By Hannah Berman


Determined as I am to stay off the topic of city-wide protests and riots, and unwilling to watch any television news, by necessity, my focus here must shift to other areas of life, none of which are great these days.

As of this writing, we are entering Phase Two, and many stores that have been closed for months will now be opening. This does not apply to all stores, because some are not yet reopening and others never closed. Supermarkets and pharmacies have always been open, and some folks, including the elderly and immunocompromised, have been going into them all along. In addition to supermarkets and pharmacies, people go into the bank, the post office, and Costco. These lion-hearted souls, unable to tolerate the solitude of remaining home, look for places to go.

Lion-hearted is not a term that describes me. The description best attributed to me now would be lily-livered. While both phrases incorporate an organ, only one has a positive connotation!

I am a lily-livered soul. So concerned am I with the possibility of being afflicted with COVID-19 that I refuse to enter even that hallowed hall known as a beauty salon! These salons, a.k.a. beauty parlors, are among the businesses that will be opening this week, and courageous females have made appointments and will be heading in to see their beauticians. While I am in desperate need of a haircut, I still refuse to go into a beauty parlor. I am every bit as determined to stay safe as I am to eschew the aforementioned topic of riots and protests.

There are, unfortunately, a number of problems that have occurred, presumably as a result of having been indoors for three months. From the start, some of my devoted offspring expressly forbade me from leaving the house, and I acquiesced to their demands. What they didn’t know, because I didn’t let on, was that I had no intention of going out and exposing myself to the possibility of getting COVID-19. It worked out better for me to let them think I was following their instructions.

So my lockdown has been a 50–50 deal, partly because I feel more secure this way and partly because my kids felt it was in my best interest. Nevertheless, self-imposed or not, there are complications associated with spending so much time alone at home. Memory loss is chief among them. Were it not for my smartphone and the television, I would be unsure of both the day and the date. But not all memory issues can be resolved by looking at a smartphone or a television. Just this morning, when I called my friend Judy, I heard a voice say hello, but, due to a memory lapse, I had forgotten who I had called. I didn’t count, but I believe she said “hello” three or four times before I uttered a single word. What could I say? I had no idea who was saying hello. Thankfully, after a minute or two, memory kicked in and I finally recognized Judy’s voice.

These lapses were once called “senior moments,” but that is no longer an accurate description for me. My children are now seniors while I am elderly. However, calling these episodes “elderly moments” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Failing memory and lack of courage are only two of several difficulties that are associated with age and isolation. I realize that there are other difficulties, but the failing memory I have described here prevents me from identifying them. One difficulty, one that I do not have to rely on memory for, is failing hearing. I lose count of how often I utter the following phrases: pardon me, please repeat that, and what did you say?

But there are times when hearing loss can be a good thing. That happened this afternoon when, hoping to hear news that had nothing to do with rioting, looting, and setting stores on fire, I tuned into an Israeli program known as i24, forgetting that i24 features news from all over the world. The first thing I saw was a funeral service in Texas for the U.S.’s latest hero and martyr, George Floyd. It was exactly what I didn’t wish to see! His murder was horrific, but it does not make him a hero or a martyr.

Unfortunately, I don’t move too fast these days, and before I got the chance to change the channel or turn off the television, there, in all his glory, speaking to the crowd of mourners, was none other than Al Sharpton. Silly me, I had assumed that after his Tawana Brawley fiasco in 1987, Reverend Al would jog off into the sunset and never open his mouth again. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He returned a few years ago, slimmed down and clad in a respectable-looking suit. Gone was the jogging suit he always wore and the large silver chain he favored. When he first reappeared, it was reported that he had shed over 150 pounds. My guess is that some of the lost poundage can be attributed to the missing chain.

There is cruel irony here. Despite my earlier momentary memory lapse which rendered me unable to remember who I had called, I remember a lot about Al Sharpton. The worst of it was seeing him once again in front of a microphone. But all’s well that ends well, because that was when my slightly diminished hearing proved useful. It prevented me from hearing a word he said before I was able to locate the remote control, pick it up, and turn off the television. That’s the way it was.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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