Authors Posts by Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief


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This story may be of help to others in a similar situation. That is why my lifetime friend gave me permission to share what was a family secret. He is one of four siblings — three brothers and a sister — and three of them had long ago stopped talking with the fourth. Why this happened isn’t important to the account. There are certainly plenty of disagreements and aggravations within families. But the one brother felt so pained that he refused to speak to the others and they all fell into a thick silence.

It’s like a game of dominos, this kind of walling off. As the adults refused to talk to one another, their children, in-laws, different aunts, uncles and cousins all drifted apart, pulled by what they felt was a sense of loyalty to whichever of the angry ones was the closest relative. And it was easy to separate. The four lived in different parts of the country: the estranged one in Oregon, one in California, one in Texas and my friend and his wonderful wife here in Long Island. I call her “wonderful” because she is the heroine of the story, the one who finally broke the logjam.

Out of the blue, one day some months ago, she asked her husband, “If James died, would you go to his funeral?”

Her husband looked up in astonishment and replied, “Of course! He is my brother.”

“Well, he hasn’t died, so what do you say we go visit him?”

Her husband hesitated. “I don’t know. I’d have to think about that. What if he didn’t want to see us?”

“I’ll email him right now and tell him we are coming. Let’s see what he says.” With that she quickly left the room to find her cellphone and to cut short any objection. She sent the message and they waited. And waited. Several days passed. They made up reasons why he hadn’t answered — out of town, email down, hadn’t checked his computer. Other reasons weren’t pretty to contemplate.

Then they got a flurry of messages, each with something planned for their visit. He had made reservations here, gotten tickets there, suggested a drive together to a nearby destination. They read the emails joyfully. Clearly he wanted them to come. After registering the explicit and also the underlying messages, they went to the phone and called the other two siblings, asking if they would join the visit. Immediately the others agreed to go.

During a week last summer they all met for the first time in over a decade and immediately fell to again being brothers and sister. They didn’t bother to speak about what had originally angered them. It didn’t matter. What was important was to be in the moment, enjoying each other, catching up on so much news.

When the week was over, they made sure to plan for their next get-together. The rock that had weighed them down was lifted. They had found each other again, reconnected the family and were moving into the future, stronger for being together.

It just took one brave outreach, a willingness to be rejected for a greater good, to bring them all home again, at least in their hearts. I love my friend for being that brave one, the first to say, “That’s enough, there isn’t that much time left, the time has come to take down the wall.”

Blessed is the peacemaker. And so she is.

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Here is some new information for those struggling with their New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Not all of us metabolize the same foods in the same way. How we metabolize is unique for each of us and depends on different factors such as genetic makeup, gut bacteria, body type and chemical exposures. Further complicating the picture is the variability of response by the same individual, depending on stress and one’s environment at any given day or week.

Now we know that we are all different in what we can eat. I remember when I was in seventh grade and a good friend asked me to join her every day after school at the nearby Schrafft’s, the ladies genteel luncheon restaurant, for an ice cream sundae. Slender and yet to have need of a bra during our puberty years, she thought she could hurry such development along with some more poundage — her straightforward goal was to gain weight. The year was 1952 and if you can believe it females generally did not go into restaurants alone, although Schrafft’s was known to cater to women.

So being a good pal, I went with her each afternoon for a month, and we rapturously enjoyed hot fudge sundaes with vanilla ice cream in chilled metal cups. At the end, she got on the scale and to her disgust she had not gained an ounce. I, on the other hand, although having changed nothing else in my ordinary diet during that time, had gained five pounds, which I subsequently worked hard — alone — to take off. Moral of story: Different bodies digest differently.

Now if we were in the caveman days, as a physician once told me, I would have a better chance of survival in times of starvation rations because I can store reserves better than she. But to this day she is reed slender … and I am not.

How do bodies absorb and metabolize differently? If we could figure that out, people like us would be more successful following diets — a notoriously difficult thing to do. The same dietary advice does not work for everyone.

A recent study published in the prestigious journal, Cell, “found a startling variation in the glucose responses of 800 subjects fed the same foods,” according to an article in Science Times, a section of the Tuesday New York Times. “Some participants had sharp increases in blood sugar when they ate ice cream and chocolate, while others showed only a flat or moderate response.” They could have been talking about my junior high school friend and me.

“Each person’s capacity to extract energy [calories] from foods differs, it appears,” the article continued. The researchers went further with their study. Using today’s high tech tools, they combined glucose responses of each participant with identification of gut bacteria, medications, family histories and lifestyles, and devised a formula that correctly predicted blood sugar responses to foods not yet eaten in the study. Once they could do that, the scientists could then modify diets and boost good gut bacteria according to whatever the goal might be for better health; for example, how to lose weight and/or prevent diabetes. The study is titled, “We Just Do It with Food,” and is co-authored by Dr. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute in Israel.

The study is based mainly on genetic testing, according to The Times, but scientists have only begun to explore the links between DNA and good nutrition. The answers for each person are not simple because there are the many variables previously mentioned: those same genes, microbes, diet, environment and lifestyle on any given day. To date, 38 different genes have been linked to nutrient metabolism, and the technology in the form of sophisticated computers exists to analyze big data issues.

Meanwhile, until these studies produce customized diets for us, keep eating whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fruits and vegetables, especially the green leafy kind.

Interestingly when I was a kid, I remember people who were fat blaming their weight on their “genes.” Most of us didn’t even know what genes were, and all of us scoffed at that idea. Obesity was considered a failure of willpower then, pure and simple. Little did we know how right those people turned out to be.

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Wow! It’s 2016. How did that happen so quickly? We were just recently worrying about being carried by the calendar into 2000 and whether our computers would continue to work. Well, here we are, 16 years later, amid all the promises of a brand new year. At the very least we know it will be interesting because this is a presidential election year, with a new administration since our current president will be termed out. Will the new incumbent’s party also be different? We Americans like a change of party in the White House regularly but not always. We will have to wait and see, meanwhile enduring the endless pontification, punditry and prognostication.

If the year will seem a little longer, in fact it will be. This is a leap year, with that extra day stuck onto the end of February, giving us one more day of winter. Why didn’t they put it onto the end of June, adding to summer? In any event, that gives us one more day to listen to our politicians before we go to the polls to vote. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the leap years and the presidential election years coincide.

We welcomed the first business day of the new year with one of those heart-stopping stock market plunges. The trip wire this time was the double whammy of projected further slowdown in China, which has the world’s second largest economy, and the combustion between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that some 85 percent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are Sunni, there simmers an underlying rage periodically leaping into confrontation with the Shia. This complicates our diplomatic efforts since Saudi Arabia is technically an ally in the volatile Middle East.

On the lighter side, for escapism, we can generally look forward to some of the best movies from year’s end because their producers want them to be fresh in the minds of the judges for awards in the following quarter. This year the trend seems to be toward historical fiction that is more like documentaries. “Spotlight,” based on fact, is the story of the investigative efforts of the daily newspaper, The Boston Globe, to bring the tawdry tale of clerical pedophiles and their cover-up within the Catholic Church to the public. The filmmakers managed to make this movie riveting despite the lack of the usual boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-back girl in the narrative.

Another excellent movie based on recent history is “The Big Short.” Using some outrageous scenes to make its point, like a woman in a bubble bath drinking champagne and a stripper shimmering around a pole in a nightclub, the movie does a credible job of explaining the subprime mortgage crisis and how it almost took down the world economy. Again, this is not the usual romantic or violent action fare we are offered by Hollywood, and three cheers for the enlightenment which in turn enables ours.

Then there is of course “Star Wars,” with its record-breaking box office receipts. Nothing more to be said there, except that if you wish to be part of the national conversation, you will see it.

For true escapism, we have the long-awaited, much-anticipated return of “Downton Abbey” on television. Delightful for its attempt at historic accuracy and its engaging upstairs/downstairs characters, this mighty soap opera has succeeded in capturing the attention of the world. Why? Perhaps we wish to see how the wealthy lived in the Gilded Age. Or perhaps there is also the thread of historical fiction here, as we watch how events of 100 years ago changed the world and set us up for life in the 20th century. The historic period lived by these characters bridges the enormous shift from an agrarian world, 25 percent of which was dominated by the United Kingdom, to the industrial and perhaps more egalitarian existence that developed under the watch of the United States.

On a personal note, we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Times Beacon Record newspapers, whose exact birthday is April 8. What a personal satisfaction to have been here for 40 years. As you might imagine, there will more to come on that subject in future columns.

So here we are, in the early days of 2016, wishing each other wonderful things like good health, lots of love, happiness and fun. Would that wishing might make it so. In any case, Happy New Year!

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Whatever else we may be feeling right now, it is safe to generalize that we are not bored. Aside from the usual holiday frenzy, as we get our homes, our pets, our refrigerators and pantries, ourselves and our shopping lists ready, we are overwhelmed by more issues at this year’s end than I can ever remember. Maybe it has to do with our instantaneous news feeds that make us aware of what’s going on. But I think that we are living in a frenetic age.

Where to start?

Certainly, terrorism has occupied center stage in the minds of Americans. Worse — and more frightening than attacks from outside — is the demonstrable possibility of random homicide from within, from Americans or those who have settled among us and been “radicalized,” a polite word for psychopath. For how else can one characterize those who would commit mass murder to make a statement?

Continuing on, in no particular order, there is the fierce debate about guns and their easy availability in our country. Probably the most extraordinary line I have heard on the subject: “If Jews in Europe had had guns, there never would have been a Holocaust.”

The presidential race, started way before the actual election, has become an excellent source of entertainment as spectator sport for the public and high ratings for the TV stations. Top banana is surely Donald Trump, who is clearly having the time of his life mocking his GOP colleagues and those of the opposition party, especially Hillary Clinton. Just think: If this were a movie, people would never believe it could happen, this New Yorker leading the pack by insulting everyone in sight. He may even be the catalyst for a new detente with Russia. Putin really likes him and vice versa. Maybe he gives Putin something more interesting to watch on his own TV at home at night than the censored news the Russian people are served up. How probable that a candidate in Russia would be able to say the one-liners Trump offers each day, starting with his opinion of his president?

Then there is the grave matter of police brutality, which is framed in large part by the issue of racism in America. No sooner is there a police shooting in one state than there is another in another state, equally distributed between North and South, East and West. The only redeeming feature is the outrage and immediate investigations such events engender. But how helpful those reactions are remains to be seen. We must keep the spotlight
on them.

Immigration has become a major flash point, having moved from Mexican youngsters crossing over in large enough numbers to overwhelm the border patrol to Syrians and others from the Middle East desperately seeking asylum from the bombings and atrocities currently perpetrated on civilian populations. We are living in a time with the greatest migration of peoples since World War II displaced millions. And how are we to judge the authenticity of each person coming into America? By the same token, do we discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religion? Have we learned nothing from the past century?

Immigration is an even more acute issue across the Atlantic since Europe is a geographically closer destination than the United States. Thousands have abandoned their homelands, taking little more than their children and the clothes on their backs to try and make a better life in the northern countries. Some have perished along the way. Fences have gone up to prevent their entrance, threatening the basic tenets of the European Union amid the countries’ inability to cope. Partly underlying resistance to the newcomers is the fear of admitting further terrorists.

Meanwhile we continue bombing Syria. So does Russia. So does France. So does a reported Middle Eastern coalition led by Saudi Arabia. No wonder mistakes are being made as people are killed who are not the intended targets. There must be almost as many different nationalities of planes in the air as people on the ground, trying to escape. What a mess.

For the moment, we here can do little more than pull our families closely around us and remember how lucky we are as we reach out to help others. No, we are not bored, just overwhelmed. May we see peace in our time.

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Many of the college students have now finished their finals and ended their fall semester. It seems that as college costs increase, classroom time decreases, but maybe that’s just my faulty memory. In any event, who are these students that have now been released into what we used to call “intersession” and will eventually go on to graduate with their bachelor’s degrees? Statistics tell us that 77 percent of them come from families in the top 25 percent of household incomes but only 9 percent are from families in the bottom 25 percent of incomes.

What does that mean? If you believe that education is the ladder to a financially successful life, that startling disparity among college graduates is telling us that social mobility has drastically declined in America. Put another way, America is no longer the land of opportunity it once was, attracting the ambitious from all over the world with the promise of the American Dream. It means that what you become in life depends more on who your parents and grandparents are than what skills you possess.

This conclusion is further reinforced by the information researchers have found about economic mobility here. A child born in the bottom quintile has only a 4 percent chance of rising to the top quintile, according to a Pew research study. Contrast that with Britain, where the number is about 12 percent and Canada with class advancement twice as likely as for the United States.

So we come back to the subject of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in our country. This has been a visible concern for at least the last 25 years. When my family and I were invited to the Bill Clinton White House in the early 1990s as part of an out-of-town press conference, we happened to meet David Gergen, the political commentator and former presidential adviser, in the hallway. As we chatted, my middle son asked Gergen what he thought was the major problem for the nation then, and he immediately referred to the growing gap between rich and poor.

Who filled that gap in past decades? The answer is, the middle class, the engine for advancement in America and everywhere. Pretty much everyone then, and perhaps even now, described oneself as being in the middle class. But today the middle class
is disappearing.

Why should we care?

Because the middle class is composed of the people who buy the goods and services that sustain the upper class, and without the former there cannot be an economically viable society. Inevitably if this situation persists there will be extreme social unrest among the lower class, and to underwrite the country’s expenses the upper class will be asked to shoulder unbearable taxes. Furthermore, intelligent and ambitious immigrants will pass us by as their ultimate destination, and will strike out for other shores where their prospects seem more promising. In fact that has already been happening on the graduate school level, as many of the most talented students choose countries like Germany in which to pursue their careers rather than the United States. If enough of the best and brightest go elsewhere, it could affect not just our economy but also the very security of our country.

The idea that our success depends on how our lives started rather than on our own hard work and native abilities goes against the grain of the American self-image. The columnist and author, Nicholas Kristof, wrote recently about this distressing trend and asked why none of the candidates for president was speaking about how to change this direction.

As we approach the end of the year we, as a nation, are intensely caught up in the frightening problem of terrorists and how we can protect ourselves and our way of life from their horrible violence. But as we look ahead to the new year and the coming presidential election, not all threats to our country are so overt. Some, like this troubling income gap and its consequences, are more insidious and could prove more threatening and difficult to solve.

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This past weekend started for me with a stellar performance, as usual, by the Emerson String Quartet at the Staller Center on the Stony Brook University campus. This marvelous string ensemble comes to us directly from Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center or at any given time, from other musical capitals in the world. They are, incredibly for us, in residence at Stony Brook and as part of the deal struck with SBU past president, Shirley Kenny, they give four performances a year here.

The quartet features Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, who alternate at first and second violin, Lawrence Dutton on the viola, and now Paul Watkins, who replaced David Finckel in 2013, playing the cello. The original group formed when they were students at Juilliard, then turned professional in 1976, and in the course of their career they have released more than 30 albums and won nine Grammys along with the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize. They were inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Friday night, they played two selections by Haydn and two by Beethoven. Attending their concerts is made even more delightful for not having to drive more than a few minutes from door to door and being assured of convenient and free parking upon arrival. The audience routinely gives them a standing ovation.

Moving onto the next day, three friends and I joined up to view the 37th annual Candlelight House Tour, traditionally held on Friday evenings and Saturday daytimes, and made possible as a fundraiser by the hard work of the Three Village Historical Society. Members take care of the myriad of details from selecting to decorating the homes, along with professional help made possible by local contributions. Each year homeowners graciously allow hundreds of visitors to traipse through their rooms, checking out the decor and listening to the history explained many times over during the day by society members and helpers. This year the homes were centered in Old Stony Brook, and the weather cooperated magnificently. Many of us well remember in past years waiting in line to enter the homes in subfreezing, or snowy, or rainy or sharply windy days. Sunny Saturday was a Goldilocks day for touring: not too cold, not too hot, just right.

And if house tours are your thing, the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce has worked hard to organize the Lantern Light House Tour, this year centered in Harbor Hills. Also a fundraiser, the event is scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 12, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Like the one in Three Village, the tour is very much a community effort with generous contributions of time and financial backing.

As if this weren’t enough activity for a satisfying weekend, we enjoyed the lighting of the splendid Christmas tree on the Stony Brook Village Green, sponsored as usual, by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Sunday night. WMHO has been happily celebrating its 75th anniversary throughout this past year. On Jan. 19, there will be a special anniversary commemoration of the night Ward Melville hosted a dinner at the Three Village Inn for the owners of the sundry shops and unveiled his plans for the first shopping mall in America, a crescent village on the hill overlooking Stony Brook Harbor. After much good food and drink, the shop owners agreed to join the effort. The result was the picturesque Stony Brook Village Center, designed by architect Richard Haviland Smythe that we enjoy now, three quarters of a century later.

The ongoing vibrancy of the village was further illustrated by the ribbon-cutting party later that evening at the site of the latest business to join the Stony Brook shopping center. Blue Salon & Spa, formerly Legends, welcomed guests, who devoured delicious hors d’oeuvres provided by owner, Cathy Hansen, in her newly renovated salon. It was a symbolic end to the evening’s festivities.

Meanwhile in the other direction, Port Jefferson Village offered the Dickens festival last Saturday and Sunday for the 20th year. Originally the brainchild of former mayor, Jeanne Garant, churches, schools, the theater, stores and restaurants all joined together to transform the village into a Dickensian wonderland, replete with 19th century characters walking the streets and engaging the public. (And throughout December you may stop at Santa’s Workshop, a brilliant creation of the talented Pat Darling.) Encouraged by the wonderful weather, visitors came out in droves to the festival, putting Port Jefferson on the map as the glorious destination village that it is.

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If you are looking for a holiday gift that is out of the ordinary, I have a suggestion for you. In fact, this particular product has been written up recently in The New York Times in the Fashion & Style section so dramatically that it has caught people’s imagination. Perhaps that is because the giver of the gift can realize as much benefit as the receiver. Ready for the offbeat suggestion?

The Times sums it up with this headline: “The Cult of the Toto Toilet.”

What? You may say that you have had indoor plumbing all your life. You may even have a commode previously manufactured by Toto, the Japanese plumbing company. But the object of this cult, dear reader, is no ordinary bit of plumbing. If you own one, it will change your life. Let me explain.

While this Toto marvel may look the same as a regular toilet bowl as it quietly sits in the bathroom, when you lift the lid the differences become obvious. You see several buttons in a housing alongside the seat. And like many of the latest electronic luxury items, its use is intuitive. There is the on-off switch, two different buttons that regulate temperature and a couple more that control position of the flow. This seat, you see, is actually a bidet, with all the benefits brought right to your doorstep, so to speak.

Called a Toto washlet, the product has inspired unbelievable devotion. This Japanese creation boasts a heated seat, a bidet function for a thorough cleanse and, if you have one of the more recent models, “an air purifying system that deodorizes during use,” according to the Times. There is even an air dryer, virtually eliminating the need for toilet paper if you have higher tolerance for risk.

I first saw the washlet when I visited Japan seven or eight years ago. It seemed like such an upscale item, yet it was so widespread: in hotels, department stores, restaurants and airports. I was so impressed with its functionality that when I returned home I called my plumber to see if I could order one. He thought I was kidding when I described how it worked. I challenged him to call his supplier before he totally laughed me off, and then call me back with the answer. He did, 20 minutes later, and added that in addition to mine, he was going to buy one for himself.

I was not so surprised on my trip to China this past September to find such a seat in the home of a Chinese family. Though they are still a novelty here, they are more common in Asia, and they are now made by more companies than just Toto.

The installation of the washlet is a little complicated in an existing bathroom. In addition to bringing a water line to the seat, an electric outlet needs to be placed within a cord’s reach of the commode, and this is counter to the normal safety regulations for distance between electricity and water. Therefore this outlet has to be one certified for use near water, like the one near the bathroom sink used for shavers or hair dryers, and the electric line probably has to be snaked over behind the bathroom wall from the nearest source of electricity. This is not impossible, however, but it is the largest expense in making this change. I can tell you, and so can everyone who has one, that it is well worth the effort and not just as a luxury or convenience. There is a real health component.

The washlet I have is the most basic, and the entire transition cost in the three figures. But now there are many more upscale and sophisticated models. They can also be a lot more expensive. Features can include urine testing and other medical data that can then be relayed via the Internet directly to physicians.

But you can still get the stripped-down version, like the most basic model of washing machine or dishwasher, and that is quite sufficient to take you to a better place.

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In recognition of the major role small businesses play in our national economy, Saturday, the day after Black Friday and two days after Thanksgiving, has been dubbed Small Business Saturday. Small businesses play an even greater role in our local economy and quality of life, and so we urge you to shop locally this Saturday and every day for the following reasons:

This year we have partnered with the chambers of commerce to urge you to do your shopping locally.

In fact, around this time every year, I urge everyone to shop locally. This is in part self-serving, for the community newspaper benefits directly from sales in the local store. The owner or manager of that store then has the money to advertise in the newspaper, which in turn brings them more customers, which brings more money, which brings more advertising and so on.

And while the sophisticated media buyers will tell us that they need more advertising than usual because their business is off, in practical terms, for local store owners, it is hard to put out money for advertising when the dollars are not in the cash register. So, when business is good in the community, it’s good for the newspaper; the converse is also true.

The point of this, however, is that when business is good in the community, it is good for all of us. We are tied to each other inextricably, and anyone who doubts that must not be conscious. With the ending of the Cold War, small defense subcontractors here on Long Island quickly had to adjust production to serve other markets.

The idea that no man is an island has never been truer than in the economics of today’s global village, and even as we are tightly bound together on a macroeconomic level, we are much more so on a microeconomic level.

For one thing, most of the stores in our communities are managed by the owners who perhaps employ one or two local people to help them.

More often than not, the owners, too, live locally. But even if they do not, chances are they will run out during lunch to do some errands and spend their money locally.

Hence the dollars spent at home tend to stay at home, circulating and recirculating with a multiplier effect that enhances our standard of living and maintains our quality of life.

The more that dollars turn over, the more necessities, like groceries, are purchased, the more discretionary income is spent on the likes of toys and presents, the more durables, like cars and refrigerators, are bought and, finally, the more movies and concerts we attend preceded by dinner at a fine local restaurant.

There is another aspect to the charity begins at home message. Local business people have been generous toward community groups that routinely approach them for contributions.

And that, too, is in part self-serving. Many of those business people have children who play for the Little League teams asking to be sponsored. Ditto for the soccer league, the marching band, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and the myriad of talented groups in need of underwriting. Their first thought is always to appeal to local businesses for help, and those have responded in the finest tradition of giving something back to the communities.

When we think of “downtown” in our villages, we think of where the stores are congregated. If those stores are largely empty, there will soon be more For Rent signs in the windows, which in turn bring fewer shoppers and weaken each shopping center, which then tends to encourage litter, then vandalism and a continued downward spiral. Pride of place is eroded, and that is directly connected to pride of self.

Which brings me back to the basic message: Let’s all be self-serving, in the sense of helping ourselves. This holiday season, more than ever, shop locally.

Your reward will be service with a smile.

Earlier versions of this column were previously printed.

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More police cars lined the front of Lincoln Center Plaza on Monday than I have seen anywhere else on an otherwise uneventful night in New York City, and the police officers were standing shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk. It was three days after the horrific attack on civilians in Paris by the ISIS group, according to their own admission. More than 130 people in the French capital, who were doing little more than enjoying the beginning of a weekend at restaurants, a concert hall and a soccer stadium, were killed by at least eight suicide jihadists, and that number could still double if those hospitalized should die. Most of the victims were gathered to hear a rock band from California known for its wit, but now with the unfortunate name of Eagles of Death Metal, and a hostage scene ensued after gunmen burst into the Bataclan performance hall and fired into the crowd. “Carnage,” posted one concertgoer on Facebook, according to The New York Times.

So it was a welcome sight for our little group to see the extensive police presence as we walked toward the entrance to the Metropolitan Opera House and our evening performance of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” The police were relaxed, and when we chatted with them, they told us that they were expecting a demonstration. They said that was what brought them. I asked several officers if they had ever been to an opera, and they laughed and said “no;” some offered that they would like to see one. One of our group asked if they were on overtime. They said that they were not, that they had just come on duty. We told them that regardless of the reason, we were glad to see them and hoped they would one day enjoy an opera.

The jihadists, through their despicable acts, have succeeded in alarming the world, even as messages have poured forth from all corners of the globe asserting solidarity with France. In one such instance, the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, under the baton of Placido Domingo, played the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, before the matinee this past Saturday. The words to the rousing song had been inserted into each program so the spectators could sing along, and they did with feeling. Other performances, sporting events and places where crowds gathered offered such support to France from all quarters throughout the weekend. And once Monday morning dawned, the French authorities were grimly examining the extent of the destruction: physical, emotional, psychological, and economic.

Those costs are not just for France, but are felt worldwide. Police and military presences have been increased everywhere crowds assemble to reassure citizens they are protected. Tourists are not so quick to roam the globe or even to get on airplanes. Families are afraid for their distant members. Performers are reluctant to perform for crowds. Parents and educators are deeply concerned about how to explain these events to children. And triggered by profound anger and fear, more death reigns down on militants in Syria and Iraq from governments pressed to retaliate, creating more militants who will be willing to die to avenge their brethren killed in those attacks. Killing begets more killing. The world remains a dangerous place, as I suppose it has always been. Mass murder of innocents has again become part of life on the planet, winning points for the causes of the
murderers. The more gruesome the deaths, the more attention paid, the more points.

What to do?

I liked what the French celebrity, Shy’m, was quoted by The Times as saying. “After much reflection, doubt and fear, but above all a powerful and profound need to respond, to respond to fear, I decided to go onstage.” (She has concerts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Paris.) “What has happened to France and humanity is unspeakable and unbearable, but it is out of the question to hole up and stay silent.”

If past is prologue, the intensity of this latest horror will recede, and people will, in time, go on with their normal lives—until the next time.

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A dear friend is moving away, and that is sending all sorts of shock waves into my life. For one, she is going a long distance, and while her friends are promising to visit her after she is settled in her new home, we all know that’s not the same as being able to pick up the phone and set a time to get together later that day. Also lurking in the back of our minds is awareness that she will be out of reach should we need the vital help of a friend. While we are happy for her in her choice of a next chapter in life, we are selfish in viewing sadly our imminent loss of her regular companionship.

We have known each other, she and I, for almost 40 years. We met through the newspaper, as I have met so many wonderful people, and over time our friendship developed. We share a lot of the same interests: zipping into the city with tickets to the theater and enjoying a good dinner and glass of wine before or after the performance; lustily cheering on the Yankees in their stadium; wandering through museums to chuckle over the same funny exhibits; being in awe of James Levine as he conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Massachusetts; comparing notes after a fabulous concert by the Emersons at the Staller; playing competitive tennis singles in the good old days; and talking over problems with our children as they were growing up. The idea that she will not be easily available to share those activities makes me morose.

I am at the age where friends are, for one reason or another, leaving. While I lost my husband 28 years ago, I have always regarded that as an anomaly. Who expects one’s spouse to die at 50? But now we face a fearsome trend: Two close friends have died in the recent past, as have three first cousins; now one more friend is joining the parade of those moving away.

She is, of course, entitled to her own life. And while it is hard to forgive her for leaving, all her many friends and I understand why she is moving.

She has gone through the many-tiered ordeals of picking up roots and going elsewhere: getting her house ready and then putting it up for sale; researching movers and hiring one; sorting through her accumulated stuff of half a century and countless souvenirs dragged back from many trips in the world; taking care not to leave behind dental and medical records; shutting phone service and arranging to have mail forwarded — and heaven knows what else.

Then there is what I would imagine to be the hardest part of all: saying goodbye to longtime and maybe not-so-longtime friends.

As she ages, our friend doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. This is one noble aspect of her character, and she believes she has found a solution to that perennial dilemma of every generation. Our times have provided facilities to meet the needs of the aging with assisted living, where an individual’s physical and mental requirements are met, even as they change with the years. And she is moving to a place where she will have her children nearby to oversee those needs but without having to be the primary caregivers. It sounds like a good deal.

Which drives the question home to the rest of us: How will we best cope with the inevitable infirmities of aging if we are lucky enough to live so long?

Reality is tough. Dealing with it is even tougher. My friend has implemented what she believes will be the least burdensome, most efficient solution for herself and her family. In so doing, she has underscored yet again her totally unselfish nature.

Not all of us are of such exalted character. We cling to our comfortable possessions and the familiar structure of our lives as if we could forestall change. But of course we cannot, and so each of us has eventually to come to terms with the endgame of our lives.