DEAR ABBY: I divorced two years ago, after 40 years of marriage. The divorce papers read "irreconcilable differences." I made up my mind that I wouldn't badmouth my ex-wife, would use her name when speaking of her, and would rebuild my personal and social life as quickly as possible.
Last year, I dated half a dozen widows. Without fail, during the course of the date, these lovely ladies would raise the subject of the death of their husbands. These women were beyond tears, but the pain in their eyes was evident. I heard stories about how they took care of a beloved husband while he was dying of cancer, or an unexplained sudden death and the anguish of trying to wake him from his eternal sleep.
Christmas has just passed and it has been a long time since I have felt so alone. I went to the clubhouse in our community for dinner, but all my friends were either away for the holidays or entertaining friends and family and I couldn't intrude.
While I listened to these widows, I have seen steely eyes soften and even heard them laugh. What an ego booster it has been for me. What I need now is some of my own medicine. I hope one day I'll find someone who doesn't need a handsome Jack, a good golfer or a sugar daddy. Until then, I'll just have to be a ... LONESOME GEORGE
DEAR LONESOME GEORGE: Because you're a good listener, please listen to me. It's time to become more involved in life. Enroll in adult education classes, learn to paint, take a writing class or an acting class or get some computer training.
Volunteer your services. There are plenty of underprivileged people, people with disabilities and teens who could use a friend. Get involved in your political party, your church or a professional organization.
Take dancing lessons. Join a gym or health club. Do some entertaining and ask your friends to bring a friend. And let your friends know you're available. You may not meet the perfect somebody right away, but you'll make new friends -- and one of them may have a friend who's perfect for you.
DEAR ABBY: My lifelong friend from childhood wonders why I am avoiding her. Now that I am in my 80s, the unfairness of a lie from our past is still plaguing me.
Seventy-five years ago, at a Sunday school picnic, I saw "Mary Ann's" mother take something from another woman's purse. As she looked around, she caught my eye and an ugly expression came over her face. Days later, Mary Ann told me people in our church were being told that I was a thief. Not having the maturity to handle the enormous falsehood, and knowing it wasn't true, I chose to ignore it. But it didn't go away. It followed me all my life.
Some years later, another friend advised me to talk to our minister, who told me to pray about it. My prayer was that he would stand up in the pulpit and declare my innocence, but it never came about and I eventually left the church.
I learned later that Mary Ann's mother had a habit of stealing from homes where she worked as a practical nurse. Losing my reputation because of this woman's weakness made the lie all the more painful, and I so want to be cleared at least in my friend's eyes. But do I want to hurt my friend in revealing her mother's responsibility in switching the blame for her theft? Please help. -- IN LINGERING PAIN, GRAHAM, WASH.
DEAR IN PAIN: Write Mary Ann a letter and tell her exactly what you have told me. I'm sure she knows her mother's character very well, and it will come as no shock to her. Then the two of you should decide together how her mother's slander of you should be handled. If she's your friend, she'll help you.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)