01/29/12 12:00pm
01/29/2012 12:00 PM

The soothing harmony of Simon and Garfunkel singing “The Sound of Silence” kept me company during the last leg of my drive home. My monkey brain, usually super-charged, uncharacteristically settled on the word “silence” — temporarily, that is.

I began to reflect on how noisy our world has become. The realization that most folks are inundated with all manner of things that beep or ring was disquieting. Another eye-opener: The only silence I experience is when I’m out walking; even then, I carry my cellphone and Sparky, my trusty recorder. (A thunderbolt of divine inspiration can strike at any moment, you know.)

On impulse, I turned off the radio and drove in silence. It was different, but not unpleasant. Then the thunderbolt: Could I fast from noise for one day? No phone, computer or TV — and me not talking. Seemed doable, or so I thought.

Once home, I scanned my schedule and carved out a day that wouldn’t interfere with my obligations.

When I mentioned my silent day to Frank, he looked concerned and asked, “Feeling OK, Ceil?”

“Yeah, why?”

“The silent thing — before you open your eyes in the morning, you’re talking.”

And he wasn’t the only skeptic.

My son Greg chuckled and said, “Mom, you can’t keep your opinions to yourself!”

Jeff, my younger son, condescendingly asked, “Seen a doctor lately?”

My gal pals clearly thought I’d gone over the edge. However, one friend optimistically said, “Ceil, go for it. At our age, we can be as weird as we want.”

My sister Nancy freaked out, shrieking, “We need to talk daily!”

Fast-forward to S-Day.

7 a.m. I awoke feeling apprehensive.

8 a.m. Coffee sans the online New York Times and this newspaper. Ouch!

10 a.m. Walking on the beach. The antics of the waterfowl were entertaining, the sound of the waves was mesmerizing and the sun reflecting off the water was simply dazzling. Ah, sweet serenity.

Lunchtime. It felt strange not to power up my computer; being devoid of the news was stranger still. I got the jitters. My monkey-brain taunted, “Heading for news-junkie withdrawal, are you? What if something newsworthy is happening?” I broke out in a cold sweat. Goodbye, serenity. I wasn’t making any noise, but the house sure was. The thump-thump of the washing machine, the constant hum of the refrigerator and the clank of the furnace kicking in were ear-splitting. I wondered: Are these the sound of silence?

4 p.m. Doubting Frank arrived home and said, “Jeez! Still at it?”

5 p.m. The phone rang. Frank answered, “Hello … yes, Greg, really!”

6 p.m. Dinner time. Frank seemed uncomfortable, whereas I was trying to suppress a major case of the giggles. After dinner, I retired upstairs; Frank watched the news.

7 p.m. In my study, watching the green light on my computer blinking seductively. I sorely missed my news fix. The phone rang again. Listening hard, I heard snatches of Frank’s conversation. “Nothing, Jeff. I’m surprised, too.”

8 p.m. I drew a hot, aromatic bath and lit some scented candles. The slogan “Calgon, take me away!” popped into my brain. It wasn’t a Calgon product, but it took me away.

9 p.m. Cozy in bed and reading. I rarely go to bed before 11 o’clock, but what else was there to do? The silence was so loud that I heard my heartbeat. “Yikes!” I thought. “What if it stops?” I tried not to fixate on my heart and instead reflected on my day. I concluded it was a mixed bag: I pulled it off, but the day seemed long and a tad boring. I missed too much of what made up my life.

The morning after.

7 a.m. I woke with a sense of relief and started chattering away — yup, even before my eyes opened.

Sweet Frank said, “Welcome back, I’ve missed you.”

“But you always say I talk too much.”

“It’s OK, Ceil, talk away.”

And so I did.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

01/21/12 12:07pm
01/21/2012 12:07 PM

Yes, winter’s quiet on the North Fork and it may become even more so. As you might have heard, the Long Island Rail Road has initiated a Quiet Car policy on its trains. The pilot program began a few weeks ago on the Far Rockaway branch. Perhaps Riverhead to Greenport is next.

I spoke with Aaron Donavan, a helpful young guy who is a media liaison at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority office in New York City. Aaron told me there would probably be only one Quiet Car per train. In that car no electronic devices would be permitted and any conversation would be in whispers only. Matter of fact, conductors will hand out “shh” cards to commuters who break the silence. I’m thinking those “shh” cards would be great for teachers with noisy classes or for husbands who claim their wives never stop talking. And wouldn’t you like a “shh” card if you came face to face with a presidential candidate?

I’ve an idea. Make a game of it. If a person receives five “shh” cards he goes directly to jail.

It so happens that Amtrak began its own Quiet Car policy several years ago. In my first Quiet Car experience, I accepted tickets for seats in an Amtrak “quiet, no cellphones” car traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York City. I was with a friend, Ginny, and we planned on drinking tea as we rolled north through Baltimore. Maybe read a newspaper, even take a nap.

Ginny and I settled in and began a quiet review of our D.C. days. The Museum of American History, a White House garden tour, even a Nationals game. Then came the voice, a kind of female James Earl Jones voice. “Somebody’s talkin’ in the Quiet Car.”

She, and her voice, headed to our seats. She was large, very, and stern, very. The dark-uniformed Amtrak conductor stood over me and asked for ID. This while holding that steel-cold ticket puncher up to my face. There was to be no talking in this car.

My laughter was not directed at her. Rather, at my foolishness. We knew no cellphones were allowed. We did not know quiet conversation was verboten.

Lady Amtrak didn’t crack a smile. She told me to check for seats in another car if I wished to speak even a few words during the three-hour ride. Dutifully I rose from my seat and rocked side to side up the aisle to the next car. No adjacent seats available. I tiptoed back into the Quiet Car and sat down next to Ginny.

So it was we arrived in New York City well rested. Ginny continued on to her home in Saratoga Springs while I was ready for battle on the LIRR to Riverhead, where my husband would meet me for the ride home to Cutchogue. The dusty, creaky LIRR was crowded and it was not until I changed trains at Ronkonkoma that I found a comfortable seat next to a smiling young woman and across from an equally happy-looking young couple. And then, a revelation.

I admit it. I probably started talking first. My seat companion was headed to Riverhead and we chatted about that town. Her three children graduated from Riverhead High School and remain in nearby North Fork towns. The young couple across from me? They hoped to purchase a home in Mattituck.

Naturally, I told my Amtrak story. We all laughed, loudly. And when the LIRR conductor walked toward us, I thought, “Oh no, not again.”

Bet you can guess what happened. The conductor asked, “What’s so funny?” He was not scowling nor was he waving a ticket puncher. He just stood there, waiting to hear the source of our joy.

So once again I repeated my Amtrak experience. By this time I did so in a most dramatic way. Well, the conductor laughed. Out loud. Here were five of us having a good old time. It was great to be home on the North Fork.

And about a LIRR Quiet Car on the North Fork? I’m not gonna worry about that now. There’s too much laughing to do.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

01/01/12 10:16am
01/01/2012 10:16 AM

The following three things happened in such quick succession that I had to sit up and take notice:

1. I received a call from a friend who said, “Ceil, if I didn’t see your return address on the envelope, I wouldn’t know who sent the Christmas card.”

2. I wrote myself a note that I couldn’t decipher.

3. I’ve kept journals since my late teens and often reread them. It’s fun (and sometimes not so fun) to examine my thoughts and revisit my glaring inconsistencies. That being said, over the last five years, my handwriting has gotten so bad that only through guesswork can I make sense of what I was thinking or doing — and maybe that’s a good thing!

The blame for my descent from beautiful script to illegible scrawl certainly does not belong to my grade school teacher Sister Josephine. She spent many hours teaching us the nuances of fine penmanship. A standout memory is that of Sister teaching us to make circles. Clearly, practicing circles was an exercise in penmanship although, back then, I thought it was an exercise in stupid.

I place the blame for my lousy handwriting squarely on technology. With the increased use of and dependence on computers, contemporary thinking calls into question the relevance of learning penmanship at all. Currently, kids in grade school are taught block letters through second grade; they move on to cursive in third grade. Instead of teaching penmanship, the emphasis is teaching technology, typing skills and program familiarity.

Nowadays, most correspondence is generated by computers, including some signatures. Although computerized medical records have been around for some time, it’s only recently that they’ve become the norm. When I was gainfully employed, we had to chart our notes; clear and concise handwriting was essential. (Thanks, Sister Josephine.) I know, I know. Some physicians’ handwritten prescriptions tell a different story.

Stationery was once the gold standard of gifts. I used to order my favorite notepaper from a catalogue: cream colored with my initials engraved in gold. Before the big bang of technology, folks actually wrote to each other. (The U.S. Postal Service was in the black, too!)

My computer is my BFF (best friend forever) and ranks up there with my other gal pals. Sometimes I use her to send online greeting cards. I simply select my card, compose my message and the recipient immediately receives a legible greeting in their inbox. Oh dear! I suppose that I’m adding to the U.S. Postal Service shortfall.

After Mom’s death in October, my siblings and I had the heartrending job of dismantling her home. It felt like we dismantled her life. I found cards, written in perfect Sister Josephine penmanship, that I’d given to my parents. A lump formed in my throat as I read, “Dear Mommy and Daddy … ”

Later that day, my brother called from the garage: “Come out here; look what I’ve found.”

We gathered around an old truck. My brother reached in and gingerly pulled out a bundle tied together with a faded ribbon. When my brother untied the ribbon, we found a treasure trove of handwritten love letters that our parents exchanged, dating back some 70 years.

We had mixed feelings about reading them; however, curiosity got the better of us. Written with pen and ink, the handwriting was legible and somewhat ornamental. Our parents’ endearments: “Darling Nancy” and “My dear husband, Charlie” touched us all. By the time shadows fell on the now empty rooms, tears were unabashedly running down our cheeks. Who says grown men don’t cry?

I’m a fan of progress, but I wonder if computer-generated love letters or online greeting cards could produce such vivid memories or strong emotions. Perhaps something beautiful and personal has been irrevocably lost. Then again, I suppose one can print them out and tie them with a ribbon, or save them to our hard drives.

But still …

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

12/18/11 3:37pm
12/18/2011 3:37 PM

Heading south. Lots of North Forkers think about that this time of year. Perhaps for a holiday visit with grandchildren in Virginia; a tour of lovely, old and temperate Charleston; or, if they’ve got weeks of time, North Forkers might choose to bask on Florida’s beaches. All sounds good in mid-December.

There is, however, one kindly chap who, when he thinks about traveling south, thinks North Fork. Really. Our North Fork is more than 3,000 miles south of his very northern home. I’m talking about Santa Claus.

Now Santa has been traveling south every winter for many years. He and his reindeer must be exhausted. After all, they’re not as young as they used to be. Also, I heard Santa has to remove his boots every time his sleigh passes over an airport. That alone is discouraging.

So, since Santa is such a sweetheart, I thought we could help him out. Meet him halfway, perhaps, and carry his gifts back to the North Fork. That way Santa could return to the North Pole sooner and everyone would be happy. Maybe not Ms. Claus, but I don’t want to start any rumors.

Question is this: Which North Forker would head north to meet with Santa? I suggest Scott Russell, our town supervisor, accept applications for the job based primarily on how far north the applicant had previously traveled. Experience counts.

I, for example, have been to Alaska. But that was in a warm July, when native Alaskans showed me their home-grown tomatoes and went swimming every summer day. So I really have no experience with northern snows. I didn’t even see Sarah Palin, so I couldn’t get a recommendation from the lady who used to be Alaska’s governor. I believe she’s traveling around the Lower 48 but I’ve never seen her on the North Fork. Therefore, much as I would have enjoyed assisting Santa, I knew I must search for other North Forkers who had more experience in cold climes.

When I met Dennis Kedjierski of Greenport, I thought I’d found the ideal applicant. He looked strong enough to carry Santa’s gifts and he had an easy way about him, just like Santa. And he’d been to Alaska.

But alas, Dennis said he felt a sense of “isolation” in so many parts of that northern state. And Dennis made mention of how few roads he had seen in Alaska. Most folks appeared to travel by seaplane. Somehow I got the feeling Dennis prefers the convenience of Main Road and the comfort of North Fork neighbors.

Way east in Orient lives Berit Lalli, but she used to live way north because she was born in Sweden. So she must have some experience with snow and ice. I do know this: Berit warms every heart with gladness when she talks about all the Swedish pastries she bakes. By the way, you can sample some of those treats if you attend the fairs and festivals at her Greenport church. Maybe even meet Berit.

You know, much as Berit might be a good candidate for Santa’s helper, I think we’d better keep her right here on the North Fork. Winter is cookie/cake time in these parts and we can’t afford to have Berit out of her kitchen.

How you gonna keep her down on the farm? That’s the question I asked myself after chatting with Gekee Wickham of Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue. I’d stopped by the farm for apples and Gekee and I started talking north.

Gekee’s been to Norway, where she “shivered,” and to Russia, where she and husband Tom honeymooned. Listen to this. Gekee has actually flown right over the North Pole. Seems she was flying from the USA to Singapore and right down below was the Claus home. Gekee said she didn’t see Santa himself but Rudolph’s nose was distinctly visible.

Well, it’s obvious there are a number of North Forkers who’ve been far north. If they all submit applications to Super Scott, the guy will have one tough job deciding. Maybe he’ll need a committee to help. After all, they have to think about whether a candidate is allergic to reindeer, whether the candidate can fit in a chimney and how many pit stops a candidate needs while traveling around on a winter’s night. But committees work so slowly. Santa’s gifts might not arrive till spring.

Wow! Guess we shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. We’ll just let old Santa do his job, as he has for years, with a generous love. And to all a good night.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

12/03/11 11:49am
12/03/2011 11:49 AM

“Pull up a chair. Can you stay for supper?”

Delightful words at any time, but especially on a chilly winter night. In December, at the start of the freezin’ season, North Forkers begin some serious cooking. No more salads and sandwiches, ice cream and iced tea on the back porch. This is meat and potato time in a warm, cozy kitchen.

Just what makes up a good North Fork winter supper? Well, I’ll dig in first. An old favorite of mine is a pork and sauerkraut casserole my mother used to make and I remember enjoying it ever since I gave up those little jars of Gerber baby food.

Anyway, the browned pork chops are baked with the sauerkraut. I add lots of caraway seed and a chopped-up apple. Truly a meal to warm body and soul. Especially with mashed potatoes.

Now here’s Greenport’s Florida Jones Mealy. Even her name, Florida, is warm and sunny on a cold, cold day. Florida’s special winter supper is ham hocks with lima beans. Good stick-to-the-ribs stuff. Add baked sweet potatoes and you’ve got some sweet eating. Florida says you must have homemade cornbread with this meal. So you can soak up the gravy. I really like the cornbread part. Only I’d save my cornbread for breakfast the next morning. Toast it, then butter-and-jam it. That’s winter heaven in the a.m.

During the summer it’s easy to spot our next chef. She’s found running the farm and the farm stand, Farmer Mike’s, on Main Road in Cutchogue. But in winter look for Dorothy Konarski in the kitchen of her home right next to the farm stand.

And what does Dorothy cook on a night when the flakes are falling thick and fast? Roast pork is what the family anticipates. With luck, a green bean and carrot combination accompanies the pork. Oh, and I forgot. Dorothy suggests a steamy hot carrot soup to begin the meal. I’ll let you in on one of Dorothy’s secrets: She uses some apple cider in that soup.

Room for dessert? A creamy tapioca pudding is Dorothy’s offering. Always a hit and even more so when made with a bit of coconut milk.

If you’re out early in the a.m., most likely you’ll spot winter cook Laura DeMaria, who lives in Mattituck and works at Carquest, also in Mattituck. Laura drives all over the North Fork, delivering parts to auto repair shops where hapless car owners hope for miracles.

Still, Laura has time to cook. Especially when teenage sons Marc and Zack will be at the table, hungry for supper. The boys have a few favorites. One is lentil soup. Laura uses a recipe given her by her mother. Mom recipes are always the best. If not lentil soup, then it’s split pea soup with ham. Laura says both soups freeze well, though there’s usually little left when the boys eat.

On a really cold day, Laura warms the kitchen with a roasting chicken in the oven. No time for making stuffing? Here’s what Laura does and I’m gonna try it. Cut an onion in half and put it in the chicken cavity. Makes the chicken soft and sweet, says Laura. Well, that’s better than hard and sour. By the way, I met one of Laura’s sons. He’s a senior at Southold High School, a tall and healthy-looking guy. Must be Mom’s cooking.

Bet you thought every winter-weather cook on the North Fork was a woman of a certain age. No way. Shake hands with Pete Kreppein, a Cutchogue guy in his early 20s. Pete admits to cooking since he was in junior high school. Now a college sophomore up in really cold country Albany, Pete says when he gets the chance to cook he makes a great chicken and rice casserole that he serves with green beans. His lasagna, he claims, is delicious, too. No wonder the young man has such good grades. He’s eating the right stuff.

I wonder about his desserts, though. Any time of year it has to be ice cream. Speaking of cold, on winter weekends, if Pete comes home to the North Fork, he grills outdoors, first clearing away a patch in the snow. You know, I think my sons need to hear about Pete.

Guess we’re at the end of the menu. But come again for supper in just about any North Fork kitchen. In winter dark and deep, you’ll find a taste of happiness.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

11/14/11 9:34am
11/14/2011 9:34 AM

I like to think of myself as a forward-thinking gal — after all, this column is titled “Forward Living.” But sometimes I yearn for the “olden days.”

When I was a kid, we had a family pharmacist — didn’t everyone? “Doc” was our go-to person. If we scraped our knee, Mom sent us to Doc. In the ‘50s, before mass production of drugs became the norm, the pharmacist compounded a good deal of medicine. (I still get a gag reflex when I recall the foul-tasting cough syrup Doc concocted.) Along with our prescriptions, Doc dispensed sound advice, free of charge. Funny, Mom said his advice was the best medicine.

While my sons were growing up, I had a similar relationship with our pharmacists, Barry and Kenny. Not only did they know my family, they knew of the skeletons hanging out in the closet. By then, compounding drugs was less common, but good advice was still doled out free of charge. Once, when my son Jeff came down with a nasty infection, Barry opened the pharmacy after hours to fill his prescription.

But, alas, all good things end. The mom-and-pop pharmacies gave way to big box pharmacies. Still, one could establish a decent relationship with the pharmacist. Sure, they don’t know the nitty-gritty stuff of my life or the skeletons in my closet (probably a good thing); however, I’ve found them accessible. The drawback? It seems that once I developed a relationship with a pharmacist, they transferred to another store.

Our new prescription plan mandates that we use a mail-order pharmacy for our ongoing prescriptions. Recently, I used their online service and requested a prescription renewal. By email, I was informed that there were no refills left, but they (the pharmacy) would get in touch with my doctor. A couple of days later, I checked online. The notation stated: “Prescription refill in progress.”

Fast-forward one week. No prescription; first warning bell.

The following day, I received this email: “Your prescription order is eight days old, and the provider has not responded to our request, rendering your prescription null and void. Call your provider.” Muttering some non-printable expletives, I called my medical provider.

The nurse in the doctor’s office assured me that the prescription was sent on the day I requested it from the mail-order pharmacy. I called the mail-order pharmacy; they checked their records and nada. More warning bells.

Who was to blame became a moot issue. While my prescription was floating around in cyberspace, I was running low on medication. I contacted my doctor and he, in turn, called in a 10-day supply to the local pharmacy. Unbeknownst to me, the mail-order pharmacy found the doctor’s original prescription and attempted to fill the order. This maneuver resulted in the prescriptions canceling each other out. Yikes! The warning bells turned into full-blown siren.

I called the mail-order pharmacy and followed the endless prompt instructions. While waiting for a live person, the automated voice kept repeating, “We really want to help you.” You know what that’s like!
Finally, a live person. “Ms. Iannelli, tell me what happened.”

Despite my best intentions, when I began explaining my plight, my frustration gave way to anger (screaming sirens can do that). The customer service representative admonished me, “Ms. Iannelli, this is not my fault.”

“Listen,” says I, “I don’t give a d… who is at fault. Fix it.”

Long story short. I received a small portion of the prescription from the local pharmacy and the mail-order pharmacy sent the rest.

I have nothing against mail-order pharmacies and, usually, their system runs smoothly. That is, until there’s a glitch in the chain of command, then patient beware.

Can you understand why this forward-thinking gal sometimes yearns for the olden days? But methinks the olden days are just that. And, folks, from my vantage point, they ain’t coming back anytime soon.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

10/31/11 5:01am
10/31/2011 5:01 AM

I had this idea: Let me get a small and mature dog, seven to 10 pounds, so I can travel in good company and not be alone in wild places like Tierra del Fuego or Paris, France. I couldn’t take my dog Nina to Paris; too big to be allowed on the plane in the cabin with me. Plus Nina hates motorcycles of any kind and size, and Paris is where you’ll find them, sputtering and coughing all day long.

I called my friend and dachshund breeder for 55 years, Robin Gianopoulos, in Stony Brook. “I’ve got the dog for you,” she said. “A show dog I’m retiring, Ida Mae.” That’s how a love affair began.

Next morning I left Orient for Stony Brook with the mixed emotions and anxiety a blind date might provoke. Will Ida Mae like me? Will I like her? Am I her kind of guy? Robin welcomed me in the midst of barks and furry tails, long-hair and smooth-hair dachshunds having free rein of the house, encircling me, friendly but cautious in our first minutes of discovery. And there she was, Ida Mae, quietly observing me from the height of the couch in the living room. Her status in life, and in this house, was well established and secure. She belonged. Yet her life was about to change. Robin took us for a walk. Then she suggested Ida Mae and I go for a walk alone, just the two of us. We walked. Ida Mae was calm and inquisitive. Back at the house I asked Robin to hold Ida Mae so I could take pictures. Ida Mae was both strong and delicate. She had a powerful chest but she was petite, with fine features and the most adorable little face you ever saw. Her eyes expressed both sadness and mischief.
“Let me think about it,” I told Robin.

As I drove back to Orient, not one thought came up. But feelings were growing fast. I entered Willow Terrace Lane and wanted to turn around and get back to Stony Brook at full speed, take Ida Mae in my arms and elope to Orient for happiness ever after.

Ida Mae was born in Sarasota, Fla., the “child” of Dr. Thomas, a pioneer vet who developed some of the best miniature dachshund bloodlines. Minis were rare 50 years ago. Ida Mae had two litters. A granddaughter, Violet, is becoming a show dog and winning blue ribbons as Ida Mae did so many times. I have felt parental pride at her achievements. I know it may seem absurd, but it’s moved me more than once. Another granddaughter of Ida Mae is alive and well in Greenport.

Robin had not planned to let go of Ida Mae. In fact, her son had been quite upset at the idea of losing her. He had always assumed that she would stay in the family. But she knew Ida Mae would be pampered in my house. She had read my columns about my dog Lady. As a breeder she keeps about 10 dogs. Ida Mae would be a gift to me.

“Nina, you are going to get a little sister.” Nina wagged her tail. I drove to Stony Brook. No blind date anxieties this time. The excitement of new love.

“If your son is too upset … ”

“It’s all right, Pierre. Ida Mae will get all your attention. I know she’ll be happy with you.”
It was night. I put her carrier in my car, took note of her diet, the hours of her meals, and Robin told me, “She probably will want to sleep in your bed.” And we took off.

Although I don’t approve of driving with a dog on my lap for safety reasons, it didn’t take very long for Ida Mae to settle there in spite of efforts to keep her in the passenger’s seat. Not that safe either. I had just welcomed into the family a very determined dachshund. I have since learned that all dachshunds are like that, determined, brave, opinionated, impossible and irresistible. Ida Mae was 5 years old and not about to transform herself for my pleasure. Nina met Ida Mae. I walked two dogs on Willow Terrace for the first time. I also slept with two dogs in my bed.

In the country, in the city, Ida Mae made friends. Mostly people. Her name was unexpected. “What’s her name?” Ida Mae. They smiled. Nina had to adapt. She was not the only princess any more. I’m sure in the early days Ida Mae missed Robin and nine or 10 other dogs in Stony Brook. But she became my dog. A beautiful dog, long, silky ears, eyes that touched you deeply, made you laugh or moved you to tears. Her short legs inspired her to reach for new heights, somehow finding extra cushions on top of the couch to sit on. She seemed so confident up there. And, can I say it, radiant.

Then I got sick in 2008. My sister Marie-Lise came to the rescue. My friend Nancy had her own dachshund. Three dogs became too much. “Until you get well,” my sister said. I got well. But Ida Mae stayed with my sister. A new love had been found. A few difficult moments between Ida Mae and Beauty Belle, my sister’s black and tan young mini dachshund.

Years went by. Ida Mae was about 7 when my sister took over. While Beauty Belle chased balls endlessly, Ida Mae had other ideas: scattering the contents of bags, uncorking bottles, rearranging the stuff in a suitcase. She was also a dreamer, ate her meals slowly, savoring the food. Beauty Belle was more voracious in her ways. Ida Mae was the most affectionate dog you could wish to have. Nothing delighted her more than being held, your arms wrapped around her compact and tender body. She’d give herself to you, become part of you. I missed this closeness, I missed her warmth when she left my house.

In 2011 my sister was planning a trip to France. I was eager to have a chance to keep Ida Mae for a couple of weeks while Beauty Belle would be paraded in Paris. My parade with Ida Mae would be in Orient. It would be a lovely time together.

My sister praised Ida Mae’s punctuality. She called her “the clock.” Without fail, a few minutes before mealtimes Ida Mae ran to her bowl and waited patiently. She showed the same precision at the “wee-wee” pad, always taking her own length into account. Dachshunds are notorious for missing the mark.

In January 2011 Ida Mae’s visit at the vet is excellent. Her blood work perfect. But in July she doesn’t rush to her bowl at mealtime. She seems less exuberant when I visit my sister’s house. She’s getting old, I think. We try baby food. Not much success. We see the best doctors. They give us hope. She was joyful in the spring. My sister asks, “What happened in July?”

Even the vets don’t have a clear explanation. We hope, we worry and Ida Mae looks at us pleading for answers. We tell her, “Ida Mae, please get well.” We carry her around like a bouquet, like a gift. More sadness, less mischief in her eyes. She doesn’t bark much now but when she does, my sister says, “Good, Ida Mae. It’s so good to hear you bark.”

How the road to loss accelerates. How did we get here? A visiting nurse for pets, Charlene, comes once a day, then twice, to help hydrate Ida Mae. Charlene is an incredibly caring human being. At her house she prepares special meals for Ida Mae. My sister needs her support. Oct. 6 is a desperate day. I drive from Orient to meet my sister at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. I drive against the sun as fast as I can.

Ida Mae is still very pretty. But she’s giving up. I have difficulty giving up. What if we take her home? I ask. “It would be unethical,” answers the vet. “I’ll be back in 10 minutes,” he says.

Our time alone with Ida Mae. We take turns holding her, the way she likes to be held, warmly, closely, to be one with us. The vet comes back. Ida Mae raises her head and turns toward my sister as if asking for protection. My sister holds her tight, caresses her. I stroke her, too, the way I’ve done since that day I drove with her on my lap for her new life in Orient.

Ida Mae, Ida Mae, we never traveled to Paris together, but we went further, millions of miles together. I am not giving up on you, Ida Mae. Our trip will never end. Next week we’ll visit Violet, your granddaughter, at Robin’s place.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: pgazarian@aol.com.

10/31/11 3:00am

After our Thursday study group, Mary, the editor of our church newsletter, asked for volunteers to help compile said newsletter. We formed an assembly line and began collating, addressing and folding. Then, we hit a snafu. New to us were the clear wafer tabs that are used to seal the newsletter — and anyone without nimble fingers, or over 45, would have trouble seeing, let alone peeling off, the clear discs.

After some trial and error, we got the hang of it. When the task was complete, Mary remarked, “I hope that everyone who reads this newsletter realizes how much work it takes to get it out.”

Who knows why, but Mary’s words stayed with me. Truthfully, I haven’t given very much thought to the countless folks who work tirelessly behind the scenes. These folks make things happen. Then again, maybe you have; maybe you’re one of them.

I’ve been writing this column for seven years, and still don’t know what occurs after I hit the send button. Shame on me! However, common sense dictates that a myriad of operational steps must be taken before any columns or news stories appear in print or online.

After watching a movie on TV, I never wait for the closing credits to appear before changing the channel. Recently, for the heck of it, I did. The credits rolled for five minutes — editing, original music, casting direction, set decoration, costume design, makeup, etc. These folks are literally “behind the scenes.”

Think about the unseen crews who work for the Food Network. The star has center stage as he struts into the immaculate TV kitchen where the prep work has been done and ingredients placed in little bowls. The chef, with a great deal of flourish, empties the contents of said bowls into the food that’s being prepared, adds a pinch of this, a splash of that and — bam! The meal is complete.

I’ve prepared more holiday dinners than I can remember. If you’re like me, before the guests arrive, the table is set, the wine is chilling and the turkey is in the oven. We cross our fingers and hope that our guests will mesh (some behind-the-scenes family members can make holidays a tad sticky). We probably don’t employ a sous chef, so we spent the previous day baking, chopping, grating, grinding and stuffing.

Prior to the feast, we hit the supermarkets and local farm stands to select our turkey and trimmings. But wait — do we give any thought to turkey farm workers or the drivers who deliver the turkeys? How about the farmers and field hands who do backbreaking labor to bring about an abundant harvest? And let us not forget the folks who keep supermarket shelves well stocked. These folks play supporting, but important, roles in creating our holidays.

Those of us who love classical music are familiar with the works of George Frideric Handel, who composed, along with other masterpieces, “Messiah.” But are you familiar with the name Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow? Neither was I, until recently. He was Handel’s teacher and mentor. Or does the name Henrietta Mears ring a bell? Evangelist Billy Graham wrote of Ms. Mears, a teacher and Christian educator, “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother had such a marked influence on my life.” I didn’t know that!

TV personalities Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” and Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor” have opposing political views, but they have one thing in common. Behind their wit, charm and political commentary, they employ many talented writers and research assistants who have the ability to create appealing shows.

Recently, while buying my daughter-in-law a birthday card, I had a eureka moment. Suddenly I knew why Mary’s words have stayed with me. It’s time to declare a holiday honoring the unsung behind-the-scenes folks. Hallmark would simply love the idea, don’t ya think?

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.