“If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned!”

                                                   Jean Valjean

There was a day in the early sixties…it was so ugly, and I was so young. I told my Mom back then, (and maybe my Dad), but no one else. Not Alan, not Stuart. No one. Certain things you couldn’t tell the guys. Like that your Grandpa Irv hated your father…that he’d told you to your twelve-year old face…that he’d called your Dad names vowing “…You’ll never see him again…”. That your fabric was, JUST LIKE THAT…threatened. In an era when families remained intact, you just didn’t share that story.

My grandfather loved me, but saw things black and white. In his world of absolutes he felt no compunction in defaming my hero and, as one who admittedly hated his own father, no guilt in trying to usurp mine. He was self-righteous. Absent a frame of reference, he justified every abscessed word by professing love for “Elaine and the boys.”

In all these years I hadn’t thought of this…until yesterday. And now ….I feel it again: the pain, the helplessness, the anger, the anguish.

I defended my Dad back then. What son wouldn’t, shouldn’t? You want to surgically remove my family—you’re going to hear from me! Matters soured. Going forward Grandpa favored my brother…overtly. He dubbed me “Al’s kid,” the one with the big mouth who preferred baseball to fishing. Polite, subdued Hal, only tennish and not victim to the verbal assault, was his “Butchie Boy.” My grandpa and I loved each other, but I was in his doghouse ‘til the day he died.

Time passed. To Mom’s credit, she deflected his efforts and, even in Dad’s odyssey, our mother made visitation happen. Indeed, a few years later, Mom cringed at a Shivah call when a toxic Aunt Ruth uttered, IN MY PRESENCE, those words that still live in infamy: “Too bad,” Ruth Ungar remarked, “That Al Bogart didn’t die instead of Irv.”

I never regretted my words, candor or actions. Not once did I think “Hey, maybe I should have kept quiet, let him slam Dad…” Nor did I regret the consequences; indeed, they ignited me.

I spoke for my Dad and was ostracized. I spoke from the heart and was shunned. My father was my family and my family was my birthright. Only God could separate us, and I sure as hell knew Irv Porter wasn’t God.

I could look in the mirror then; I can do so now. And then, like now, I feel.


  1. anonymous says:

    telling the truth to someone you fiercely love can be hard, hurtful, but necessary…the truth will set you free.

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