On Sukkot, I was invited to a magnificent dinner in the sukkah of very wonderful friends, devout members of the synagogue in which I pray. There was a mixed multitude which included doctors, university professors, Jewish scholars, businessmen and women, lawyers and legal scholars and the host’s mother who arrived from England.
Conversation flowed easily and rapidly. One could imagine being in a classroom attending lectures by well-known scholars. Indeed, a most delightful evening and a sukkot to remember.
I had known one of the invited guests for several years. He had lost a daughter and then his wife, daughter of a respected rabbi. And sometime after his wife’s death, he re-married. He is 79-years-old.
“Not for the sex,” he told me, “but for the exquisite companionship and love. I am never alone anymore.”
And then he turned to me and opened up a conversation with which I was extremely uncomfortable.
“I know how much you loved your wife and how much you miss her after 56 years of a beautiful and happy marriage. But there is no reason for you to be alone. Why don’t you consider living with or marrying a female companion like the woman sitting next to you”.
She was the widow of a prominent physician and she was a well-learned woman of all things Jewish… languages (Hebrew and Yiddish), culture, history, art and music.
“She and you have much in common”, he continued. “She loves books, is an avid reader, goes to concerts alone and to films and museums alone. Why should she go alone? Why don’t you call her and invite her out for coffee and see where it goes. There is no good reason for you to be alone”.
He obviously meant well. But he was terribly wrong. I am not alone nor do I feel alone. Two of my three children live close to me. One lives in the same building as I do and after her work she comes into my apartment and we have dinner together. We discuss her work and the state of affairs in the sad and sorry world in which we live.
No matter how much I tried to end his conversation, he continued informing me of the virtues and happiness of a second marriage. And it is quite true that he had re-married a warm and loving woman and their partnership in marriage did not distract from the love of both of their first marriages.
I am acquainted with too many widows and widowers who are seeking companionship with others. But, as I told my friend, “love is forever. I loved only my wife with a burning love and no other person can compare to the love we shared together”.
Nevertheless, he was unwilling to give up. “No one will take away your love for your wife just as I continue to remember the love I had with my first wife. But you deserve happiness. You are almost 85-year-old. Wouldn’t you feel happy sharing the remaining years with someone you could learn to love?”
Our hostess could see my discomfort and she kindly invited me to partake of a delicious seven-layered cake. It was a most welcome distraction.
For me, as I told my friend, “Love is forever; it does not end with death”. Perhaps my many readers will agree with him. Hopefully, more will agree with me.
I have my books, more than 4,000 of them in my library (from floor to ceiling), my writing which keeps my mind young and occupied, my very devoted children and especially my very loving three adult grandchildren. I have educational television and fine films to watch. And I have the companionship of my daughter’s 4-year-old female Israeli Canaan dog (Kelev K’naani”) who lies on my bed next to me as my protector and guardian angel.
I have married friends with whom I dine often in kosher restaurants. Chinese is their favorite although sushi does not appeal to me even though I have never tasted it. I have also (shame, shame on me) never tasted herring. It look too slimy. My father always said, “What kind of a Jew can you be who doesn’t like herring?” But my children make up for my “lack of good taste” and enjoy it immensely.
I lack, as you can see, in nothing….nothing, that is, except for my beloved sabra wife.
For me, our love is forever and will continue to be until I lie beside her in my grave.