Tevye: “Do you love me?”
Golde: “Do I WHAT?”
My husband with dementia–asked me that last night.
“What is this, Fiddler on the Roof?” I replied (continuing the Jewish technique of answering a question with a question).
Tevye: “Do you love me?”
But my husband, not a musical theater buff, sat there waiting. So I channeled Golde and sang,
Golde: “Do I love you? For twenty-five years, I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house. Given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”
He still sat there, with his stupid knitted nightcap on, waiting for an answer.
“Would I be doing this if I didn’t?” I finally said.
But, oh, what a torrent of troubled thoughts and emotions his question brought.
Do I love him?
This man with whom I share a bed, a home, lockdown, days of sameness and dullness–this man who has lost much of his–of our–past, who mainly converses about the present moment–this man is not the man I married.
Where did that lively, alert, busy guy go? It was the connection of our spiritual path that reeled me in. For years, we did seva–“selfless service”–together at the ashram. We went to programs there, signed up for longer retreats. That connection was our anchor and our hub.
Alas, our seva at the ashram was “concluded” two years ago, when the food service supervisors decided that my husband’s dementia was too much of a liability. After that, I couldn’t imagine leaving him at home to volunteer by myself. How would I explain it to him?
Love changes. That’s for sure. These days, I don’t know what I’m feeling about love or about him.
In the beginning, when we were getting to know each other, I borrowed from John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus to explain myself. Gray says that men are like rubber bands, and women are like waves. “But I’m a rubber band,” I told him. “I need to get away, to be alone in order to come back,” I said. Maybe most introverts are like that.
So much for those needs being met. I haven’t really been away from him for weeks. Months. Years.
So do I love him? I’m still here. He needs a caregiver. I’m it. There is no one else.
Golde: Maybe it’s indigestion.
Tevye: Golde, I’m asking you a question. Do you love me?
Golde: Do I love him? For twenty-five years, I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. For twenty-five years, my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?
2 thoughts on “Fiddler on the Roof Redux”
Love, as we know, changes and grows over the years and sometimes just sits there unacknowledged but there. And sometimes it has to change and take a different route, a different meaning when one becomes the carer of a loved one. Hugs from here to there.
Thanks again, Judith. I wish you lived next door!
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