It was just a line in last week's column, but it prompted several responses, most of which were positive.

The line mentioned that I had someone new and special in my life and in most circumstances, that would not be a big deal for a single man. The difference here is that my late wife died five months ago and for some, there is not enough distance between her death and the start of another relationship.

Those people are wrong, but trying to convince them is nearly impossible because they have some idea in their head that I need to wait a certain amount of time before I start dating. Whether they believe I should wait out of respect or just to give myself time to make sure I am "grieved out," so to speak, they have this time frame in their heads and it is unshakable.

The truth is that I have more than someone new and special in my life — I have a girlfriend. If that bothers some readers or some friends and family, too bad. What these people do not understand is something I learned through the amazing support team at Hoag Hospital during my late wife's treatment for brain cancer.

I learned that everyone deals with these situations differently. So, for example, when my best friend went missing in action after he heard the cancer news and was not in contact with me for about a year, I did not judge him because I believed what I was taught. I knew that some people would run to me and some would run from me. I learned that I should not judge the people who run from me because they were dealing with this tragedy in their own way. Call it denial, perhaps, it doesn't matter — that is their way. Running from me did not mean that they did not care about me, it meant only that they were dealing with death and even at arms length, it made them very uncomfortable.

Those who raise an eyebrow at my new relationship after just a few months don't realize that I have been grieved out for a very long time. It started with Cay's diagnosis in June 2010 and continued almost daily for the following two years while she was being treated. I grieved alone almost all of the time, retreating to the bathroom, my car or the beach whenever I realized the tremendous tragedy of our situation and wanted to be alone to cry. I grieved for this horrible cancer happening to someone who did not deserve it, if that is ever a criterion. I grieved for my two kids who, even though they are adults, were losing their mother. And I grieved for myself — for the loss of my wife and the plans we had made for the rest of our lives. But death parted us.

No one could have loved my late wife as much as I did. We had a fantastic 25-year marriage. But she is dead and the marriage is over and I refuse to live the rest of my life with a cloud over my head.

My health is better than it has been in at least 30 years and I am going to take advantage of that for as long as it holds out. There are things I want to do and places I want to see and I will continue to live a full life for as long as I can.

My late wife is gone, but not forgotten. I am in love again, something that was unimaginable just a year ago. And if Cay could tell me whether I am doing the right thing, she'd say to me from heaven, "Go for it."

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.