Authors Posts by Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief


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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

“Don’t fall” is a good motto for people of a certain age. Bad results can happen from a fall, starting with broken wrists and arms, wrenched muscles and tendons, and the oft killer, broken hips. I know that. We all know that. I chuckle, sometimes, at the memories of the many times I have fallen off horses and face-planted on skis. It meant nothing when I was in my teens and 20s. It’s meaningful for me now.

So, yes, just recently I fell.

It happened by accident. It’s always an accident, I guess. No one ever falls on purpose. But this time, it seemed like such a benign situation.

I was visiting a dear friend in South Carolina and staying in her spare bedroom. I had been there several days, and together we were going to leave for a short road trip. We were packed, the car was loaded, and I just went back inside for one last look to check that I had taken everything. 

Nothing left in the bathroom, good, but as I started toward the bed, I thought I should toss the bedspread over the sheets. So I did that with my right arm, then as I turned left to leave, my shoes got caught in the skirt that hangs over and hides the mattress. This skirt was somewhat long, the edges draped on the floor, and they  tripped me as I tried to step away from the bed.

Down I went.

No doubt you have experienced that accidents seem to replay themselves in slow motion. As I twisted and fell, there was enough time for me to voice an unrepeatable expletive but nothing to catch hold of.

It’s almost eight weeks now, and the various parts of the left side of my body, especially my ribs, have almost healed. But with all this spring air encouraging us to greater animation, I thought I should issue the standard warning: don’t fall.

There are many places to be extra cautious about falling. First and most commonly treacherous is the home, especially the bathroom. Every surface in there is unforgiving. Put grab bars in the showers. Whatever the cost, it’s much less than a visit to the emergency room. Make sure those cute little bathroom rugs are skid proof or they may take you for an unwelcome ride. Think about walking slowly on the tile floor, which can be wet from an enthusiastic bath. Ditto for the kitchen floor.

Stairs can be dangerous. I have a rule that I never walk down—or up —steps without holding the banister. That is true even for two or three steps.

Have a light on, however dim, when you get out of bed in the night. You may have cleared the path to the bathroom beforehand, but you never know what may have occurred since then, like a pet nestled along the way. 

Don’t walk along with a bundle in your arms that blocks your view of the floor. There may be an obstacle in your way. If you bend over for any length of time, as when you are drying your feet, or are working in the garden, straighten up slowly and give yourself an extra second to regain your balance.

Speaking of outdoors, there are plenty of possibilities for falls there, too. A friend twisted and broke her ankle by just stepping off a curb carelessly and falling. Uneven pavement can be nefarious and cause you to trip. This is also true where two different types of terrain meet, as in grass and cement. And public bathrooms can have wet floors that are not always flagged. Office buildings, too.

For me, the worst danger comes when I am in a hurry. So the answer is to give ourselves enough time to do what we need to do. It’s okay to get somewhere we have to be a little early, but if we are pressed for time and rushing, we are courting disaster.

By the way, these cautions can also apply to those of a younger age.

TBR staff, current and former, gather at the office for a celebratory lunch provided by DJ’s Clam Shack.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

It’s been quite a week for all of us. First we experienced an earthquake, and not an insignificant one. Centered in New Jersey, it measured 4.8 magnitude and was felt from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia to New York City and even to Maine. That was followed by at least 11 aftershocks, one of which was 4.0 magnitude that struck nearly eight hours after the initial quake. This was the strongest quake for New Jersey in more than 240 years, according to the US Geological Survey.

I never felt the first one.

Although it excited millions of people across hundreds of miles, according to CNN, I was driving to a doctor’s appointment and never felt a thing. Others who were driving said the same. I guess if you’re traveling in an automobile, you expect the road to shake you up a bit.

When I entered the doctor’s office, however, I was amazed at the high pitch of voices and the animation of the staff members. “Did you feel it? Did you feel it?” I was asked. “The blinds all shook and the stools rolled.”

I felt like I had missed out on a memorable event.

Fortunately there seems to have been little damage and no injuries. The infrastructure was checked out; bridges and tunnels intact, subway lines moving normally, buildings sound, with only a handful of mild exceptions.

That was Friday. Monday we had a solar eclipse, as a band of total darkness 100 miles wide moved diagonally across North America from the West coast of Mexico to Newfoundland, Canada. The duration of total darkness at any given point was 4 minutes and 28 seconds. 

Millions of us donned special glasses and looked at the sun. Some thousands traveled to locations beneath the total darkness, in New York State around the Syracuse area, to view the full impact. We on the North shore of Long Island saw only 90 percent of the sun blacked out, but as a show put on by Nature, that wasn’t bad. While the light did become strangely grey and the birds and insects did get quieter, and the temperature perceptibly dropped, the drama was less but real. And it was a great excuse for a Monday afternoon eclipse party, of which there were many across backyards, back decks and parking lots facing west.

We can be casual about eclipses, since we have seen at least one of them before, in 2017, and understand that the world is not coming to an end. But the whole idea of huge bodies performing a ballet with each other across the heavens in an orderly fashion, when you think about it, has to leave you with a profound sense of awe and spirituality. It was an incredible performance.

The third marvel, back on Earth, was our celebratory 48th party for The Village Times and TBR News Media on Tuesday. We invited current and former staffers and some neighbors to a lunch provided in the parking lot by a fire-engine red food truck from DJ’s Clam Shack of Stony Brook. Even our mailman came. Paul Riggio, the owner, offered, lobster rolls, crab cakes, crab cake sandwiches, shrimp scampi rolls, hot dogs, coleslaw and quesadillas filled with a choice of lobster, shrimp, chicken or cheese.

We went to the truck window, gave Paul our order, and he gave us each a number. When that order was prepared, he called out the number and we received our food.

As it happened, the weather was perfect— not too hot, not too cool with a blue sky and a soft breeze. We could have eaten outside, but since there were no tables and chairs, we carried our lunch into the office building. As one of our guests said, there was a party in every room.

Cookies, inside, completed the meal. Then we went back to work.

It’s hard to recall each of those 48 years. They slide into each other, although we can remember particular incidents. It was wonderful seeing former staffers mingling with current members. The commitment is carried on.

We will recall this party as a tune-up for our 49th & 50th.

The cover of the first issue of The Village Times in 1976 by Pat Windrow

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

On Monday. April 8th, there will be two miracles: the eclipse of the sun in North America and the 48th birthday of The Village Times, the flagship paper of TBR News Media. While not in the same category, one being macro and the other micro, they are both remarkable in their own way. 

If someone had told me I would be sitting here, writing this column on my computer 48 years after we had sent that first issue to bed, I would have been both stunned and yet not surprised. When we started, I never thought we would fail. Such is the necessary optimism of the entrepreneur. By the same token, where have all those years gone? They can be recaptured in 2,496 issues since so far; we never missed a week.

As for the total solar eclipse, this is the second time in seven years that the moon’s pathway will come between us and the sun, totally blocking out the light on the Earth beneath for as much as four minutes, depending on location. It will take 70 to 80 minutes for the eclipse to become total and the same amount of the time for the moon then to recede from the face of the sun. The route of darkness will begin on the west coast of Mexico and move northeast diagonally to exit off the east coast of Canada.

One way for us to think about all those intervening years since 1976 is by remembering how old our children were and what they were doing then. My sons recall our having a table at the July 4th Bicentennial celebration sponsored by the Three Village Historical Society at which we gave out copies of the three-month old newspaper. It was a great setting at which to introduce ourselves, and we produced a special section for the event. My sons were 10, 8 and almost 7 at the time, and I’m sure I had them moving through the crowd offering newspapers.

My husband, who was an accomplished photographer, had taken the pictures of costumed patriots for the supplement, so the occasion was, for us, a family affair in addition to an historic one.

You might ask how the moon, which is 400 times smaller than the sun, could obscure that solar surface. The answer is that the moon is about 400 times closer to us, and so when the moon is in the right spot, they seem the same size. And when the Earth gets between the moon and the sun, which happens a couple of times a year, we have a lunar eclipse, an occurrence less spectacular than a solar eclipse.

You might also ask how a newspaper started by a handful of housewives and 10 minor investors could possibly compete with established weeklies that had deep-pocketed owners and long histories of publishing. That, truly, was something of a miracle. 

Our editorial staff was made up of smart mothers who felt captive in their kitchens and were looking for some sort of additional role in the community. They were willing to accept $5 for an assignment that they would then load their children into the station wagon and go cover, writing up the article after their children were asleep in the evening or their husbands came home to help with the family duties. 

And that was after we were able to pay them the fee. Now they were “professionals.” For the first couple of years, we couldn’t pay them anything. Without too much hubris, I want to salute their intelligence and dedication to starting something we felt was of value and would serve our community and ultimately our democracy. 

A prominent message of the Bicentennial was the need for accurate information in order for people to govern wisely themselves. That is why the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and the national treasury partially subsidizes newspapers with discounted postage rates to this day.

We at TBR News Media continue to consider it a privilege to serve you by casting light on current issues. 

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

The bride was beautiful. The groom was handsome. The scene was appropriate for a fairy tale. There was love all around. That is the short version of my oldest grandson’s wedding this past week’s end.

Now for the details.

The bride and groom worked out all the specifics themselves. They had plenty of time to do so since he proposed in December of 2021. The magic day, when they would be officially united, was set for 3/23/24. At the time, it seemed a universe away.

Then together they began to plan. And in planning, they enjoyed every prenuptial tradition on the way to the ceremony. 

They decided on a venue. Since they were moving to Orlando, Florida, that seemed like the most appropriate location for the wedding. They visited a number of sites before selecting a grand hotel in an Eden-like setting, with flowering gardens and sculpted waterfalls alongside a lake. They checked out the scene, the food, the rooms and the quality of service before committing. The hotel’s availability then determined the date.

Next, they sent out word of their engagement and charming save-the-date cards that they designed themselves. The cards were uniquely attractive and foretold the creative details that were to follow.

A shower for the bride was a delight last year  in a waterside club in Massachusetts, where the bride grew up. Her childhood friend organized the event that gave both sides of the family a chance to meet, along with some gifts for their home It was postponed once, when the bride-to-be came down with COVID, but was successfully rescheduled for later in the year. Bachelor and bachelorette parties followed.

The actual celebration was to be a four-day affair, fitting for a destination wedding for the guests, 100 of them, who were arriving from different parts of the country. The weather would predictably be warm in Florida, so the festivities would begin with a backyard barbecue at their new home. 

As it turned out, the barbecue changed to a food fest when they realized some 60 people had arrived early and were coming to their house. We sat around in the sunshine (and for me, the shade) in the backyard and inside the screened  porch, enjoying the warmth of both the weather and the company. The event brought the family together, some of whom we had not seen in years. Everyone’s palate was provided for, from southern fried chicken to a limitless selection of salads and vegetables. And delicious cupcakes. The only thing missing was their dog, who was spending the weekend at the kennel.

Next came a welcoming cocktail party Friday night, for which I wore a flowery floor length dress that I bought in Charleston on the way to the wedding. Shopping for it was great fun as we toured the city, my two good friends with whom I was traveling, helping.

And then the big day. The morning and early afternoon were spent in a flurry of hairdresser and make up appointments. Then photographs were snapped. The guests were seated outside, under a covered pavilion next to the lake, and at 5:30 sharp, the wedding procession began. 

I entered on the arm of my second grandson, feeling so fortunate to be there. We were followed by the grandfather of the bride and the bride’s mother. The bride and her father walked around a corner of the lake to the belvedere, and the temperature was perfect, although the breeze was a bit mischievous, blowing off the bride’s headpiece as she was reciting her vows. 

In a move that laid waste to the mother-in-law stereotype, the much loved and respected mother of the groom was asked to be the officiant, and she did a wonderful job, explaining parts of the ritual and leading the ceremony. The vows the couple then read to each other referred to the love they have shared over the past seven years since they met in college. There were not many dry eyes by the end. My son, a new father-in-law, beamed.

We, the onlookers and well wishers, basked in the affection they offered  each other and marveled at the miracle and the sweetness of love.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

This week brings us the Ides of March on the 15th. The designation comes from the Romans, who marked several religious services on that 74th day of the Roman calendar. It was also the deadline for settling debts in Rome. But most notable, it’s the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate by conspirators who may have numbered between 60-80.

Caesar was stabbed 23 times that day, but only one knife thrust was fatal, delivered through his ribs. He probably bled to death, and his body was left unmoved for a long time after the assailants fled. Caesar was 55 years old.

Caesar is not just a remote figure in history for me. In high school, I suffered with him and because of him through his account of the Gallic Wars during my four years of Latin. Reading of military battles in his own words has left me with some sense of him. In addition to being a warrior, he was also a historian, a statesman and an author who thought highly of himself, and not without merit.

History regards Caesar as one of the most brilliant military commanders. He and his legions conquered Gaul, essentially what is France today, among other major victories and reached as far as Britain. 

But it was on his return from those eight years of warfare that he was told by the Senate to disband his army and return to civilian life. Refusing, he crossed the Rubicon (where the phrase indicating an irreversible decision originates) and marched with his soldiers to Rome.

Ruling as dictator from 49 BC, Caesar was declared head of the Roman Republic by the senate for life. It was shortly thereafter, in 44 BC, that those who opposed him were able to gather support for his murder, fearing his permanent stature and absolute power. The scene was carefully staged to happen in the senate so as to appear an act for the public good.

In fact, it was his death that ended the Republic. Four years of civil war ensued until his adopted son and designated successor, Octavian, was victorious in 40 BC, and on the anniversary of Caesar’s death, executed 300 senators and staff to avenge the murder. He came to rule Rome as Emperor Augustus in 27 BC. Thus began the Roman Empire.

Caesar’s reforms were allowed to stand, most notably the Julian calendar, land distributions, offering citizenship to many in far off lands, unheard of until then, and a vast building program.

Caesar was warned of a plot to overthrow him, and he was urged by his wife not to go to the senate on March 15. Initially he sent word to its members that he was not coming. But then one of the conspirators went to his home and coaxed him into attending the fateful session.

Unlike Caesar, beware the Ides of March. Or at least, like Shakespeare, commemorate the event by telling one of history’s better tales.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

The debate over the value of a college education continues. If anything, it has intensified, with the answer usually given in relative earnings over a lifetime, as if we were evaluating buying a house compared to renting an apartment. While education has its economic side, there is so much more to consider on the subject.

First the obvious. A four year college degree has always been thought of as a ticket to a better life because of the financial advantages it is thought to offer. College grads, in the main, earn higher wages, suffer lower unemployment, and as a result of having more income, enjoy better health and easier access to home ownership, the traditional wealth builder.

However, today there are jobs that don’t require a college degree but do pay well. These might include those in construction, those that offer professional certificates in technology, bootcamp coding, in short jobs that come with trade school degrees, associate degrees or apprenticeships. This path works if the student already has such a goal and knows what he or she wants to do.

But what else do students get from a college experience besides, perhaps, a substantial amount  of debt? Student debt is the highest category of debt in the United States, totaling $1.76 trillion according to recent data. That is the result of private colleges averaging $223,200 over the course of four years, and even public institutions costing $104,000.

So what could make college worth the price? For starters, how many 17-year-olds know what career they want for the rest of their lives? College gives students a chance to discover themselves, be exposed to different disciplines and see what appeals to them. Those years are unlike any other, if the student is fortunate for the luxury of their focus on study without other responsibilities, like holding a job, caring for a spouse and children, paying a car loan or even a mortgage. So often, students enter college with vague ideas of a major only to switch dramatically by the third year.

College students often have opportunities for travel, for research and certainly to network professionally and socially. Just meeting others from different regions, religions and cultures provides enormous knowledge and often encourages friendships that last a lifetime. While those possibilities certainly exist for those outside a college environment, the bonding that results from sharing a campus and even a dorm increases those contacts. College is a privileged cocoon in which to grow up.

Some of the debate about the value of college has been brought on by the colleges themselves. While historically over the last half century prices have risen perhaps three percent, the annual cost of college has increased by six percent. There had to be a time of reckoning as a result of that disparity, and the time has now come.

College offers knowledge, which is not so say that people cannot learn outside of those base paths. College also offers education, which is somewhat different in my opinion. Anyone can learn facts. Just reading the daily newspapers or books conveys knowledge. A college education, however, is a more systematized attempt to show how different disciplines developed, leading to today. It encourages personal and intellectual growth in a structured way.

Education, and more is better, is a tremendous benefit not only to the individual but also to society. We have an example of that with the GI Bill after WWII. That legislation made it possible for millions of people of ordinary means to gain a college degree. What followed was an unprecedented half century of growth and prosperity for the United States. Education was the ladder that made such possible.

Today we are facing the opposite. As a result of the pandemic, education has suffered a substantial setback for our students, a gap we may never bridge. And further debate over the value of education in a college setting is further risk for progress. Other nations put so much importance on education that they make college free for all their members. We are going in the opposite direction at considerable risk to our national standing.

It would be nice if all youngsters experienced the tremendous satisfaction of learning. To attend college in order to get the diploma is one thing. For some of the reasons stated above, that can be a goal. But to learn for the sake of learning, and not just to do well on Jeopardy!, is another. 

To make that clearer, I would liken the brain to a muscle. When we exercise the muscle systematically and regularly, it grows and becomes stronger. It also feels good to experience that exercise, especially after a visit to the gym. The more we stretch the brain with knowledge, the more it will grow. And with growth, life becomes more satisfying. No one wants to stagnate.

My mother, who passionately valued education, used to say, “Someone might take away your possessions, but no one can take away your education.” In our world, with so much uncertainty, how clever it would be to build on something so secure as education. And to graduate from college is to acquire more of that great asset, for ourselves and our country.

Now all we have to do is figure out how to make our higher education free. 

Hon. A. Gail Prudenti

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

Continuing the kickoff for Women’s History Month in March, we have welcomed the Honorable A. Gail Prudenti, formerly the Chief Administrator of the Courts in New York State, to our podcast this week. And we are marking the passing of Black History Month, held annually every February, with a tribute to “the father of Black history,” the late Carter G. Woodson.

Prudenti distinguished herself early by graduating with honors from Marymount College in Tarrytown, then going on to law school at the University of Aberdeen School of Law.

Her career in Suffolk  County began when she clerked for Surrogate Judge Ernest Signorelli, then worked for the Suffolk district attorney for two years. After a ten-year stint in private practice, Prudenti became special counsel for the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, then ran for public office. Elected in 1991 to the New York Supreme Court while still in her 30s, she served there for four years.

Prudenti then became the Suffolk surrogate judge, the first female elected to this position. Concurrently she was acting New York Supreme Court justice. Then, in 1999, she was appointed as the Tenth Judicial District, Suffolk County administrative judge, the first New York surrogate to serve as a district administrative judge.

After serving on the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, she was named presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department, again the first woman in the position. She then became the designate judge on the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, and went on as the Chief Administrator of the Courts. She was in that position for four years.

Even for those of us who aren’t familiar with the various names and levels of the courts in our state, her rise through the system was clearly meteoric. Prudenti then went on to the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra in 2015, where she ultimately served as their 10th dean, and will step down as she joins Nancy Burner, our previous podcast guest, to form the Burner and Prudenti Law Group.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson, 1875-1950, American author, historian and journalist, the son of former slaves, was the second Black man to earn a PhD at Harvard University, following W.E.B. Du Bois. He was the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and was one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora. He strove to place people of African descent at the center of American history and the human experience. He noted that African-American contributions “were overlooked, ignored and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them. Race prejudice is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”

Also a founder of the “Journal of Negro History,” in February 1926, he launched the celebration of “Negro History Week,” the precursor of Black History Month. His goal was to emphasize the “Negro in History, not the History of the Negro”. Since 1976, every President has designated February as Black History Month. Woodson’s remarkable life is worth knowing.

We hope you will tune in to our podcast this week, starting Friday afternoon, hearing a summary of the week’s news and commentary from Gail Prudenti, by going to our website,, and clicking on the home page button, “Listen Now,” or catching us on Spotify. 

Happy March!

P.S. Bio information above supplied by the internet.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

Women’s History Month is almost upon us. What is it all about? Named in 1978 by the schools of Sonoma County, California, “as a way of examining women’s history, issues and contributions,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica on the internet, the celebration is throughout the month of March. Originally championed by the National Women’s History Alliance, “a variety of agencies, schools and organizations observe the month by focusing on the ‘consistently overlooked and undervalued’ role of American women in history.”

So do we.

On our podcast this week, we will have as special guest, Nancy Burner, who is a longtime local Elder Law attorney and who just expanded her practice by partnering with former judge, Gail Prudenti. We hope you will tune in, as we summarize the local news every week, to “the Pressroom Afterhour” and listen to what Ms Burner has to say about women in the law.

Hers will be the first of local female success stories that we plan to bring you throughout the month. 

You can hear us on our website, and click on “Listen Now” at the top of the home page. Or you can catch up with the Times Beacon Record podcast on Spotify. There is a fresh one every Friday afternoon, and we archive the past ones for your listening pleasure.

There are some different stories on how the Women’s History Month came to be. One dates to a rally in New York City on March 8, 1857, of female garment workers demanding better working conditions and more pay. Although the police were said to break up the demonstration, several years later the women formed their own union.

Whether true or not, in 1908 a branch of the New York City Social Democratic Women’s Society declared the last Sunday in February to be National Women’s Day. The first was held on February 23, 1909. 

In 1911, International Women Day was observed on March 19, a creation of the International Socialist Women’s Conference, “to focus on the struggles of working women,” as opposed to a similar movement by the feminist “bourgeoisie.”

But the March 8 day from the mid-19th century, became the official date in 1921. Then in 1978, the Sonoma schools took it from there, naming it March Women’s History Week. The idea went to the United States Congress in 1981, where it eventually became Women’s History Month to be observed since 1987, snd further caught on in other countries.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts from Stony Brook University and in the top 2 percent of her class with distinction from Hofstra University School of Law with her Juris Doctor in 1988. She created Hofstra”s first law school course in Elder Law in 2011 as an Adjunct Professor there. She has won numerous awards and distinctions over the years, including selection by her peers in Best Lawyers in America for Elder Law. She has also served as President of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association and was inducted into the Hofstra University Law Inaugural Hall of Fame, one of only 50 such inductees.

We invite you to join us for the next Pressroom Afterhour podcast for a summary of some of this past week’s local news and the kick off to Women’s History Month. If, after listening, you have questions or comments, we want to hear them Email us at [email protected]  or call at 631-751-7744. 

We encourage feedback and thoughts about local issues.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

For whatever reason, we, in America, have always had an age bias. We have even been said to worship youth. We buy clothes to make us look younger. We get injections, and we even submit to surgery in order to deceive the eye of the beholder and appear more youthful. Many people have complained about ageism in hiring practices. Women have even bemoaned that they become invisible after age 50. We do crossword puzzles to retain our cognitive abilities.

Is it any wonder, then, that age has recently burst into view concerning our upcoming presidential election? The likely contenders are 77 and 81. That means in January 2029, when the next president will replace one of them, they will be 82 and 86. Until now, Ronald Reagan was the oldest president, leaving office just short of 78.

Both men are being studied for signs that they are too old. Both have had memory lapses. But is memory what determines a person’s ability to perform in a leadership role? Even more crucial, for the rest of us, is memory failure the first sign of impactful cognitive decline and even of encroaching dementia?

According to Dr. Charan Ranganath, professor of psychology and neuroscience, Director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, “As an expert in memory, I can assure you that everyone forgets. In fact, most of the details of our lives—the people we meet, the things we do and the places we go—will inevitably be reduced to memories that capture only a small fraction of those experiences.”

The professor goes on to say, in an Opinion Guest Essay for the New York Times this past Monday, that it is normal to be forgetful as we get older, starting in our 30s. He makes an interesting distinction, however, about memory omissions: There is forgetting and there is Forgetting. To understand the difference is to relax about an occasional lack of memory.

The first (with the small f) describes struggling for that word or name on the tip of our tongue that just cannot be remembered. The professional term for that is “retrieval failure,” and while the word or name is there, we can’t summon it immediately or at all. Those of us who watch “Jeopardy!” on television see examples of that nightly as each contestant struggles to call out the answer to the question first—or as the game works, to call out the proper question to match the answer. They may have the information in their heads but just can’t grab it in time.

Forgetting (with a capital F), however, is when a memory is lost or totally gone. The example of the first, that the professor offers from the political scene, is when the names of the leaders of two countries or people are conflated, as Biden did with Mexico and Egypt and Trump with Pelosi and Haley. An instance of the second is if the President didn’t remember meeting the leader of Egypt at all.

The prefrontal cortex is the brain area that is responsible for daily memory, and it changes somewhat as we age. I prefer to think of it as the Rolodex that becomes so full with thoughts and experiences as we live our lives, that it turns increasingly slowly when called upon to produce a particular memory, like a name or date. While it does turn, it may not retrieve the information until the middle of the next night, and whom can we call with the answer then?

We all want to be “super-agers” and retain our cognitive abilities. There is, according to the professor, a huge degree of variability in cognitive aging. While aging is associated with loss of memory, that should not be equated with cognitive decline.

The professor points out that Harrison Ford, Paul McCartney and Martin Scorsese are the same age as Biden, Jane Fonda is 86, and my mentor in the aging-and-functioning department, Warren Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway, is 93.

So if you can’t come up right away with that name you’re intensely seeking, you’re in good company.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief
Publisher, TBR News Media

Did you know that many people love their pets more than their spouses? We read that somewhere, and it inspired us to produce our “Love My Pet” section each year in time for St. Valentine’s Day. More than 75 smiling (I think) pets are included in this week’s issue, and while most of them are dogs and cats, we also have a parrot, a pair of nine-year-old water garden fish and a frog. We enjoy looking at all of them.

My experience with pets has been limited to dogs. We’ve dearly loved three golden retrievers and one royal standard white poodle over a period of 42 years. They were like our children, much better behaved, and it devastated us when they were so ill we had to put them down. Now I am just every dog’s adopted grandmother.

I can certainly understand the impulse of the California man who recently jumped into the flooded Los Angeles River after his dog fell into the swiftly moving current. Fortunately he was rescued by a helicopter. The dog, too.

Dogs are special companions. Somehow they sense our moods and comfort us when we are needy. Funeral Homes offer dogs on the premises for those who are grieving. Schools are using dogs to help students with mental health issues. Just the sight of a dog can be calming unless the human is afraid of dogs.

My sister was one such person. She had Down Syndrome and would stop, then back away when she saw a dog. This fear was probably transmitted to her by our mother, who had been badly bitten by a dog when she was a child and carried the mental and physical scars of that unfortunate incident all the rest of her life. 

One time, shortly after we moved into our new house and bought the first golden, my parents and sister came from New York City to visit. As she walked through the door and spied the dog, my sister began to cry out and tremble. The puppy, whose name was Tigger, immediately fell on his belly and crawled toward her, finally dropping his head onto her shoe tops. The act was so disarming that she stopped yelling and watched him with fascination. At that moment, he looked up at her and wagged his tail. We watched in amazement as she then entered the house, the dog beside her. Never again, on subsequent visits, did she shy away from him, but only him. She continued to be unnerved by other hounds.

I was once bitten by a dog, a German Shepherd. It was entirely my fault. I was about seven, it was summer, we were vacationing with relatives in the Catskill Mountains, and I was playing outside with the dog from the neighboring farm as my family chatted nearby. I had a ball and would bounce it, then race the dog to see which one of us could get to it first. In the ensuing melee, I jumped on his paw, he cried out and instinctively caught my calf in his jaw, his teeth breaking the skin. Everyone became excited, I was rushed to a doctor, a report was filed, and the dog was ordered tied up for 28 days to be watched for signs of rabies. Of course there were none, and I felt terrible watching him restrained. A couple of times, I would sneak out after dark and bring him bits of food from our supper.

He would greet me by leaping to his feet with tail wagging because dogs forgive more readily than humans.

I am sometimes asked which of the dogs was my favorite. To me, that is like asking which of my sons is my favorite. I believe I love equally and I enjoyed each dog for its own personality and idiosyncrasies. Our last dog, Teddy, had a particularly amusing trait. When we were seated at dinner, he would sneak under the dining table and grab the paper napkins from our laps. Someday, I may write a children’s book called, “Teddy, the Napkin-Snatcher Dog.”