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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” is a poem written by the great Walt Whitman as an elegy for the great Abe Lincoln, who died around this time in May of 1865. For me, it too honors my mother, whom I also regard as great, as I guess we all do our mothers, if in a more personal context. I think of my mother whenever lilacs bloom because she loved the flower, with its heart-shaped leaves and its perfume fragrance, and because she died right around Mother’s Day when, to me also in her honor, lilacs bloom.

My mother grew up in the earliest years of the 20th century in Corona, a then-countrified section of Queens in New York City. She told us that on her way to elementary school, she sometimes had to wait for the cows in front of her to finish crossing the road, which is certainly a different picture than what I saw of the neighborhood when I was shown the house in which she and her siblings, parents and maiden aunt lived. (That last is an expression from a century ago.) She also lovingly described the backyard as “completely filled with lilac bushes whose scent filled the entire block.”

My mother was the bridge for her parents and older siblings between the Ukraine, from which they emigrated, speaking not a word of English, and America, the repository of their dreams. She was probably 4 years old when they arrived and moved into the house on Corona Avenue, and she was sent off to school where she learned the language and brought it home, along with the ways of the new country. That she was bright must have been apparent to the teachers because she was skipped grades twice during those early years and graduated from junior high or middle school when she was 11. Although she yearned to go on to high school and college, her father had suffered a debilitating stroke, and she, along with her older brother and sister, were obligated to work and support the family of nine. She won a scholarship to what was then called a “business school,” where she learned in record time to be a credentialed bookkeeper and was hired as such by a man named Mr. Mosler, a member of the well-known family that made Mosler Safes and Vaults.

My mother worked all her life, arranging her work hours somehow around the responsibilities of caring for my father and three children. She was well ahead of her time, of course, as a “businesswoman,” but apparently neither she nor my father thought it odd that she should have a work life outside the home. It was apparent to me at an early age that she was different from the mothers of my friends. She didn’t bake cakes or cookies, was a terrible cook — except during holidays when she focused on preparing delicious meals — didn’t knit and didn’t seem interested in stylish clothes. Indeed, it would have been strange had she been restricted to the home for all her adult life since she was both worldly and had a manner that I would today call “commanding,” despite her short stature. She was occasionally asked if she were a lawyer.

For all of that veneer, my mother was generous, warm and affectionate with all of us, had a great laugh, had a close and supportive relationship with my father, and together they provided a safe and nurturing home in which we were raised.

My mother reaches the level akin to sainthood, in my opinion, because of the way she welcomed and raised my younger sister, who had Down syndrome. Despite the prevailing attitudes then, in 1942 when my sister was born, of stigma and institutionalization, my mother insisted that my sister had a right to a “normal” life within the family and to learn and grow to the fullest extent of her capability.

Again, my mother was way ahead of her time. 

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Derek has eaten more pizza in the past six weeks than he has in the previous three years. Heather feels like an insect, trapped late in the night in the electric glow of her screen. Steve drinks too much Coke Zero and Eliene stays up way too late and wears the same pants too often.

In response to email questions, several Long Islanders shared their healthiest and least healthy habits during the lockdown.

Derek Poppe, who is a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has been able to work off some of the pizza he’s eating at lunch by running outside, which he started doing after the gym he has attended for seven years closed seven weeks ago.

“I have also tried my hand at meditation which has been incredible since, really, from the time we wake up to when we go to bed, we are surrounded by all things COVID-19,” Poppe wrote in an email.

Bellone, meanwhile, rides his Peloton stationary bike early in the morning or late at night. The county executive also sometimes runs at 10:30 p.m. before beginning to prepare for the next morning’s meetings and radio calls.

Bellone’s least healthy habits include ramping up his consumption of Coke Zero.

Sara Roncero-Menendez from Stony Brook, meanwhile, walks around her neighborhood on sunny days. When the weather gets rough, she does YouTube yoga. She’s also been crocheting and cross-stitching, getting a head start on holiday gifts.

“It’s been a good way to keep busy and actually have something to show for it at the end,” Roncero-Menendez wrote.

Like many others in New York and around the world, Roncero-Menendez has spent too much time glued to her screens and also hasn’t been sleeping well.

Karen McNulty-Walsh from Islip does 30 minutes of yoga, takes her dog for walks, and gets out of bed regularly between 6 and 7 a.m. each morning.

Pete Genzer from Port Jefferson Station has been cooking dinner every night, which is “good in terms of eating healthy food, and I also really enjoy cooking so it’s mentally stimulating and relaxing.”

Genzer’s least healthy habit is “sitting in the same, non-ergonomic chair all day long doing work and attending virtual meeting after virtual meeting.”

Larry Swanson and his wife Dana, who live in Head of the Harbor, enjoy their daily walks with their aging Chesapeake Bay retriever Lily. Dana is growing food in the yard and has found it a “new, interesting and nice experience being with her grumpy old husband for so much for the time,” Larry Swanson wrote.

Indeed, in the 56 years of their marriage, the Swansons have never spent as much time as they have together during lockdown.

Dana’s unhealthiest habit is watching the news.

Heather Lynch from Port Jefferson said she feels like the insect trapped in the glowing screen. On the positive side, she continues to work out every day, which she describe as more of an addiction than a habit.

Eliene Augenbaum, who lives in the Bronx and works on Long Island, has eaten home-cooked food and had deep conversations with friends. On the unhealthy side, she stays up too late, wears the same pants, and shops for vacations and shoes that are of little use during lockdown.

A friend from New York City, who makes her own meals and walks her dogs, takes her temperature several times a day, has eaten her emergency, huge bag of Chex mix in one sitting and obsesses over why everyone else has medical-style masks on the street while she’s seeking viral protection behind a pillowcase wrapped around her head.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I am a journalist, which means I know a tiny bit about numerous subjects, but I am out of my depth once the questions dive below the surface. Oh, sure, I can play the journalistic game, where I throw around some terms, but I’m certainly not qualified to answer the best questions I could ask. Nonetheless, given the quarantine and the difficulty of getting people who are informed, funny, or funny and informed on the phone these days, I’m going to interview myself about the state of the world.

Question: How do you think we’re doing?

Answer: Well, that kind of depends. If we’re talking about humans in general, I would say we’re struggling. We were struggling before, but this virus has pushed us deeper into our struggles.

Question: Are we any better off today than we were yesterday or maybe last week or the week before?

Answer: Yes, yes we are.

Question: Do you care to elaborate?

Answer: No, no I don’t.

Question: Come on! You can’t just ignore me. I need to know.

Answer: No, you don’t. You’ll read what I write and then you’ll move on to the comment section of other articles, where clever people share their witticisms.

Question: Wait, how do know about the satisfaction I get out of some of the better comments?

Answer: Are you really asking that question?

Question: No, let’s get back on topic. If we’re better off today than we were yesterday or last week, will that trajectory continue? If it does, are we going to be able to live our lives with a new normal that’s more like the older normal, or will we have to wear masks and practice the kind of safe distancing that makes people long for the days when Jerry Seinfeld was annoyed on his show by a “close talker,” who, in the modern era in New York, would probably get a ticket for his close talking habit?

Answer: You had to pander with a TV reference, didn’t you? Don’t answer that! Anyway, yes, the trajectory looks better than it did, but there’s no guarantee it won’t change. You see, it’s a little like the stock market. Just because a company’s past performance is solid or impressive doesn’t guarantee anything about its future.

Question: Right, right. So, do you think my kids will ever get out of the house again?

Answer: You buried that question down low, didn’t you? Well, yes, I think they will return to a version of school that may also be different, but that also has some similarities to what they knew.

Question: Oh, good. Wait, so, you don’t really know, do you?

Answer: I do know that schools are pushing hard to solve the riddle, the conundrum, the enigma, the total ##[email protected]!$ fest that has become the modern world. I know that parents the world over would like to go to the bathroom without someone following them into the room. I know that people would like to talk on the phone without worrying that their kids are listening, that people need adult alone time, and that the Pythagorean theorem isn’t going to teach itself.

Question: What does the Pythagorean theorem have to do with anything?

Answer: It’s out there and it’s on the approved list of things to learn. Are we almost done?

Question: Yes, so what do you think about the election?

Answer: I think it’ll happen in November and it’ll be an interesting opportunity to exercise our democratic rights.

Question: Who do you think will win?

Answer: An old man.

Question: Which one?

Answer: The one who yells at us through
the TV.

Question: They both do.

Answer: Then I’m going to be right.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“It’s May, it’s May, the merry month of May!”  according to the Elizabethan poem by Thomas Dekker and then twisted a bit to “lusty month of May” by “Camelot’s” Lerner and Loewe. I’m willing to believe them, if you are, and there are a couple of items of good news that we can celebrate in our war against the novel coronavirus as the
month begins.

First is the unexpected progress coming from the University of Oxford toward a vaccine. Despite the earliest hopes for such an effective halt to the COVID-19 pandemic involving a 12 to 18- month timetable, which would suggest toward the end of 2021, it turns out that scientists at Oxford’s Jenner Institute are way ahead. 

They have been holding previous clinical trials against an earlier coronavirus that are proving harmless to humans. Having cleared that major hurdle, now they can go to the head of the international race. They will be holding trials involving over 6,000 people with their new vaccine toward the end of the month. Not only do they want to show that the vaccine is safe but also that it works.

Then, “with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective,” according to an article by David D. Kirkpatrick that appeared on the front page of this past Tuesday’s The New York Times.

There is evidence from the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana that this new Oxford vaccine may indeed work. It has been in a limited animal trial there and found to protect against COVID-19.

Other scientists at Oxford “are working with a half dozen drug manufacturing companies across Europe and Asia to prepare to churn out billions of doses as quickly as possible if the vaccine is approved. None have been granted exclusive marketing rights, and one is the giant Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest supplier of vaccines,” according to the Times. The idea of having several is to obtain billions of doses quickly and to avoid anyone making a lot of money from the pandemic.

There are a couple of American companies that are also doing research, along the same lines as Oxford, of altering the virus’s genetic material and conducting small clinical trials. They too must demonstrate both safety and effectiveness. The same goes for a Chinese company.

Another avenue of defense against COVID-19 is the use of blood plasma from the disease’s survivors on other desperately ill patients. Again, according to another article in Wednesday’s The New York Times by Audra D.S. Burch and Amy Harmon, the treatment may work. This involves finding survivors, with the same blood type as the ill patient, who will then volunteer to donate blood. The plasma in that blood, now termed convalescent plasma, is then injected into the gravely ill patient in order to bolster the patient’s immune system with new antibodies, “giving him more soldiers in his body to fight this war,” said Dr. Leslie Diaz, an infectious disease specialist at the Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in South Florida where there was such treatment administered.

Initially to find such a donor, a frantic search was launched on social media that discovered an appropriate donor some 80 miles away. There is now a national program overseen by the Mayo Clinic, with the approval of the Food and Drug Administration, to use this experimental treatment on 2500 patients in U.S. hospitals. It should be said, however, that it is not clear whether having antibodies that are not their own would ultimately help or harm patients. This is only an experimental treatment under study.

So as we leave April behind, we should salute the American writer, T. S. Eliot, who began his 1922 landmark poem, “The Waste Land” with the words, “April is the cruelest month.” A hundred years earlier, he knew.

METRO photo

As the number of COVID-19 cases rise in minority communities at a higher rate than primarily white areas, North Shore residents may think those numbers don’t affect them, but they do.

The members of these communities are our co-workers, our restaurant workers, our laborers, our neighbors — whether they live next door or in the next town. The pandemic has made it glaringly obvious many of our society’s problems, among them the disparities minorities face on Long Island.

A good deal of information coming out about coronavirus cases shows that black and Hispanic Americans are dying of the disease at rates higher than Caucasians. In Suffolk black residents make up 13 percent of those who have died from the virus and Latinos 14 percent. These numbers are high considering black Americans make up just 8 percent of Suffolk County residents. Latinos are approximately 19 percent of the population, but the number of cases among the immigrant community is likely very undercounted, as crucial information about the virus has had a harder time reaching non-English speakers.

Many from these communities work “essential” jobs in service and blue-collar industries, many of which pay a lower income overall. This can lead to poor or no health care, which would hinder someone from visiting a doctor when they become sick. It also means many who would rather stay home lack a choice but to go out and work, potentially bringing the virus home to their families.

While Suffolk has identified areas where higher populations are testing positive for COVID-19, and in turn are extending testing in those areas, more can be done for these populations. This virus has reminded us that our health care system needs an overhaul — and that these populations are at greater risk due to higher cases of heart disease and diabetes. While it may be too late to make major changes during this pandemic, there are small things we can do right now.

For one, this is no time for one to worry about a person’s immigration status. During a pandemic, as health care professionals and elected officials try to manage the storm, everyone who is currently in the U.S. needs to know they can go to a hospital with no questions asked to receive the care they need. There also needs to be a way to provide alternating housing for those who come down with the virus, whether that means opening up hotel rooms or college dorms. There are many, right here on Long Island, who live in crowded apartments and houses. Situations like those make it difficult for someone to isolate themselves from others to prevent more infections. For those living in houses with multiple generations, this also presents a huge danger to vulnerable populations like the elderly.

Personal protective equipment has been in short supply throughout the country, and it’s up to elected officials as well as business owners to ensure that their employees have the proper amount of gloves, masks and other gear to do their jobs. It shouldn’t matter whether they’re on the front lines at hospitals or cleaning bathrooms in a medical facility, serving as home health aides, delivering groceries or working the fields.

There is always more we can do for our friends and neighbors. One day this pandemic will pass but let’s hope the lessons we’ve learned, especially about those who have suffered because of inequities, will stick with us and inspire us to do better.

Of all the things that have come undone since the start of the pandemic, one of the worst has been the loss of confidence in the systems that have governed us for so long. 

Our local businesses are experiencing untold hardship. People are suffering at home, furloughed or dismissed from their jobs, and many are having a hard time paying the bills or buying food. 

Beyond all that, people are dying. The most vulnerable —the old and those with underlying medical issues — have been the ones most harmed by the pandemic.

We’ve had a long time to come to terms with the issues in our society, but what the coronavirus has made clear is the brittleness of so many of our institutions. There has been more than one report about how the federal government failed to follow the pandemic response playbook present in prior administrations, and how the U.S., in a bid to tighten the financial belt, eliminated people in government whose job was to identify and mitigate such large-scale viral disasters.

We do not know how the end of this virus will play out. Doctors have said the only way for us to truly break away from the restrictions placed on us by SARS Cov-2 is to either develop a vaccine or have widespread, unprecedented testing of practically every U.S. citizen. States like New York have called for such tests, but the federal government has not yet hinted at doing anything close to what would be needed.

What is needed, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said so succinctly in his April 20 address, is less a reopening, but a reimagining of our systems.

“Let’s use this crisis, this situation, this time to actually learn the lessons … let’s reimagine what we want society to be,” Cuomo said.

The governor cited things like the public transportation system, which has for so long been a bane of so many commuters. The Long Island Rail Road has seen a near 95 percent loss in ridership and now faces real financial collapse. With that in mind, flip that picture, and imagine a service that is both fast and efficient in the vein of Tokyo’s or Seoul’s public transportation system. 

Imagine rent prices not being upwards of $1,500 for a studio apartment. Imagine housing prices that don’t restrict all but the middle to upper class affording a home on Long Island. Imagine young people not being pushed off the Island because of its general unaffordability.

This is what happens during a crisis. We see the things that have exacerbated the pandemic, namely a health care system that is simply not built to give the greatest amount of help to the greatest number of people. 

We witness the outsized unfairness that large businesses with thousands of employees nationwide somehow are allowed to apply for loans designated for small businesses. The Washington Post reported close to 70 large companies applied for and got loans through the payment protection program. While a company like Shake Shack actually returned the $10 million small business loan it received, the fact there were many thousands of businesses that could not get a dime despite applying as soon as they were able shows how high current processes are stacked against them.

We can do better, and if we can build upon the lessons made only more apparent during our time in isolation, we will be safer and prepared for a better world. 

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

If presented with a decision you do not wish to make, especially if told you have no choice, don’t do it. Don’t accept the unacceptable because you are told there is no other way to go. There is (almost) always another way. I will share with you a true story that recently happened to make my point. It may seem like the telling of a miracle.

A man I know, who lives many hundreds of miles away, was having abdominal pain and his abdomen was somewhat distended, so he made an appointment and went to see his primary care physician. The doctor palpated his distressed area, front and back, and sent him for imaging tests. Of particular concern was the fact that the patient had come into this world with only one kidney. When the results came back, the prognosis wasn’t good. He was sent by his doctor to an oncologist.

At this next appointment the grim news was confirmed. He had a cancerous tumor on the kidney, and the organ would have to be removed. That meant he was fated to be on dialysis the rest of his life. The oncologist then sent the patient along to an oncology team that specialized in cancerous kidney surgery in a big city hospital. The appointment was for four days later, and while he waited, the man did extensive research on the internet, learning everything he could about cancer of the kidney. At that next visit, the diagnosis was repeated and the team urged what they believed to be the inevitable: arrange to have the stricken kidney removed.

Three doctor appointments, and at all three, there was agreement as to the diagnosis and treatment. Realizing that he was about to have his life altered, and determined to make one more try at changing the outcome, he returned to the internet. One physician in particular, the renal department chairman of a research hospital, had been impressively profiled. The hospital was in a different part of the country, and COVID-19 was beginning to close down most airline flights. With little expectation of actually being seen by this specialist, and while he was worried about how he might get there and return, he nonetheless picked up the phone and called the department. He was given an appointment almost immediately. He almost didn’t accept it when he was told that he couldn’t bring his test results with him, that those tests would have to be done all over again. But in the end, he went.

It took three flights before he reached his destination, and together with his family, he checked into the hotel opposite the hospital, as he had been instructed to do.

For the next two days, there were extensive tests, and then the chairman told him the conclusion: the chances were 95 percent that they could save his kidney. He wheeled around and hugged the doctor.

Three days after the surgery, which involved a technique called modelling accompanied by 3500 pictures of the diseased kidney, he walked out of the hospital, holding his family tightly around him. The doctors told him the wondrous news. He was cancer free. The tumor had not yet begun to spread. 

He had found the right person to deal with his problem because he refused to accept the original path laid out before him, even though he had been told there was no choice. He was determined to find another way, creative in his casting about for an alternative and tenacious enough to transcend the obstacles on his way to a successful outcome.

I have known this story for more than a month, thrilled by its outcome yet not wanting to invade the privacy of the principals. So I have not identified any of the people or institutions involved. But I believe it is an experience that must be told to be of possible help for others. And the choices one is presented with don’t have to be life threatening. They can just be part of daily life. The moral is still the same.

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I’m the dog that lives in a house with these four people who never leave. I think I may have entered the dog Twilight Zone.

First, there’s this guy who loves to pick me up. It’s crazy, because I’m about 90 pounds, but he says he’s getting exercise. I don’t mind too much, but it does feel weird being up as high as the cats get when they jump to get away from me.

Then, there’s this smaller girl who is his sister. She speaks to me once a day in a high squeaky voice and pats my head. I wag my tail to encourage her, but she has too many other things to do, much of which involve the phone in her hand. 

Then there’s “Mom,” who is a self-described cat person. She doesn’t like the way I smell and I’m always in her way. Still, she gives me food once in a while and she tells everyone else to leave me alone and let me go to sleep. The girl and boy stay up way after mom and dad and they sometimes want to play when I would prefer to dream about this old dog who lives next door.

Finally, there’s the one they call “Dad.” He takes me on most of my walks. Sometimes, he puts these white things in his ears and talks to people who aren’t there. He doesn’t always pay close attention to me when he’s got those things in his head, so I get more time to sniff the high traffic areas where other dogs leave their scents.

My daily routine has changed considerably. For starters, walks are both better and worse. They are better because I can go further and I see more people. I am what you might call a “people dog.” But here’s where things get weird. As soon as people get almost close enough to pat my head, either Dad takes me across the street or the other people walk away from me. I’ve tried everything. I lay down and put my head between my paws. That’s a classic, nonthreatening pose. People sometimes slow down when they see that one and they make happy noises, but they rarely stop and they never pat my head.

I also stop and wag my tail with my ears up. Again, it’s Dog Tricks 101, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Sometimes they smile at me, although, more often than not, they seem to be holding their breath when Dad and I walk by. Maybe Dad has been eating too many onions again and he has bad people breath. 

Nobody walks in the door and announces they are home anymore. They’re here almost all the time. They used to be happy when I barked at people who walked past the house or who came to the door. Now, they scream about how I have “perfect timing” and how they’re on a “work call” and they need me to “keep quiet.”

I am just doing what generations of dogs have done since the beginning of that whole wolf-dog transformation. I’m protecting the house. How am I supposed to know that it’s “just a stroller” or that I’m going to “make that little kid fall off his bike?”

I’m definitely in the dog Twilight Zone these days, waiting for people to pet me again and waiting for the four people who never leave to start appreciating all the little things I do again, like protecting the house.

Photo from Metro

COVID-19 has completely changed the way we all live.

But along with worrying about keeping themselves and their families healthy, thousands of small business owners across New York state are losing sleep over how to keep this virus from killing the businesses they have worked so hard to build.

At the same time, lawmakers in Albany are trying to craft a budget in the face of plunging revenues. Sales taxes — much of them generated by small business — brought in a whopping $73.6 billion last year. Our schools, as well as other vital government services, rely on these funds. When a business fails — and too many are on the precipice of failure right now — that sales tax revenue goes, too.

We believe a simple proposal could help restart local business and bolster sales tax revenues, but swift action is required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state legislature.

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. Everyone wants a thriving downtown where they can shop, eat or go to a movie. The good news is that small businesses have always been engines of innovation and entrepreneurship, and we are seeing that again today as they adapt to the new reality. Local gyms are streaming personal training sessions. Restaurants offer free delivery and online happy hours. Medical practices are expanding their telemedicine capabilities. Car mechanics are making house calls that require no personal contact at all.

Of course, it’s vital that these businesses let potential customers know about their services. That’s the role of advertising in all its myriad forms. But advertising costs money, and the sad truth is that advertising is one of the first things small businesses cut when times are tough.

Put yourself in the shoes of a local restaurateur with a stack of bills and very little money coming in. By the time she finishes paying the most urgent bills — rent, food suppliers, payroll — there’s not much left for advertising. Whatever stimulus money she gets from Washington or Albany will most likely be needed to keep the door open and the lights on. Yet studies show that how well businesses survive a downturn is in large part determined by whether they continue to market and advertise during the hard times.

Fortunately, there is a way for Albany to prime the sales-tax pump to keep revenue flowing to both small businesses and state coffers. Let businesses use some of the money they would have sent to Albany, as sales taxes, to market their new offerings. The formula would be simple: Every dollar a small business spends on advertising (up to some reasonable limit) would be a dollar saved off that business’s sales tax bill. 

It would be a win-win-win. Local businesses would be healthier because the increased advertising would jump-start sales. The state would get more sales tax revenue because local businesses would be selling more. And media companies (like ours) would benefit from the additional ad revenue. We’d like to think that we, too, are vital to the character and strength of our communities, not to mention our democracy. Think for a moment of the critical role that journalists have played in getting vital local information out to your community during this unprecedented crisis.

The legislature has a lot on its plate right now, and the temptation will be to bury this idea, or to take the shortsighted view that we can’t afford to do it right now. But right now is when it’s needed. We’ve been impressed with Cuomo’s levelheaded leadership in this crisis, and we call on him to back this innovative yet simple policy.

-— From the New York Press Association

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

During my sophomore year of college, I was preparing to visit my family for Thanksgiving. In early November, however, I had this incredible need to come home to see my mother, my younger brother, our aged-but-still-hanging-in-there golden retriever and my dying father, who was in the hospital full time.

I asked my mother if I could come home a week before Thanksgiving, return to school and then travel back again for Thanksgiving. She acquiesced, suggesting that the family would be happy to see me twice during the month. Of course, she also gently reminded me, to the extent that she ever gently reminded me of anything, that I bring home any schoolwork.

My brother picked me up at the airport and drove me home. Initially, we avoided the subject that hung over every conversation. I didn’t ask how dad was because cancer is a horrific roller coaster ride, in which every small rise inevitably precedes a hard and fast drop towards the abyss.

Over the weekend, my mother brought me to the hospital. She warned me several times that my father was taking so many pain medications that he probably wouldn’t know I was in the room. He might not even wake up, she cautioned. Still, I needed to see him.

When I got to his room, he turned toward me and he acknowledged me, in the smallest way, with his eyes. He didn’t smile or speak, but his eyes told me that he not only knew who I was, but that he was glad to see me. He tried to sit up, which was extremely unusual in the end stage of his life. His movements through the day were extraordinarily limited and he wasn’t interacting with anyone regularly.

Protecting me from seeing my father’s emaciated body in a hospital gown that hung tenuously onto his body the way he clung to life, my mother took me to the cafeteria to get my father a grilled cheese while a nurse brought him to a chair. By the time we got back, he was mostly asleep in the chair. He didn’t eat or acknowledge me, and had already drifted away.

That was the last time I saw him alive. He died before Thanksgiving. Difficult as the memory is, I know how fortunate I am to have had the chance to see him one last time. I didn’t thank him for being a wonderful father or receive any sage advice. I got one more moment to connect with him.

With that memory in mind, my heart aches with the recognition of the hardships families are enduring through their separations caused by the coronavirus. I am confident courageous nurses and doctors are comforting those with uncontrollable coughs, fever, aches and all the other symptoms of this dreaded disease.

And yet, I also recognize how difficult it must be for people not to share the same room or, as I did, to exchange one last glance into a loved one’s eyes.

We draw inspiration from seeing each other, sharing space and time, and wrapping ourselves in the blanket of humanity that offers comfort during times of crisis. I admire those who have stood outside the windows of loved ones, with messages of hope and encouragement. I also appreciate the benefit that FaceTime provides, letting people look at a virtual image of people whose lives have defined ours.

Hopefully, our continued commitment to social distancing and working from home will prevent people from contracting COVID-19, while we await vaccines from scientists and pharmaceutical companies. These efforts will ultimately prevent more families from enduring the additional layer of pain caused by such separations.