Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Mom's the Word for Kitty"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

At the risk of starting a scandal involving promiscuous sex and teenage pregnancy, I have been living in a cathouse for almost two decades. And the madam of the establishment was the mother of nine children.

I refer to Kitty, one of a quartet of felines that have resided in my humble and frequently fur-flown household over the years. At the ripe old age of 17, the notorious party girl has gone to that big litter box in the sky.

Kitty became a member of the family in 1998, when my wife, Sue, and I moved with our daughters, Katie and Lauren; our original cat, Ramona; and our dog, Lizzie, from our hometown of Stamford to Long Island, New York.

Not long afterward, I started getting strange phone calls at work.

“Meow,” purred the voice on the other end.

“Who is this?” I said the first time it happened.

It was Lauren, who would have turned our home into Old MacDonald’s Farm if she could have and was primarily responsible for Ramona, Lizzie and the veritable menagerie of goldfish, frogs, hamsters and gerbils we have fed, supported and done everything for but put through college.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“A cat,” Lauren replied.

“You already have a cat,” I said.

“Ramona’s an idiot,” Lauren declared. “I want a real cat.”

This went on for a couple of weeks until I finally relented.

“OK,” I said. “Go get a real cat.”

Lauren went to a nearby store it wasn’t a pet store where the owner had placed in the front window a box that housed a litter of kittens. Lauren picked one and, at the cost of absolutely nothing, which was approximately what the cat was worth, brought her home. We tabbed her Kitty, even though she wasn’t a tabby, until we could think of a better name for her. We couldn’t, and Kitty started responding to it, so the name stuck.

Unfortunately, Kitty also started responding to cats of the opposite sex. Unlike Ramona, who was strictly a house cat and probably too stupid to find her way home if we had let her out Kitty was a nature lover.

One day, I got another call from Lauren, who had just turned 16.

“Guess what, Dad!” she said excitedly. “You’re going to be a grandfather!”

I dropped the phone. When I recovered sufficiently to pick it up, I found out that Kitty was pregnant. In cat years, she was even younger than Lauren.

Kitty had a litter of four, two of which we found good homes for. The other two — a female Lauren named Bernice and a male she named Henry got to stay in our home.

Do you think motherhood ended Kitty’s wanton ways? Of course not. Shortly afterward, she was in a family way again. This time she had quintuplets, four of which were born one day under a bed. Kitty waited until the next day to have the fifth. I could have used a fifth myself.

We found good homes for all five kittens and took Kitty for a lady’s procedure, even though she was anything but a lady. As a precaution, we also arranged snip jobs for Henry and Bernice, who were starting to have a sibling revelry.

Thereafter, Kitty’s platonic affections were directed toward me, Sue and anyone else she encountered, including our real granddaughter, Chloe, who loved to pet her. Kitty was sweet, smart and small.

By contrast, Henry was practically the size of a mountain lion. He died a few years ago at age 12. Bernice, the sole surviving feline, eats like a mouse but is so fat she should have the word “Goodyear” emblazoned on her sides. She dwarfed Kitty, who ate constantly and wouldn’t have flinched if you had set off a string of firecrackers right next to her while she chowed down.

Now that Kitty is gone, we have cut down considerably on the food bills. Still, we miss the old girl. She was — pregnant pause — the cat’s meow.
Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Poppie Joins the Club"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing grander not even finding a pile of cash worth several hundred grand than being a grandparent.

I have been saying this to anyone who will listen, and anyone who won’t, which encompasses everybody, since the birth of my beautiful, adorable, precious, smart, sweet, funny, etc., granddaughter, Chloe, who is about to turn 2.

Now I can brag to even more people as a new member of the American Grandparents Association.

Membership in the AGA costs only $15 a year, all the better to save your money, which could be as much as the aforementioned windfall, so you can buy toys and ice cream for your grandchild, who is not, let’s face it, as wonderful as Chloe but must be pretty cute anyway.

According to the AGA website,, there are 70 million grandmothers and grandfathers in the United States. That includes my wife, Sue, and yours truly, known to Chloe as, respectively, Nini and Poppie.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that the chairman and CEO of the American Grandparents Association, famed rock music impresario Steve Leber, also is known as Poppie to his seven grandchildren.

“I love that name,” Leber told me in a recent telephone conversation, adding that his late wife, Marion, was called Meme. “But it doesn’t matter what your grandchildren call you. The best part of being a grandparent is when they look up to you.”

“Chloe has to look up to me,” I said. “She’s not even 3 feet tall.”

“There’s a difference between being a parent and a grandparent,” Leber said.

“Yes,” I agreed. “And that difference can be described in one word: diapers. I have changed more of my granddaughter’s diapers than I ever did for my two daughters, including Chloe’s mommy.”

“You have to change diapers,” Leber said. “The funny thing is, it’s not so bad when it’s your grandchild. Unfortunately, I wasn’t around too much when my three kids were young.”

That’s because Leber was frequently on the road, handling such artists as the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross, the Jackson Five, the Beach Boys and Aerosmith.

“But I’ve made up for it with my grandchildren,” said Leber, adding that one of his proudest accomplishments was being the good luck charm for his grandson’s soccer team.

“I was the mascot,” Leber remembered. “And my second-oldest grandchild, Jack, was the star. The team was going for the New York state youth soccer championship. I missed a couple of games because I was in Florida and they lost. Everyone said to Jack, ‘You have to get him back.’ I came back and they won the state title. I became the trophy grandfather.”

“Chloe is too young to play sports, although her daddy is a soccer fan,” I said. “And I don’t know if she considers me a trophy. But we have a special bond. She can be in her mother’s arms, but when I walk into the room, she wants to come to me.”

“That’s because you’re more fun,” Leber said.

“And less mature,” I added.

“You should never take your grandchildren for granted,” Leber advised. “Kids rebel against you, but not grandkids. They’ll confide in you.”

“And they won’t be embarrassed to be seen with you?” I asked.

“Not like children are when they’re growing up,” Leber replied. 

“I felt like a typhoid carrier,” I recalled.

“Grandchildren will show you off,” Leber promised. “They’ll enjoy your company. It’s great. You’ll see.”

I am already seeing it because Chloe enjoys my company and loves being seen with me. She doesn’t even mind when I change her diapers.

“And now that you’re an AGA member,” Leber said, “you can get all kinds of discounts. That means you’ll have more money to buy toys for your granddaughter.”

“Thanks,” I said. “But I’m already the biggest toy she has.”
Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima