Months before his wife died on Oct. 6 and long before superstorm Sandy stripped their home to its studs, Albert Silberman looked out across the inlet and swore he had found heaven on earth in the two-story Lindenhurst house with scalloped trim.
"This house is my paradise," Silberman, 70, said on a sweltering day in June.
"Swans and squirrels come right up here to the porch," he said of the long front deck. "They aren't the least bit afraid." Neither were the birds that perched on the banister.
But as summer became fall, Susan Silberman died from lung cancer and superstorm Sandy pummeled their home and mementos of a life together into unrecognizable debris. Other than Albert Silberman's guitar in the attic, nothing survived the storm.
Looking at a new year as a widower displaced by the storm, Silberman, like many Sandy victims, said he sees an uncertain future.
He and his wife, Susan, never took a vacation after moving there in the early 1980s, Silberman recalled. When in need of respite or an enchanting view, they sat on the porch overlooking the water and awaited the swans.
As friends and neighbors begin to rebuild, Silberman said his losses are permanent. He knows he will never again have a house on Venetian Boulevard across from an inlet of Great South Bay.
"I didn't have flood insurance or homeowner's insurance, or anything like that," he said. "I couldn't afford it. I'm on Social Security."
The house, which cost $79,000 in 1984, was fully paid for, Silberman said.
Evacuating before Sandy's arrival, Silberman and his filmmaker son Gary Silberman, 42, first moved into a small Lindenhurst motel. Within a few days, friends told him about the availability of an apartment in Lindenhurst. They packed and moved again. The small space has magnified his relationship with his son, Albert Silberman said.
Gary Silberman said he is hoping to soon move.
Albert Silberman said it took five days after Sandy's departure before he had the emotional strength to see what had become of his home. It was destroyed.
He now spends much of his time recalling his wife, their home, the moments on the front porch when he sang to her and played his guitar. He clearly remembers the day in the early 1960s when he decided to marry Susan.
"It was my birthday; I was living in Queens at that time. It was snowing . . . She took three buses in bad weather just to be with me on my birthday. That's when I knew she was the one for me," Silberman said.
He said he has found some joy since his losses in October. He has turned to music, singing on a recent Wednesday night and playing his guitar at a Lindenhurst coffee house called the Spoon, which sponsors open-mic nights.
It's a departure for a man who spent his working years in several university laboratories as a technician assisting scientists who were probing DNA.
"It's something new," he said. "I got applause. They thought I was pretty good."