“…This is the song, La la la la, Max’s song…”

Al Bogart had an expression: “This sucks canal water”, he’d say. Can’t remember where he used it; can’t recall why. I do know though, when it fits. Long distance grand-parenting, for example, sucks canal water.
The elevator opened directly across from my kids’ unit Friday and I was greeted by The Prince. He stood there smiling, eyeing this wandering Jew, his sweet head arched 45 degrees to the north. Dulcet twinkle in his eyes, he sensed safety (what with his mother there), but truth is, he didn’t know who I was.  Probably.

Part of me believed, you see. The piece some deem half-full yet others just call “dreamer”—that portion said he’d picked up my scent—or maybe my voice, and he knew.

“Go show Grandpa where the froggies are!” urged his mother, me dropping to my knees. And he did. The playing field now leveled, we shot down the hall—Max walking, me feverishly crawling to keep up (only one of us knowing where we headed), until the journey mercifully ended. There in the fourth floor’s far endzone was a doormat, a doormat adorned with nothing but croakers. ‘Twas there that we rested, two infants separated by six decades, bonding with frogs.

It was a great weekend, of course. It always is. There’s a Cinderella aspect to it, though…always. Like when I hit Chicago. Like when I smile at Lucy. No matter how warm it is, no matter how synced our rhythms, it feels temporal. Always.

I’m not complaining—just venting. I know I’m lucky and have more than many. Still, when I get one-on-one time with Max, I can’t help but wonder how this all happened. How in the hell did my progeny wind up spread over lo these many miles? I mean, hey—not only did the paternal grandmother waiver her east coast rights by schooling in Ohio, but I swear—I looked at my records—I’ve never left town!

So we sat there, later Friday. Never one NOT to overdo a good thing, I played him “Elmo’s Song” from Youtube perhaps twenty straight times. He loved it! Again it was two infants, sharing smiles. But did he know me?

Time was spent, to be sure, with his parents—quality time. We joked; we laughed, and of course there was the obligatory press conference:

Michael: “Dad, would you ever consider moving to New York?”
Bruce: “We’ve been over this.”

Meredith: “Bruce, really, have you never had an olive?”
Bruce: “Meredith, we’ve been over this. Neither has my brother.”
Meredith (follow up inquiry): “But Harold’s more normal than you—“
Bruce: “Get him on the phone,” I interrupted.

It was my brother’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than further interview?

Bruce: “I’ll dial.”
Meredith: “Harold, why don’t Bogarts eat olives?”

(This was just the pre-game. Max, stirring on the monitor, mandated a move to important issues).

“It’s the 26th. When do you think Aunt Helen’s writing her rent check?”

“Harold, has your father ever put anything together in his life. Have you?”
(In celebration of Michael’s hallmark achievement—putting together a bike for Max—we learned that Hal once made a bookshelf and confirmed that I remained “on the schnide”).

And then the kid was back. Ambling to the inner sanctum of Chez Bogart, sixteen months of joy took charge. It was the stuff that parents thrive on, but grandparents—especially long distance ones—live for.

“Max, how old are you?” Hands flew up, index fingers out—like Richard Nixon on a good day.  “And where’s your __________”, one body part after another, some less appropriate than others. (I call him The Prince but this was clearly his kingdom).

“I wish I could be sure he knew me,” said I demurely.
“Max,” urged Meredith, “Give this to Grandpa.”

And then…tympany….

Forget the ’51 Giants! Forget Bobby Thomson! This would be The Shot Heard “Round The World. It came in the form of an outstretched arm—to me.

Soon after, we said goodbye. Airport-bound, I kissed his forehead, memorized yet another smile….and bid adieu.

It was time to leave.  My coach was turning into a pumpkin.

       “…I love the music,
       I love the words.
       That’s Max’s song….”

                  (Adapted from Tony Gleiss and The Muppets)

5 Responses to “MAX’S SONG”

  1. bob says:

    There are two things people don’t understand unless they have experienced them. One is divorce and the other is the pleasure of having a grandchild.

  2. Editor says:


  3. aunt helen says:

    Why am I not surprised by those two comments?
    Mahr devorim, barbara bush

  4. m says:

    So apparently you are “Grandpa” in the east. What happened to “Pa”?

  5. Editor says:

    Attn m:

    Sometimes we have to compromise. Better he should know me as “Grandpa” than wonder, every few months, who the fat guy is that wants to be called “Pa”. Perhaps though, when I hold him, I should quietly whisper in his ear “Pa Pa Pa”. Subliminal suggestion?

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