DEAR ABBY: I read with great interest the letter from "Confused in South Carolina," who, at the age of 52, had fallen in love with a 70-year-old man. I read her criteria for a "lifetime mate" and yes -- he certainly has wonderful qualities.
Let me share a real-life scenario: When my father was 70, he took up with a lovely, caring woman 21 years younger. They had a wonderful life together and enjoyed each other enormously, until my aging father began to have a series of strokes that slowly eroded their relationship.
With each stroke he became more dependent, belligerent and less able to continue doing the things they so enjoyed in the beginning of their courtship. She soon tired of playing nursemaid, and the relationship fell apart.
The only advice I can offer "Confused" is to go ahead with this love of hers. But do it knowing that when you take up with an elderly gentleman, your final days could be filled with attending to his basic needs. And believe me, that will be the true test of your love for him. -- DAUGHTER WHO KNOWS, RAPID CITY, S.D.
DEAR DAUGHTER: Your warning is sobering, but I'm pleased to report that of all the mail I received in response to that letter, your father's experience was in the distinct minority. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have a warning for "Confused in South Carolina." CAUTION: Marry this older man only if you can stand to be adored, admired and cherished as a lover and best friend. I should know. I followed my heart and married Rick, who was 19 years my senior. Abby, that was 21 years ago, and I have never been happier. -- SYLVIA CUMMINGS, L.A.