Growing up Bogart brought the birthright of spending time with family. How lucky we were to live chip shots from grandparents; how blessed we were with the opportunity to really get to know them. Sustained, repetitive quality time with Grandmas Bogart and Cele and Grandpa Irv enriched us in a manner that still yields dividends. Hanging out with them, learning from each, we knew not only the clothes on their backs but the content of their characters.

My grandkids are not so lucky…and there’s little to be done. ‘Just the way it is. I do what I can — travel east, travel west — but it’s not the same. To them I’m but a cartoon character, a caricature. (No more). It hurts me a bit and I struggle at times.  It’s all of our losses.  Still, at their tender ages….

They don’t know what they don’t know.

Educated in an eastern European “gymnasium” (soft g) and speaking six languages fluently, my Grandma Bogart not only looked like Molly Picon but had the accent to boot. Light-hearted, a terrible cook—an even worse Scrabble player—she, nonetheless was a doting grandma. That noted, she never once asked about Little League and never DIDN’T ask about Sabbath School.  Indeed, the only time she ever raised her voice at me was when, as a joke, I took scissors to a book she had, and cut out the pictures). It’s not that she loved my father more than his sister, but groomed in a patriarchal world, she just treated him better.  The lady was staunch, conservative, warm and fuzzy.

Grandma Cele was different. Born here, Celia Hoffman struggled with her grocer/husband through The Great Depression. (Ed. Note 1: This was a Wall Street thing, not to be confused with our mother’s ten years on the couch). We shared a room my first three years and yet again a decade later. (Ed. Note 2: It was a cabana at the Riviera Swim Club. She used to have me turn around so she could put her swim suit on…but of course, I peeked. (Ed. Note 3: rough estimate- double D’s). She loved her children equally–Uncle Bob and our Mom — but never quite accepted our mother’s hearing loss. Ah, but she could cook, and did.  Shoe boxes of her chocolate chip cookies arrived weekly at Fort Polk.  “Fort Sam” too.

Grandma Bogart played piano; Grandma Cele played gin. Grandma Bogart listened to opera; Grandma Cele: The Barry Sisters. Grandma Bogart lost her husband and stayed widowed forty years. Grandpa Cele was mid-forties when Grandpa Harry passed and re-wed before fifty. As such, I had a Grandpa Irv until fourteen.

He died too young.

Irv Porter was blunt and quite stubborn — yet had a heart of gold. A divorcee from Reading, he treated my mother’s issues, from her health to her husband, with the sensitivity of a lifelong father. As a Grandpa he didn’t miss a beat. The image of him is clear: white short sleeve dress shirt over a “wife-beater” undershirt on top, Bermuda shorts below, ever-present cigar in his mouth. And always, always, standing down the foul line as The Boys played ball!

I knew these people because they were not only giving, but they were present.  They were there to be seen, touched, felt …studied.

The pastor at Coach Hayes’ funeral noted how one must wait until evening to see how beautiful the day has been. Profound.

My Grandma Bogart was ever respectful of her heritage, inculcating the tradition, liturgy and beauty of our people. Grandma Cele, through lifetime behavior, personified the old adage that if you’re knocked down ten times you get up eleven. And my Grandpa Irv? This man of gruff exterior (probably playing Act Two of his life)? He demonstrated daily that family can mean much more than blood.

What then, may my grandkids learn from me (if anything)? How then, can this cartoon contribute? The answer is clear. The Max, Eli, Lucy, Hailey and Matthew of my world should hang on to the Stuart and Caryn, Sandy and Bruce,  Yael and David in theirs. Firmly, they should grapple these people to their souls for as long as they can.

—So that someday, Max, Eli, Lucy, Hailey and Matthew can hit 60, and look back in splendor…enriched.


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