Opinion

METRO photo

It was the winter of 2007 to 2008 when the financial crisis hit. Years of excessive risky loans by banks (and others) and a downturn in the subprime lending market resulted in several years of economic hurt. Many lost their jobs and homes. Some say we truly have never recovered.

For the young people graduating high school or college just over a decade ago, it was walking blind toward a cliff’s edge. They went through school with certain expectations, but the jobs once promised to be there upon graduation were gone. In the following years, young people took what was available, much of the time it was low-paying service industry jobs without a real hope of promotion. A new kind of employment, something people started to call the “gig economy,” was born. People worked freelance without a chance for receiving health insurance through an employer or have any kind of job security.

Now we face a new impending time of economic peril, and there are many thousands of young people graduating this year from high school or college on Long Island.

We as parents and residents need to ask ourselves, “What will we do for them to make sure they can make it out there in a time of wild unpredictability and economic inhospitability?”

Research indicates that people who graduate in a time of economic tension can remain in worse straits than their peers for over a decade. A 2019 study in the Journal of Labor Economics showed the pay and employment rate for people who graduated during the Great Recession have remained relatively low, even after several years. Millennials, the youngest of whom are 24 while the oldest are nearing 40, hold just 3 percent of America’s wealth compared to 21 percent that the baby boomer generation held at around the same age, according to a 2019 U.S. Federal Reserve report. 

This is a pivotal time for young people entering the job market, as not only is this when they can start to accrue wealth and build up savings, but it’s a means to start grinding away at what can be tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. 

Without early starts to their careers, young people will end up running in place, making enough to live but not enough to build their credit or finances (though on Long Island it’s rare they will be able to afford the rent to even the smallest apartment). 

It’s time as a nation we seriously have to consider governmental action to save the future for our graduates. Yes, that includes student loan forgiveness programs, as there is potentially no worse idea than saddling a young person — who likely never even signed a check before — with thousands upon thousands in debt to either private firms or the U.S. government. Even more people will be looking to college as a way to build their job prospects, so it’s time we look at additional subsidies for college. We should also start thinking of handing out incentives to companies willing to hire people fresh out of school.

An unregulated financial sector helped cause the 2008 economic collapse. Now with the pandemic, more research has shown if the government, both state and federal, had responded to the crisis with lockdowns sooner, we could have saved more lives and potentially restarted our economy faster and smoother. 

What’s done is done, but the fact is young people had no part in causing this economic downturn. Let’s have us as parents and neighbors think about how we can still help young people get ahead in life, for the sake of their entire generation.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

America was reluctant to enter both World Wars and yet we won them both, at a tremendous cost to previous generations.

Today, as we continue to battle through the coronavirus, I’d like to think we will persevere. We don’t need political spin. We have plenty of that from both sides.

We need a sense of optimism, of shared purpose and of a keen belief that we will prevail through hard work and a readiness to innovate and adapt. We see so many horrific headlines about the number of people who test positive and who are threatening the capacity of health care systems in Florida and Texas, among others.

Even as we do everything we can to protect our health and the safety of our friends and family, we need to believe in ourselves and in our ability to work together. Defeating the virus takes more than ignoring it or claiming victory for political expediency.

Whoever wins this presidential election in this incredibly challenging year will have enormous work to do. 

Even a vaccine that is tested and produced in mass quantities by the early part of next year, which seems spectacularly optimistic but is still possible, doesn’t automatically put us back on the path to the world of 2019.

After all, the flu vaccine doesn’t eradicate the illness. It comes back with a vengeance some years. Some people who receive the shot still get sick, oftentimes with less severe symptoms.

We need to recognize that the world has changed. We’ve had time to process it and to adjust, even if we’re sick of the new rules. We need to use all the space we have to turn what seems like a nuisance and an inconvenience into a modern triumph.

The country can and should rethink everything from ways to attend sporting events to the specific needs of the home office. Maybe sports stadiums should remove seats, put picnic tables in front of patrons and make the game-time experience for fans look different because, for the foreseeable future, it will be.

Yes, I know, that will cost an incredible amount of money, but it would also give patrons a chance to enjoy their own space, instead of hoping for a time machine that brings us back to an era when we gave strangers a high five when our team scored.

Maybe waiters and waitresses can provide virtual personalized service, connecting through online services that deliver, via conveyor belt beneath those tables, contactless food to guests.

We need to renovate our homes to enjoy the new reality. Maybe we need virtual artwork we can add to our walls, that helps expand our small rooms and that changes at the flick of a switch. Maybe we also can figure out ways to create virtual assembly lines, where workers provide their part of a mechanized process from a distance, in a basement, workspace, or outside in their enclosed yards. It may not be as efficient, because someone might have to transport those parts, but those driving opportunities also create jobs for people who become a part of a new, virtual factory.

We may want to go back to the way things were, but we need to recognize the realities, and the opportunities, that come from moving forward. Moving on will require us to develop new ideas, create new jobs, and believe in ourselves. We have survived and thrived through challenges before, by pulling together, by innovating, and by tapping into the combination of ingenuity and hard work. People are prepared to put in the effort to earn their own version of the American Dream. We need innovations, new businesses, and inspirations that reignite the economy, while protecting our health.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

O! say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Yes, that is the first stanza of our national anthem, the star-spangled banner. It has been my experience, at ballgames and other public gatherings (remember those?) where the anthem has played, that many Americans do not know all the words. In fact, not a lot of the words. In truth, not any of the words beyond the first two sentences. Confess: that’s you or your spouse or your children.

Now there is always a story behind every creation. In honor of our nation’s upcoming birthday, I thought I would tell you some of the controversial story and remind you of the words of at least the first and last of the four stanzas written by Francis Scott Key.

So who was Francis Scott Key and how did he come to write these words?

Key was a good-looking, rich American lawyer, author and amateur poet who was from Frederick, Maryland. Born August 1, 1779, three years after the start of the Revolutionary War, he lived to be 63, dying at the beginning of 1843. He was married to Mary (“Polly”) Tayloe Lloyd and they had eleven children. Incidentally, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a distant relative.

We remember that we learned of Key viewing the attack by the British on Fort McHenry from a ship outside Baltimore during the brief War of 1812, and how he could not tell, through the dark night, if the fort had fallen to the enemy. But at dawn, when he saw the flag still flying, he was inspired to write the poem in 1814 that was to become our national song.

His friends called him “Frank,” which often blended with Key to come out “Frankie.” He had a high profile, having been part of Andrew Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet, the unofficial advisers who were so influential. He defended a young Sam Houston in court on the latter’s trial over beating up an Ohio congressman. He was U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he prosecuted the would-be assassin of President Jackson, who by the way was a Southern slaveholder.

Key, as a youth, had almost become an Episcopal priest, helped found two seminaries and wrote about poetry’s influence on religion. He also had a complicated and contradictory relationship with slavery. He personally owned six slaves, though he allegedly opposed the practice and eventually set them all free. Yet he did not do so for the many slaves his wife inherited and who worked the farm that provided much of the family’s income. He represented slaves for free in court who were trying to win their freedom, yet he was bitterly opposed to the abolitionist movement, and as U.S. district attorney, challenged its efforts. He strongly supported the colonization of former slaves in Africa, helping to found the colony of Liberia.

It is no surprise, then, that in the recent rush to tear down statues, his was toppled on Friday, June 19, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Today we have come to recognize that the imperfect Key is inseparably linked with slavery and pride in our nation.

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand

Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation!

Bless’d with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

METRO photo

With Long Island now entering Phase 3 of reopening, masks are as important as ever. More people out and about necessarily means an increase in exposure to others and potentially COVID-19. Though what has confounded us is the seeming semipolitical divide regarding masks made to protect each other from the coronavirus. Somehow whether to wear one has become a political issue instead of a health matter.

We get it. Facial coverings can be uncomfortable at times, but the discomfort is worth it for the greater good. Think about it. Women through the centuries have worn many uncomfortable undergarments for the sake of looking good, and men’s ties can be a nuisance but many wear them because of dress codes at work or to impress at special events. Just think, once upon a time, women risked fainting when their corsets were too tight simply because they wanted their waists to look smaller. A mask is much less of a fashion statement, but it has proven to significantly reduce the chances of catching the virus by over 90 percent if two individuals in close proximity are wearing face coverings. 

When COVID-19 first hit our shores, information was confusing. All medical researchers could go on were similar viruses and what was going on in other countries. As they watched people snatch up N95 masks that were vital for health care and other frontline workers, it’s understandable that some scientists suggested members of the general population refrain from buying or wearing them.

Then it was discovered that if one wears a facial covering of any type, when sneezing or coughing, the distance droplets travel was reduced drastically. While the mask itself may not protect the wearer itself, it does protect others. Meaning if the majority of people wear them, community protection is increased.

We say majority because even Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order says children under 2 and those with certain medical problems are exempt from wearing them.

When mandatory shutdowns first began, there were concerns that the U.S. economy would be destroyed, and small businesses would take the biggest hit. As we go back to dining and shopping, wearing a mask to protect business owners and their employees, as well as fellow customers, is vital in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases down and keeping local commerce running smoothly.

Let’s also remember to be mindful in restaurants as they begin to reopen, especially since diners can’t wear masks while eating and drinking. We can take extra care including washing our hands to help protect workers, not lingering at tables and perhaps even tipping extra since employees might be working outside in the heat with masks on, not to mention many have been out of work for months.

We are heading into summer, and it seems like all of New York wants to pretend the pandemic was nothing more than a bad dream. We have to remember that cases have increased drastically in just the past few days. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows there were more than 30,000 new cases in the South, West and Midwest just this past weekend. Health officials now seriously have to consider for and prepare for a potential second wave in the fall.

Let’s take the politics out of wearing a face covering. If people can wear something uncomfortable because they feel they look better or to comply with a dress code, then why not a mask. It may not make us look more attractive, but it helps us to keep our neighbors healthy. To us, that takes priority.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

This generation of college students have dealt with numerous shocks in their short lives. Most of them were born around the time of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. That event triggered several battles on foreign soil, led to the Department of Homeland Security, and created a world in which people took off their shoes at the airport and passed through metal detectors on the way in to concerts and sporting events.

As if that weren’t enough, this generation then had to deal with the 2008 financial crisis, when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and when life, for many, became considerably more challenging amid a painful decline in the subprime housing market.

Through their upbringing, they also heard about mass shootings, some of which occurred at school. They practiced shelter-in-place and had nightmares about killers roaming the same hallways where artwork depicting students’ families and the alphabet adorned the walls.

The contentious 2016 presidential election brought two largely unpopular choices onto center stage. After a bitter election fight, the country didn’t have much time to heal, as the Democrats and Republicans transformed into the Montagues and Capulets.

Indeed, while each side dug in deeply, their respective media supporters expressed nonstop outrage and acted dumbfounded by the misdirection and apparent idiocy of the leaders and their minions across the aisle.

Then 2020 happened. The virus has killed over 120,000 Americans, crippled economies, led to mass layoffs and unemployment and turned the hug and the handshake into bygone gestures from six months ago that somehow seem even longer ago. With the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, many protesters weathered the viral storm that had kept them inside for months to express outrage at a system where equal protection under the law seemed like a distant ideal.

Now, these same students face the possibility of returning to school. Some colleges have told their students to return earlier than normal, to forego visits to friend’s dorms, and to wear masks and social distance.

It seems likely that many of these colleges’ students, who have a familiar youth-inspired independent streak, will defy these new rules, much the same way many in the general public, including President Donald Trump (R), shun the idea of wearing masks.

If  I were running a college, and I’m glad I’m not because I’m struggling to provide sound  advice to two teenagers, I would triple and quadruple my medical staff. I would urge regular testing and I would make sure my college had the best possible treatments and plans ready.

Fortunately, the treatments for the virus have improved from the beginning, as the medical community has raced to provide relief to those battling draining and debilitating symptoms that have lasted for weeks or even months.

When people do contract the virus, as they inevitably will at some of these schools, I would urge students to rally around each other, their professors and anyone else who contracted COVID-19.

Unfortunately, this generation has had to grow up rapidly, to see ways each of them can play a role in helping each other. Students may not only become involved in the standard blood drives; they may urge their peers to check for antibodies and to donate convalescent plasma, which may help save lives and ameliorate the worst of the viral symptoms.

The modern college student doesn’t have to look to distant shores to find people overwhelmed and in need of their youthful energy and good intentions.

Many college students want to be relevant and contribute. They can and will have ample opportunities, with their antibodies, with their understanding and empathy, and with their ongoing resilience in the face of a lifetime of challenges.

Deer tick. Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Early Sunday morning, I had a close encounter with a tick. Now I know this is a bonanza season for ticks because we have had so much rain this past spring and there is lush greenery for the ticks to inhabit. Also, we have run articles cautioning readers about ticks and how the symptoms of Lyme disease so closely mimic those of COVID-19. I can advise you further that when you find a tick in bed with you that has already attached itself onto your person, you will experience shock and maybe even the creepy-crawlies.

Additionally, I could feel the lump, but because of its location, I could not see it. So since it was early and I was still more than half asleep, I tried to persuade myself that I could go back to sleep and we could deal with it later. But no, my brain was already on high alert and nudged me out of bed and to a full length mirror. 

Yep, it was a tick, tiny but unmistakable. Ech! What to do next? I have pulled them off my dogs many times over the years, but this one was smaller and out of reach. I googled “Tickssuck.org,” which told me not to slather it with Vaseline in order to smother it into releasing its hold on me, which I had done with the dogs. Instead it recommended getting tweezers, placing one tip under the head of the tick and carefully extract the beastie. Not wanting to wake the household, I found a smaller hand mirror, a pair of tweezers and a plastic bag to save the tick for diagnosis.

It was not pretty. I was in a convoluted position just to see the spot, and while one hand had to hold the mirror, the other could only fumble around with the tweezers. Somehow, after repeated stabs, I was able to yank the tick free, but I had left the head, the toxic part, still in my skin. I carefully, or so I thought, moved the tweezers toward the plastic bag only to have the tick slip out and fall onto the small bathroom rug at my feet. I uttered a not-so-nice word as I bent down to find the arachnid. After intense scrutiny, I could not find it. I carried the fluffy rug, carefully as you might imagine, out the front door and put it down in the sunlight. I saw nothing and was about to give up when I spied it and this time bagged it.

What did I do next? I sat down back inside my house and considered throwing up. Not a good idea in the living room. I considered going to a hospital emergency room but dismissed the thought in this time of real emergencies. I had the specimen, it was no longer attached, it would make a good story when everyone was awake, and I would wait until the beginning of the week to see a physician.

Monday morning, I tried to get an appointment. “When are you free in August?” I was asked sweetly by the receptionist. There ensued a lengthy exchange about 72 hours being critical for treatment, followed by a couple of phone calls back and forth throughout the day and finally a Tuesday slot. “Yes, it appears the head of the tick is still there, in the center of the red circle,” confirmed the physician who was good enough to squeeze me into his already overbooked schedule. “Would you like to wait until your body extrudes the head, which normally happens with a foreign substance in the skin, or would you like me to anesthetize the area and cut it out?” he asked. “Makes no difference.”

Well, it did make a difference to me, and I opted to wait. I left with two doxycycline and the warning to make sure the red spot doesn’t turn into a rash, to call immediately if it does for a full 21-day prescription, and an order for a blood test for Lyme after six weeks will have passed.

I share this with you to urge you every night to check yourself and your loved ones for ticks.

Local citizens are concerned that a proposed sewage plant on the Gyrodyne property in St. James will negatively affect local waterways. Photo by Chrissy Swain

By Warren Strugatch

We Long Islanders are a coastal people. Waterfronts provide our communities with beauty and sense of place; offer abundant recreation opportunities and make dining out delightful. Waterways teach our children about ecology and nature and account for billions of dollars in tourism revenue for businesses. The so-called “conditional approval” vote of a sewer treatment plant by the Suffolk County Sewer Agency on Gyrodyne property next Monday (June 22) threatens to destroy the balance between quality of life and economic opportunity that characterizes life on the North Shore.

Gyrodyne’s proposed 7-acre sewage treatment plant is the lynchpin of a humungous, much-debated development plan that, if it goes forward, will forever change life along Route 25A from Smithtown through Brookhaven towns. Gyrodyne’s planned tenants — a 125,000 square feet medical office complex, a 250-room assisted living center and a 150-room hotel — will of course generate jobs, bring traffic, create growth and — inevitably — produce waste. Gyrodyne, which has seen similar proposals go down in defeat for decades, this time promised to run a pipeline to nearby Lake Avenue. The offer made Gyrodyne a hero on Lake Avenue and made the company friends in local positions of power. Suddenly, their long-rejected proposal seems headed for success.

Two factors make the big sewer debate particularly contentious:

Toxic Effluent. Tenants will produce high quantities of toxic effluent, laden with radioactive waste, pharmaceutical byproducts, nitrogen and biohazards. As environmental experts testified at town hearings in January, when these components enter the harbor they increase algae bloom, turn water green, kill fish, and ultimately kill the aquatic ecosystem, rendering the waterways unfit for fishing, swimming and boating.

Gravity. Effluent will flow directly downhill from the plant and into Stony Brook Harbor, less than 8,000 feet downhill. Environmental protocols or advanced filtration requirements are not mentioned in the plant’s specs. Meaning: Pollution of the harbor is inevitable.

Inevitably, jurisdictional questions arose. Authority over the Gyrodyne proposal rests with the Town of Smithtown, which conducted hearings in January. More than 100 people spoke, including noted environmentalists, scholars of marine sciences, and local officials known for their environmental commitments. Homeowners and business owners also spoke, testifying to the likely impact the development could have on their businesses, home equity and quality of life. Most of their testimony was negative.

Town of Smithtown is still reviewing their testimonies, in accordance with New York State’s SEQRA law, enacted to ensure environmental protections are present in local permitting. The Suffolk County Sewer Agency, by choosing to interrupt the town’s process, defeats the spirit of the state’s law. The agency’s rush to offer “conditional approval” is illogical and unseemly, blurring jurisdictional responsibility and raising serious questions as to why they are calling this vote while the actual permitting agency continues to deliberate.

I don’t believe a plan that’s so poorly conceived and been dragged through a jurisdictional back door is going to work over the long haul. A sewage plant that despoils life in its shadow is ultimately harmful, not helpful, to economic growth. Suffolk County’s sewer functionaries should call off their vote, which was never a good idea, and let Smithtown’s officials do what they were installed to do. Gyrodyne, try again. Next time keep in mind that your neighbors love their water and their waterways and demand that their local officials balance environmental protection with economic growth.

Warren Strugatch is president of Select Long Island, an economic development news publisher.

METRO photo

TBR News Media editorial staff share memories of their dads and other special people for Father’s Day.

Rita Egan — Editor

As someone whose parents separated when she was 9 years old and moved in with her grandparents, I’m an example of a village raising a child. From an early age, I realized that relatives and even friends’ parents can play a role in a young person’s life.

I was fortunate that my new friends and their parents made my transition to life in Smithtown an easier one. There were the Irvolinos, the D’Agostinos, Mrs. Naseem, and later in high school, the Juans, the DeNobregas and the Castros who always made me feel welcome in their homes, even at family gatherings. I frequently was in the Irvolinos’ pool and on their boat. The D’Agostinos introduced me to the beauty of Head of the River and would take me with the family to the Jersey Shore. And of course, there were the rides many parents gave me when it was too dark for my grandfather to drive.

One day on Fire Island, my friend Nancy and I were knocked down by a huge wave. One second I’m hitting my head against something hard, and the next I was grabbed out of the water by Mr. Irvolino. He had me in his right hand and Nancy in his left. I will be forever grateful for my village. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, too.

Kyle Barr — Editor

When my parents call me on the weekend, we can go through the platitudes of normal life: How is your job, how’s Long Island, how’s your brother?

Dad, you can make comments about how I continue to leave my room a FEMA-designated disaster area. You can talk about my habits of leaving my clothing in the laundry bin after washing them instead of putting it in drawers.

Then we can get into the heavier stuff of national politics and local happenings. We can talk about the issues, and I can get angry and you can deflect. And I can’t seem to stop and ask you how you’re really doing.

You moved away, and I hope you’re doing OK. I hope the pandemic and quarantine has not made you so reclusive you can’t talk to anybody except mom’s parents. I hope the days you spend in retirement allow you to explore things you haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to.

I can ask only so much of you. I can ask you to be patient until I find time to see you. Until then, I can enjoy those platitudes and our conversations.

 David Luces — Reporter

When it comes to Father’s Day, I immediately think of my uncle and my late grandpa, two men I’ve been lucky to have in my life. As a young kid, they were a constant fixture, always there to lend me encouragement and support. Whether it was a Little League baseball game or a band recital, they were there. Sometimes, it would just be us slouched on the couch spending hours watching a Knicks game or WWE professional wrestling. My younger self didn’t know any better, but now looking back I think the one thing I take away from those experiences is to be present and to enjoy those moments with the people you love.

My grandpa passed away before he could see me graduate high school and college, though I know he would be proud of my accomplishments and the person I’ve become. My uncle and family have played a big part in that.

So when I think of this Father’s Day, I think of spending time with my uncle, maybe having a couple of beers and reminiscing of past times with my grandpa. But most importantly, we’ll be with family to make new memories together.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

As we approach Father’s Day, I can’t help thinking that the creators of the alphabet hid important lessons in plain sight when they put the letters “n” and “o” between the letters “m” and “p.”

The letter “m” starts the Latin word “mater,” which means mother. The letter “p” starts the word
“pater,” which, also in Latin, means father.

Between mom and dad, then, resides the simple,
effective and important word “no.”

Parents who aren’t on the same page about decisions will find children who don’t believe a “no” ever means anything because they will run to the other parent to find someone who will render a “no” from the former parent meaningless.

Parents need the word “no” to unite them, bringing together the “m” and “p” that makes it possible to provide consistent parenting advice. When a “no” from dad is also a “no” from mom, children can’t divide and conquer with their parents.

Now, valuing and appreciating the word “no” doesn’t necessarily mean parents should say “no” to everything. In fact, when mom and dad agree on something for their children, they can and should celebrate the opportunities they urge their progeny to pursue.

When our children were young, we found ourselves falling into the repeated “no” pattern, mostly to protect our children. “Don’t go in the street, don’t put that toy in your mouth, don’t grab that dog’s tail, etc.” While all of those rules are valid and valuable, they also can create a culture of “no” that constantly reminds children of their limitations, giving them the equivalent of a Greek chorus of “no” that follows them around, preventing them from exploring the world or from considering opportunities and risks worth taking because they expect a giant “NO!” sign to appear in their closet, under their bed, at the entrance to their classroom or in the backyard.

My wife and I put considerable energy into redirecting our children, rather than giving them a negative answer. We suggested alternatives to their suggestion or even, at times, a compromise answer that wasn’t a negative so much as it was a reshaping of an impulse.

On an elemental level, the letters “n” and “o” also seem so apt for the world between mom and dad. After all, N for nitrogen represents 78 percent of the atmosphere while O for oxygen represents 21 percent, which means that, between the letter placeholder for mom and dad resides the letters for 99 percent of the atmosphere of the earth.

The elements nitrogen and oxygen also, like some families, exist in paired form as molecules instead of single elements. These molecules float around in the atmosphere as a duo, with a strong covalent bond keeping the orbiting electron shells full.

For children, saying “no” to their parents starts early as a way to fight back against the world of “no” while they drift into the world of the terrible twos or, in our children’s case, the threadbare threes. When these children are caught between their mother and father, they may find that their only defense against a disagreeable world is to hold up their own “no” shield.

That small word, however, is important to change the world as well, because children who can defend their “no” answer to parents can also refuse to accept problems they see in the world. Instead, they can defy policies or ideas that rankle them. Saying “no” to anything aids cognitive development and, as it turns out, is good preparation for parenting. It has to be true because it’s right there, hidden in place sight, in the alphabet.

Photo from METRO

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Sunday is Father’s Day. When I think of my father, one of the most immediate memories I have of him is of his telling us stories. He loved to talk about his childhood days growing up on a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. One of nine children, he distinguished himself with his claim as “the middle child,” and made his adventures sound daring and riveting. Somehow he and his siblings always survived, always came through relatively unscathed. And the conclusions to the stories were inevitably happy ones.

For example, there was the time the six boys climbed to the peak of the hill behind their farmhouse, arranged themselves onto an oversized sled and careened down on the hard-packed snow. It was great fun until they saw a train in the distance coming along the track at the bottom of the mountain. Their oldest brother, sitting in the front, quickly calculated the speed of the sled and the speed of the train and shouted a command to those behind him: “Jump off to the left when I count to three.” They obeyed and huddled together watching, as down below the rushing train crushed the sled crossing in its path.

Then there was the day my dad and a couple of his schoolmates climbed atop the one-room schoolhouse roof and jumped down in front of their young teacher just as she was arriving for the day. She screamed, which was satisfying to his buddies, but my dad also screamed as, barefoot, he landed on a glass shard. His father, who was of necessity the “emergency room doctor” for his family, isolated as they were in the rural farmland, stitched his foot and spooked him by saying that he would bear the scar of that misadventure “all the rest of his life.” To my young father, that sounded more ominous than the pain of his sole being sewn up. If we begged, he would show us the jagged scar, evidence of his exciting youth.

What would he say about living through the present pandemic? It still feels like a dream, this novel coronavirus, from which we will shortly awake. I pinch myself, but I know I am not dreaming. For sure these times require daring just to go shopping in the supermarket, and judging by the amount of media coverage, are also riveting.

For many, sheltering in place has proven to be most difficult. Those who like to be in motion constantly are now restrained to their few rooms and a daily walk. Relationships with spouses or others sharing the house or apartment may have become strained to the breaking point. In Wuhan, China, made famous as the origin of COVID-19 for example, suits for divorce have increased appreciably compared to the preceding year. There has been an uptick in the use of alcohol and drugs in the U.S. by those feeling isolated or lonely or simply in limbo from their normal lives. Depression is an increasing complaint.

Yet others, at the same time, have found the pandemic a time for reevaluation of their lives. They have slowed down from their frenetic pace, deepened relationships with partners and children and colleagues, and if they have been fortunate enough not to have anyone fall ill, and to keep their jobs, perhaps have seen a new way occasionally to work: remotely from home or elsewhere in the world. They have probably saved some money by not venturing out to shop, dine or vacation and have maybe enjoyed some healthy home cooking.

There is a better prospect ahead. After all, we are in Phase Two now. It appears that Phase Three is on the immediate horizon. By wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded indoor settings, and by sheltering those who would be most vulnerable, we seem now to be co-existing with the virus, at least until a vaccine becomes available or sufficient herd immunity evolves.

How would my dad tell this story? I believe he would share his experience as a great adventure, even as he would hold up his scar.