."

Earl's wife, "Lillian," was in her third trimester of pregnancy and he was needy. We fell hopelessly in love and our affair continued after his baby was born. We were happy together and nothing else seemed to matter.

Somehow Lillian found out and left him. The divorce she said she'd seek would have solved our problems because I would have immediately divorced my husband, but it never happened. She still loved him, and he decided to do the "honorable thing" and reconcile with her. We swore we would love each other forever, no matter what.

Earl and Lillian moved to a city 50 miles from here and we had no further contact. My husband forgave me, and we had a good life and three children.

A friend kept me informed about Earl -- where he was and what he was doing. She told me he has spent his life making up to Lillian for his "indiscretion" and treating her like a queen. She is now in a nursing home suffering with Alzheimer's. She no longer knows Earl, but he goes to see her every day.

Would it be wrong of me to get in touch with him to sympathize? I still love him. Perhaps he loves me, too. We are both old and lonely. -- HOPING FOR MORE

DEAR HOPING: Please accept my condolences for the loss of your husband, but offering "sympathy" to Earl right now would not be a good idea. If your informant is correct, he has not only spent his life making amends to his wife for the affair, but he is still in love with her.

It would not be out of line to ask your friend to let Earl know that you are recently widowed, but don't hold your breath waiting for him to renew the romance. He has an important commitment he needs to see through to the end. And if you love him, you'll let him do it.