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Berger’s Burg: It’s tough being a long-distance grandpa

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Our daughter-in-law, Heather, who lives in Rockville, Md. was pregnant with her second child. Her due date was three weeks away. We promised our son, Vance, that we would be there for the delivery and we always keep our promises.

It had been a particularly snowy week in New York and Gloria sighed as she looked out the window at the heavily falling snow. "We'll get there," she vowed. "Three weeks is a long time away and I am certain that the weather will turn better." It stopped snowing that night.

Weeks before, we had invited three of my childhood buddies from the Lower East Side to attend a reunion at our house for the night following her due date. Full preparation for it was in progress.

I looked forward to seeing that old gang of mine. There was "Hack" (who acquired that nickname because of his propensity to "hack" or slap-foul in basketball games), "Berger-Berger" (we named this unrelated Berger twice to differentiate him from me) and "Pop-up" George (who, when batting in stickball games, inevitably would pop the ball up). I was nicknamed "Aly Khan" after the notorious international playboy who married the actress, Rita Hayworth. I guess I was the suave one. Gloria and I scheduled the event so it would not conflict with the anticipated birth of our grandchild.

Gloria wanted to make a good impression and was busier than a one-armed paper hanger, cleaning and cooking. She bought the finest of foods and scrubbed the house until it shone.

I helped also. I vacuumed. That was the first time that I had used that darn vacuum cleaner since the ignoble day when I broke my leg. I fell down the stairs when the vacuum's contemptible hose wrapped itself around my legs. Oh, how I hate vacuum cleaning. Well, on with the story.

As fate would have it, while we were sleeping on the morning of the get-together, the telephone rang. It was 4 a.m. Gloria and I immediately jumped out of bed. Gloria answered it as I reached for our pre-packed suitcases. We knew. Yes, it was our son Vanced. He was rushing Heather to the hospital posthaste.

The baby was on the way. Vance asked us to come immediately and requested that we bring Heather's mother with us. We agreed. Dennis, Heather's brother, would bring her to us.

Dennis didn't arrive until four hours later. He explained that a van had double-parked alongside his parked car and he couldn't get out. He had to wait until the driver came to move it. We then gathered all our necessities - Heather's mother, my Giants' hat, and ourselves, and jumped into the car for the four-hour trip. It began to snow again. As we raced down the New Jersey Turnpike toward Maryland, we called Hack to cancel that night's dinner. Hack graciously understood and said he would contact the others.

(An aside: I had changed the reunion date to another night but forgot to write it on the calendar. The affair had to be canceled again when it conflicted with another previous engagement.

Hack again was very gracious. We made a third date, which was finally kept and a grand time was had by all.)

The ride to Maryland was uneventful. Snow flurries fell but our prayers precluded their "Big Brother" from joining in.

We finally reached Maryand and Gloria located the hospital. We made a beeline for it, and scampered up to Heather's room. We were too late. There he was, formidable Aaron Michael Berger, sleeping in Heather's arms. He had beaten us out of the gate.

The strapping little guy weighed in at 7 Ibs. 1 oz., and was 19 inches long. Heather's mother, Gloria, and Vance were beaming like Cheshire cats. I, a much more laid-back person, took it all in stride. I just got dizzy. Nonetheless, Aaron Michael really liked me. When I held him, he burped.

After several hours with Heather and Aaron, we left. Vance led us back to his house and Heather's mother volunteered to look after Brendan, Aaron's 5-year-old brother, who had been in the care of a neighbor.

We accompanied Vance to shop for baby things, And guess what? Vance then treated us to dinner at a French restaurant in Washington, D.C. (I always like going to that city because of the wonderful names they give their streets - Shady Grove, Friendship Heights, and Foggy Bottom.

It was now 9 p.m. and we bade Vance goodbye. We went to a hotel for some much-needed sleep since we intended to spend all the following day with Aaron and Brendan.

We checked in, went to our room, and collapsed on the bed. Before going to sleep, however, I flipped on the television. The weatherman was describing a major snowstorm that was to descend upon the area at dawn. Gloria looked at me and I looked at Gloria. SNOW - means SNOWED IN - which IS NO GOOD!

So, we jumped out of bed, got dressed, grabbed our luggage, and checked out of the hotel, And thus began our race home before the storm struck. It was now 11 p.m.

Despite being deprived of sleep, Gloria was wide awake. She drove all the way home, never stopping once. Safely ensconced in our own bed, I flipped my television on. The weatherman was describing the major snowstorm that had engulfed the Washington D.C. area, paralyzing the city. I am sure that Aaron Michael understands why we departed so early.

Aaron, don't fret. We intend to return to you in the spring when there is no more snow. Ah, the travails of being a grandfather!

Our two daughters-in law figured out that their children have turned the Berger clan into a little United Nations. On one side, my grandchildren are 1/4 Italian, 1/4 Russian, 1/8 English, 1/8 Polish, 1/16 German, 1/16 Austrian, 1/32 Irish, 1/32 Romanian, 1/32 Turkish, and 1/32 Native-American. On the other side, my grandkids are 1/2 Chinese, 1/4 Russian, 1/8 Polish, 1/16 Austrian, 1/32 Romanian, and 1/32 Turkish. And all are 100/100 American!

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