Steve Guttenberg with his dad, Stanley, during a visit to...

Steve Guttenberg with his dad, Stanley, during a visit to one of Steve’s movie sets. Credit: Steve Guttenberg

Steve Guttenberg has played many memorable roles on screen, from the football-obsessed bridegroom in "Diner" to part of the trio of single guys turned instant dads in "Three Men and a Baby." But probably no other role ever meant as much to him as the real-life job of caregiver for his dad, Stanley, during the final years before his death in the summer of 2022.

Now the actor, who grew up in North Massapequa, talks about their father-son relationship in his new memoir, "Time to Thank: Caregiving for My Hero" (Post Hill Press, $30). In the book, Guttenberg, 65, shares memories of his father that are both humorous (driving lessons, visits to movie sets) and heartbreaking (his dad's sad final days). Guttenberg recently spoke to Newsday about the special bond the two shared.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took a few years. I would write while sitting next to my dad’s bedside. I never expected that the end of the book would be my dad passing. I just thought he would live forever.

You spent a lot of time driving from Los Angeles to Phoenix each week to visit your dad and take him for his dialysis treatments. Those long trips had to be pretty rough for you.

My dad had a great saying, "Don’t walk a mile for someone who won’t cross the street for you, but walk 10,000 miles through a hurricane for one minute with someone you love." The drive was nothing. It was easy because I was going to see my dad, who I loved, and I was going to help him.

"Time to Thank: Caregiving for My Hero" is the new...

"Time to Thank: Caregiving for My Hero" is the new book by Steve Guttenberg. Credit: Post Hill Press

You also cover your life growing up on Long Island. Do you remember what it was like when you first moved there?

I grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, then Flushing, Queens, and then we moved out to nirvana, which was Massapequa, Long Island. We moved in July. It was about 103 degrees. We went on the Belt Parkway, the Long Island Expressway, the Southern State Parkway and they were all buckling. We finally got out to this private home in Long Island, in North Massapequa, which had a lawn and a lawn mover. And I remember my dad looking at this lawn mower like it was a spaceship. How we do we start this thing? And we figured it out — we got a neighbor from across the street to help us — and we started it up. I’ll never forget the first time that we mowed that lawn. We were suburbanites.

Obviously, given the seriousness of your dad's illness, this could have been a very heavy book. I love that you have so many amusing memories about your dad that really make the story so human.

My dad was my best friend, so we had things to do together that only we shared like my dad teaching me to drive in the Industrial Park in Syosset off the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway. I could smell that summer air and I could feel that resin in the steering wheel of that Chrysler New Yorker. I could feel the tires on the pavement. And my dad looking at me as I learned how to parallel park in this huge monster of a machine. And the fun we had going to On Parade Diner on Jericho Turnpike after we did our hour and a half of learning to drive.

Cars were an important part of your dad's life, weren't they?

Oh, yeah. I remember when my mother and father bought a new chocolate brown Ford Elite, which was the coolest-looking car. It was delivered at 3 and my mother didn't come home until 5. And I opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat and I heard a rattle in the dashboard. And I decided to fix it before my parents came home. I went and got a Phillips screwdriver and undid the dashboard. I tried to find what was wrong with it and put it back. I didn’t know where the screws went. I put everything back in a bad way. The radio didn’t fit. The vents didn’t fit. My mother came home and almost had a heart attack. When my father came home, he was great with me. When I would screw up, he would just take me upstairs and sit on the bed with me and turn to me and say, “What’s wrong with you, Steven?” And I’d say, “I don’t know, Dad.” And he’d say, “OK, just don’t do this again.”

If your dad was still here, what do you think he'd say about the book?

He’d love it. He’d say, "Good job, Steven. Keep going. Tell people about the book."

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