DEAR ABBY: They call Alzheimer's disease "the never-ending funeral," and since my husband has had it for 14 years, the funeral has been going on for a long time. He no longer recognizes me, and it is still heartbreaking to go to see him in the wonderful place that now takes good care of him.

But I am free, for the first time in years, to try to lead a somewhat normal life. Therefore, it was with great happiness that I read your column and found that you addressed a very real problem that involves many caretakers who are still married but really have no spouse.Bless you for your upbeat and non-judgmental attitude for people who have finally found a little companionship and happiness after so much sorrow and loneliness. No one can truly understand the depths of despair from caring for one of these victims of this dreadful disease. Any small amount of happiness should be theirs no matter what the neighbors or unfeeling family members think. - THE LONESOME CARETAKER

DEAR CARETAKER: Thank you. I needed your support. Many wrote to express a critical view of my "unfeeling" attitude, but those few who "blessed" me were caretakers who knew firsthand the loneliness and heartbreak of one who is married but has no spouse.

DEAR ABBY: I am a widow of modest means living in Washington state. I recently entertained a friend who lives in Florida. Her two grown daughters, who are both quite well-to-do, were in town en route to a vacation in Hawaii, so I invited them to join their mother at my home for dinner before she flew back to Florida.

One daughter asked to use my telephone. Then she proceeded to make three long-distance calls without reversing the charges. All three women chatted at great length with their families some 3,000 miles away.

Abby, I am nonplused as to how to handle this situation. Should I send the itemized telephone bill to the mother? (I don't know the last name or address of the daughter who made the telephone calls.) I don't know whether it was just a case of thoughtlessness or bad manners. I wish I were in a position to be magnanimous, but I am neither a Trump nor a chump. - STUCK IN SILVERDALE

DEAR STUCK: Write to your friend, explain your dilemma, and tell her you are sure she wouldn't want you to be stuck with the telephone bill. (Be sure to enclose the bill, or a reasonable facsimile.) Ask her how she thinks this oversight should be handled.

DEAR ABBY: Please keep encouraging your readers to go back to their class reunions. In 1922 (yes, Abby, 68 years ago), I dated a pretty girl when we were both in high school in Mitchell, S.D. We never saw each other again until 1974, when we met at a college class reunion. I lost track of her until last fall, when she read in a college alumni bulletin that I had lost my wife. Coincidentally, she had lost her husband four years ago.

She called me to chat. I called her back to chat some more. We exchanged several letters and got even better acquainted. More phone calls. (Our telephone bills were outrageous.)

To make a long story short, on July 14, these two 83-year-olds got hitched, and we plan to have as many years together as the good Lord gives us. - TEENAGERS AGAIN IN CALIFORNIA

1990 Universal Press Syndicate