David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, October 30, 1999

Life’s last big job --
being a good grandparent

Because one or the other of us was sick, I hadn't seen my 3-year-old grandson Corwin in more than a week and was looking forward to his visit last Sunday.

He arrived fast asleep. What's more, my daughter Treena had been called in to work and they wouldn't be able to stay long.

No matter. I took Corwin into my lap. I thought of waking him to get some real mileage out of him, but decided to let him sleep. He lazily opened his eyes, gave me a little nod of approval, went back to sleep. It was a big improvement from when he used to scream in terror when he found himself in my hands.

It's funny how life's priorities change. First it's starting a career, then raising a family. Now, a primary goal is to be as good a grandparent to Corwin as my Bubbie was to me.

It started when he was born and I wasn't ready to be called Grandpa. I wanted to be called the male equivalent of Bubbie, but didn't know what it was. I phoned my sister Debbie, who told me the name I was looking for was Zeyde. I had to track down a Hebrew scholar on the Internet to find out how to spell it.

I've thought a lot about what made Bubbie such a great grandmother.

She was an independent woman who outlasted two husbands and raised two sons to whom she was fiercely devoted. She had a beauty shop in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles that served primarily older Jewish women.

This was a fascinating place to a 6-year-old and the first great thing about Bubbie was that she didn't have anxiety attacks when my sisters and I ran around her shop exploring as she worked. In fact, she enjoyed showing us off to her customers when we emerged from behind the mysterious curtains hiding the exotic equipment.

Bubbie was never too busy for us and always stopped what she was doing when we wanted her attention. She took our transgressions in stride and I can never remember her angry with us.

Bubbie loved animals and always had a stray cat or parakeet around for us to play with. There was always a Hershey bar to eat and cream soda to drink.

She loved to see the world -- by tramp steamer for international travel and Greyhound bus for domestic. She took me to the 1960 World's Fair in Seattle by Greyhound in one of my finest adventures.

Bubbie was of immigrant blue-collar stock and was determined that education would spare the grandchildren her hardships. I was permitted to ride the big ferris wheel in Seattle, but only after three days of studious observance of the science and cultural exhibits.

A devoted New Deal Democrat, she took me to the palatial Pantages Theatre in Hollywood to see "Sunrise at Campobello," the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt's life. When I had headaches that I eventually outgrew, she took me to every specialist in L.A. trying to find me relief.

People mostly remember Bubbie's radiant smile and hearty laugh that caused her to jiggle from her jowls to her belly.

My Mom visited this year and paid me a great compliment.

"You remind me of Bubbie the way you open up to Corwin," she said. "Your face lights up the same way. The happiest part of her day was when she saw her grandchildren."

Mine, too.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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