TODAY'S PAPER
76° Good Afternoon
76° Good Afternoon
LifestyleRetirement

Act 2: Long Islanders share post-pandemic bucket lists, isolation lessons

LIU Post Professor and artist Seung Lee has

LIU Post Professor and artist Seung Lee has been isolating in Aquebogue with his wife, Gail Storm, mother-in-law, Marion Storm, and their cat, Jasmin.  Credit: Jinhong Kim

Newsday is opening this story to all readers as we provide Long Islanders with news and information you can use during the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates.

What’s the one thing you’re going to do when you break out?

Newsday recently posed that question and others to prominent older Long Islanders for a glimpse of the ways social distancing has shaped everything from their intended plans to their viewpoints.

Although members of the group hail from diverse backgrounds and fields, including the arts, religion and business, one commonality stands out: the strong desire to see — in person — grown kids and grandkids as soon as physical distancing eases. In many instances, their responses resonate with cautious optimism and humor.

According to Gayle Berg, a psychologist in Roslyn Heights, thinking about and making plans for the future can be a healthy coping strategy for all ages, including older adults.

“Having something to focus on in the future — something pleasant to look forward to — can restore hope and make what’s presently unbearable more endurable,” Berg said. “It gives us the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and reminds us that positive times lie just across our horizon.”

In addition, staying home as much as possible can provide benefits that go beyond minimizing the chances of getting infected with the coronavirus.

“With crisis comes opportunity — to write a new playbook, so to speak, create new routines or do the soul searching and life reappraisal that are needed but rarely get to see the light of day,” Berg said.

Along those lines, members of the Long Island group have used their extended time at home to learn new tricks, such as Zoom and bridge, and they have gained a greater awareness of how they want to live their post-isolation lives.

Responses have been edited and condensed for brevity.

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, 70

President of SUNY Old Westbury and pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan

Isolating with: His wife, Patricia Butts, in Old Westbury

What are you looking forward to giving up? I’m looking forward to giving up social distancing and the overemphasis on sanitizing everything.

What’s the one thing you’re going to do when you break out? I’m going to see my six grandchildren — two in Valley Stream, four in Manhattan.

What are you most unlikely to do once you get out? Get on a plane and travel.

What was a new thing you tried during social isolation? Now I know how to use many more apps on my phone, iPad and computer.

What did you learn about yourself in isolation? I really understand how much I really do love my wife and enjoy her company. We’re married 49 years and being with her every day never got tired, and we never had cross words.

How has social isolation changed you? I think not being able to go and do has given me a greater appreciation of the Sabbath and resting. It’s caused me to recognize how important that rest is and made me appreciate the basic elements of life.

Nelson DeMille, 76

Novelist

Isolating with: His son, James, 13, and his nanny, Paola, in Garden City. My wife, Sandy, passed away a year and a half ago so I needed a nanny, but I never thought we’d all be in lockdown together for two months.

What’s the one thing you’re going to do when you break out? Take my son to the beach.

What was a new thing you tried during social isolation? Putting on latex gloves and face masks. Also, Zoom.

Who is the first person you’re going to get together with after you get out of the house? My barber and my bartender.

What did you learn about yourself in isolation? Mandated isolation is very different from the self-imposed isolation that I experience when I’m on a writing deadline. They look the same, but they don’t feel the same. Mandated isolation is like house arrest, but with voluntary isolation you get a weekend pass.

How has isolation changed you? Like most people I know, I’m a few pounds heavier. The weight will come off, but shedding the memories of this pandemic might take longer. A positive change is that I’ve come to appreciate things that I’ve always taken for granted — like freedom to travel, freedom of movement, freedom to associate with people, and freedom to make everyday choices on my own without government interference.

Ronnie Dragoon, 71

President/CEO of Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers

Isolating with: His wife, Cindy Dragoon, 65, and son, Joshua, 40, in Old Westbury

What are you looking forward to giving up? My marriage (just joking).

What are you most unlikely to do once you get out? Watch another COVID-19 briefing.

What was a new thing you tried during social isolation? Mopping the floors in the house.

What did you learn about yourself in isolation? Prison is not for me.

How has social isolation changed you? I'll love my customers even more than ever.

Seung Lee, 59

Artist and professor at LIU Post

Isolating with: His wife, Gail Storm, 61, mother-in-law, Marion Storm, 92, and cat Jasmin, 19, in Aquebogue

What are you looking forward to giving up? Zoom. I’ve been teaching over 30 years and have to see students’ artwork in progress.

What’s the one thing you’re going to do when you break out? I want to drive, stop by the classroom and smell the room — where half of my life has been spent — and have dinner in the city with my daughters, one an elementary school math teacher, the other doing premed.

What are you most unlikely to do once you get out? I’m a very physical person, and I don’t think people would appreciate it if I give them a hug.

What was a new thing you tried during social isolation? I was always active outdoors — hiking, jogging or playing soccer — and I had to start doing home exercising.

How has social isolation changed you? My appreciation of time with my wife has changed, as we were so busy with our own careers before this isolation. I’ll try to make more quality time together when this pandemic is over.

Susan Lucci, 73

Actress and author

Isolating with: Her husband, Helmut Huber, 82, in Garden City

What are you looking forward to giving up? The total, constant disinfecting of the house, surfaces, cellphone, groceries and the cars — morning and night.

What’s the one thing you’re going to do when you break out? I’ll go for a manicure for nails that are broken from Clorox wipes and get together with family and friends in person. If we can’t be up close, but 6 feet apart in person, so be it.

What was a new thing you tried during social isolation? I’ve been shooting videos from home for various organizations’ responses to COVID-19, including the American Heart Association, Long Islanders for Long Island, Little Flower Children’s Services and Save with Stories, a collaboration of Jennifer Garner, Amy Adams, Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. During our social isolation, my husband has become the camera man, lighting director and stage manager.

Who is the first person you’re going to get together with after you get out of the house? Our new baby granddaughter, who was born during social isolation.

What did you learn about yourself in isolation? Slowing down has been really good for me, and this has offered me the pause to be home — although certainly not under the circumstances I would want.

How has social isolation changed you? I’ve always been a grateful person, but it has gotten more intense — to have a roof over our heads, hear birds in the morning and pick flowers in my garden.

Lee Silberman, 64

CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk

Isolating with: His wife, Cheryl Silberman, 60, in Huntington

What are you looking forward to giving up? Zoom meetings.

What’s the one thing you’re going to do when you break out? Going to get a haircut.

What are you most unlikely to do once you get out? Eat in a restaurant because I’m assuming that once things ease up we’ll still be socially distancing for another six to 12 months until there’s a vaccine.

What was a new thing you tried during social isolation? Playing bridge online.

Who is the first person you’re going to get together with after you get out of the house? Our four grown children.

What did you learn about yourself in isolation? Being in isolation for two months, I learned how much I really miss having a dog around the house. The house feels empty without Maxie, our dog for 15 years who died two years ago. I’m jealous of my colleagues whose pets always seem to insert themselves into our Zoom meetings.

How has social isolation changed you? It’s made me appreciate human interaction more.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More Lifestyle