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Jewish Journal

Diagnosis: Grandfather

by Tom Tugend

December 27, 2001 | 7:00 pm

"The Grandfather Thing" by Saul Turteltaub (Tallfellow Press, $16.95).

Saul Turteltaub, whom I've known for a good many years, is a funny man and a funny television writer. If you laughed at "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Jackie Gleason Show," "That Girl" or "The Cosby Show," tip your hat to Turteltaub, because they are among the 30 major TV shows he has written or produced over a 40- year span.

Then he became a grandfather. In the beginning, he vowed to observe the arrival of grandson Max with strict objectivity, and he stuck to his resolve for the first two months of Max's wrinkled and screaming babyhood.

But then Turteltaub weakened, and within months he was off showing photos of Max to strangers in the next car at traffic lights.

The only possible diagnosis was that Turteltaub had caught "The Grandfather Thing," which happened to be the title of his book, complemented by, "the real poop by Max, age 1."

In the slim, 96-page volume, the author chronicles, month by month, Max's progress and the increasingly affectionate relationship between grandfather and grandson.

Fortunately, the author also records Max's observations on life, and even a poem, at each of the 12 stages. For instance, at five months, Max rhymes:

"I notice when I laugh and smile
My parents do it too,
But when I cry they only sigh
And don't know what to do.
'He's tired, hungry, or he's wet,'
Are all the choices that I get.
I'm five months old,
Why don't they guess,
'Perhaps he wants a game of chess.'"

At the end of 12 months, Max observes, "Just because I don't talk doesn't mean I have nothing to say. Stand by."

The final page contains famous, and famously unsentimental, grandfather quotations, such as Nancy Spence's "Grandchildren are the only justification for not having killed our kids," and Turteltaub's own "There is no woman more precious than the daughter who will not allow her father to change her child's diapers."

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