Ask Amy

Monday, April 12, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I have been through two courtships and marriages that I thought were very happy but were not very romantic. These relationships spanned 57 years.

My first husband bought me tea and chocolates as Christmas and special-occasion gifts.

My second husband bought dishes and kitchen appliances, and for my birthday one year he bought and installed a pair of windshield wipers on my car. For Mother's Day he bought and installed a muffler on my car. These were things I needed and appreciated.

Neither husband ever bought me flowers — not once!

Here is my problem.

Here I am, nearly 80 years old, and I have met a widower. Let me call him "Mr. Romantic."

He is sending me roses. What do I do with them? Do I just put them in a vase? Other than writing him a thank-you note, how do I reciprocate?

I feel like a 16-year-old girl again, but I don't want to ruin this relationship or embarrass him.

We are having the time of our lives making lemonade from the lemons life dealt us.

I'm a widowed great-great-grandmother, starting over!

— Romance Deprived

DEAR DEPRIVED: I've written this advice column seven days a week for seven years. I've fielded thousands of letters in the almost 2,500 "Ask Amy" columns published to date.

You win the prize for writing the letter that has charmed me the most.

I love your spirit and your spunk — and most of all that you've grabbed the second chances that have come your way.

It's been a long and challenging winter. I've published a lot of letters from people reeling from changes forced upon them by the high unemployment rate and tough economy.

Some people have responded to these challenges by making the most of their second chances — as men become househusbands and women step up their presence in the workforce in unprecedented numbers. Some people find themselves in actual or figurative foreclosure. And the big question is: What should I do now?

People give flowers to one another to signify a fresh start — and to celebrate their abundant affection. Blooms are fleeting — and this intensifies the pleasure of receiving them.

I'm happy to advise you that your only job here is to literally stop and smell the roses.

You can demonstrate your gratitude by inhaling deeply and enjoying their scent. Let these flowers make you happy. And tell your gentleman friend everything you're feeling. You should feel inspired to give him flowers too.

DEAR AMY: I'm responding to "Distressed," whose newly unemployed husband didn't seem to know what a stay-at-home dad's responsibilities were.

Sixteen years ago I started my stint as the primary caregiver for my daughter. My wife had her own business and worked long hours, as did I.

I got my daughter up in the morning and put her to bed at night, while attending to all her needs throughout the day. I also did household chores.

My daughter went with me everywhere my business took me. There was plenty of time for naps, playing, dancing, singing, visiting others, changing diapers and so on.

It was hard work, and I am not looking for any award, but much can be done if the whole family works at it.

One advantage I did have: I am very organized, and I was 42 when my daughter was born, so I was mature.

Distressed should expect her husband to "man up" and pitch in more.

— Marc

DEAR MARC: It helps to be mature and to strongly identify as a parent, which you obviously do. Well done!

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