Sunday, February 16, 2020

"This Cold Was Something to Sneeze At"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When it comes to being sick, men are babies. I know this because there are six children in my family (five grandkids and yours truly) and I was sicker than any of them over a period of five months, which is how long it took me to recover from an illness that so baffled medical science that it was impervious to prescription medication and was finally eradicated with a self-prescribed dose of blackberry brandy.

It all started after my twin grandchildren, Zoe and Quinn, were born. Before my wife, Sue, and I took a trip to meet them, I had a flu shot. The pharmacist who gave it to me said I was very brave considering that many men are — you guessed it — babies when it comes to needles.

“Some of them have even fainted,” she said.

“Wimps,” I replied as I rolled up my sleeve. “I’m ready for my shot now.”

“I just gave it to you,” the pharmacist said as she put a Band-Aid on my arm. “Stay healthy!”

I wish I could say I did, but I came down with something I thought was either the flu or a sinus infection or black lung disease. So I walked in to a walk-in clinic to make sure I wasn’t contagious.

“You’re not,” said a physician, who took a throat culture with a swab that was attached to a stick approximately the length of a javelin.

“Do I have a pulse?” I inquired.

“Yes,” he reported. “You are, technically, still alive. And the culture shows that you don’t have strep throat.”

“I get most of my culture from yogurt,” I said.

The doctor looked like he was about to get sick. “I am not going to prescribe antibiotics,” he said. “Just take some over-the-counter cold medicine and you should be fine.”

The day after Sue and I met the twins, I developed a dry cough, probably because it wasn’t raining. (Now you know why I never went to med school.)

The symptoms persisted after we got home, where I also started to sneeze. Sue, who didn’t want to catch anything, told me not to come near her.

“Do you want me to go to a room with achoo?” I asked.

Sue rolled her eyes, which were heavy, indicating that she was getting sick, too.

She recovered quickly, which is more than I could say for myself, so I went back to the clinic, where another physician asked if I had allergies.

“I’m only allergic to myself,” I answered.

“As you get older,” she said, sizing me up as older, “you can develop allergies.”

She prescribed a nasal spray.

“With the size of my nose, will I need a hose?” I asked, noting that my question rhymed.

“No,” the doctor said. “You won’t have to call the fire department.”

On a return visit to see the twins, I found that Quinn was sick. So was big brother Xavier. Zoe was starting to come down with something, too.

When I got home, I learned that my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly also were sick.

All the kids got well, but my postnasal drip, or pre-nasal drip, or neo-nasal drip, or whatever the hell I had, was hanging on. I returned to the clinic, where I should have my own parking space, and was given a different spray.

“If this one doesn’t work,” said a third doctor, “take some antibiotics.”

My illness persisted. Finally, after I had run out of medicine, I opened a bottle of blackberry brandy and had a shot.

The following day, I was cured.

“The next time I get sick,” I told Sue, “I’m going to take this stuff first.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 2, 2020

"Baking Lesson Really Pans Out"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I never thought baking was a piece of cake, mainly because I’m half-baked. But I recently learned that I could have my cake and eat it, too, after getting a baking lesson from my grandson.

Xavier, who will be 3 in March, is hot stuff when it comes to the culinary arts. I, on the other hand, which should have sported a pot-holder, have always believed that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Contrary to this brilliant advice, which has prevented me from burning the house down, I got into the kitchen to watch Xavier help his daddy, Dave, prepare a fish dinner. He also helped make pizza. But the piece de resistance, a French phrase meaning “resist a piece of anything I have made,” was the cake Xavier baked with my wife, Sue, without whom I would have starved to death long ago.

While Xavier never got close to a hot stove and didn’t have access to sharp implements, he did climb up on his step stool to help wash or mix ingredients for various dishes and pour them into pots, pans and bowls in the preparation of everything from entrees to desserts.

“If I’m in the kitchen, Xavier has to be there, too,” said Dave, adding that his father, Bob, is a great guy but not exactly a culinary artist.

My late father, the original Jerry Zezima, was also a great guy and made the world’s best salad, but he couldn’t match the cooking skills of my mother, Rosina, a kitchen magician who should have her own Food Network show, or my sisters, Susan (who recently showed me how to make chicken that could wow anyone except, of course, a chicken) and Elizabeth (who once had to show me how to make a grilled cheese sandwich).

My one culinary triumph came about 20 years ago, when I was first runner-up in the pasta sauce division of the Newman’s Own and Good Housekeeping Recipe Contest for a dish I called Zezima’s Zesty Ziti Zinger. Paul Newman himself polished off a bowl of the stuff and raved about it. That the legendary actor is, at the present time, deceased is purely coincidental.

Because my next-best creation is microwave popcorn, I was in awe of Xavier’s budding talent.

Among his toys is the Melissa & Doug Prepare & Serve Pasta Set, which I should borrow for another batch of ziti. But his favorite is the Melissa & Doug Baking Play Set, which includes a baking tin, measuring cups, a whisk, a spatula, a rolling pin and an oven mitt, which he wore when he and Sue baked a cake.

The ingredients were Betty Crocker Super Moist Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and Pillsbury Confetti Funfetti Vanilla Flavored Frosting.

As I watched, Xavier handed Sue two eggs, which he wouldn’t break.

“If you did,” I told him, “the yolk would be on you.”

“Can’t you find something else to do?” Sue asked.

“Not at the moment,” I answered as Xavier stood on his step stool next to a bowl on the counter and poured milk over the eggs and cake mix. Then he used a spatula to create a creamy batter.

“Batter up!” I exclaimed.

Xavier smiled. Sue didn’t.

They both poured the mixture into a pan, which Sue placed in the oven. When the cake was done, Xavier spread on the frosting, which he topped with rainbow sprinkles.

The cake was a masterpiece. And it tasted even better than it looked.

“This is delicious, Xavier!” I said, licking sprinkles out of my mustache.

The little boy beamed.

“I hope you learned something,” Sue said to me.

“I did,” I replied. “Getting a baking lesson from our grandson was the icing on the cake.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 19, 2020

"A Real Wake-up Call"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I am not easily alarmed, except when I look in the mirror to shave, but my house is. That’s because the alarm keeps blaring. According to Judy, who works for the alarm company, the reason is simple:

The house is haunted.

“What other explanation can there be?” Judy asked after she called me at 1 a.m. on a stormy night. The call woke me out of a sound sleep in which I dreamed that the alarm was blaring.

Actually, it was, as Judy helpfully pointed out when I picked up the phone.

“I can’t hear you,” I told her. “The alarm is blaring.”

“Turn it off,” Judy politely instructed me.

“What?” I said.

“TURN IT OFF!” yelled Judy, whose ears must have been ringing even more than mine.

I went to the keypad in the kitchen and punched in the security code, which in my semiconscious state I temporarily forgot (when you have 147 different passwords for various things, it’s tough to keep track).

After the alarm stopped blaring and my hearing was restored, I told Judy about the storm.

“Do you have a lot of wind?” she asked.

“I did after dinner,” I responded, “but I’m feeling much better now.”

“The problem is coming from Zone 12,” Judy reported.

“I’m usually in the Twilight Zone,” I said.

“Is that where you are now?” Judy asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the family room.”

“Check the slider,” she said.

“We have French doors,” I told her. “And I don’t even speak French.”

“Is the door ajar?” Judy inquired.

It was all I could do to keep from making another stupid joke, so I checked it and said, “Yes.”

“Do you want me to call the police?” Judy asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to go back to prison.”

“You were in prison?” Judy spluttered.

“Yes,” I replied honestly. “Rikers Island.”

“For how long?” she wanted to know.

“About six hours,” I responded, explaining that I was there several years ago to talk about writing to young detainees who were in school at the maximum-security facility. “My columns are criminal,” I added, “but I was paroled anyway. I must have been a bad influence on the inmates.”

“If nobody forced the door open,” Judy theorized, “it was probably the wind.”

“This isn’t the first time it’s happened,” I said. “We’ve gotten calls from the alarm company about the motion sensor in the living room.”

“That’s Zone 10,” Judy said. “Did anybody break in?”

“No,” I said. “The person who called the last time said it could have been the plants on the windowsill. It was during the day and I was out, so I had to rush home to see what was going on.”

“What was going on?” Judy wondered.

“I guess the plants were having a party,” I said.

“Maybe they needed to be watered,” Judy guessed.

“They were probably headed for the liquor cabinet in the dining room,” I said.

“That’s Zone 8,” Judy told me.

“Why does this keep happening?” I asked.

“There’s only one logical explanation,” Judy said. “Your house is haunted.”

“That would explain the spirits in the liquor cabinet,” I noted.

“Or,” Judy said, “your sensor in very sensitive.”

“It must have heard the bad things I’ve called it after the alarm has gone off so many times,” I said.

“Make sure all your doors and windows are tightly closed,” Judy said.

“Thank you,” I said. “You’ve been very helpful. I’m sorry you have to work so late, but I’m glad you’re alert.”

“That’s my job,” said Judy. “Have a good rest of the night.”

“You, too,” I said.

“Now,” Judy said, “you can sleep easier.”

“I will,” I said with a yawn. “Unless the alarm starts blaring again.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 5, 2020

"Naps Are Not Fake Snooze"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
If there is one thing I have learned in my new career as a babysitter, aside from the lamentable fact that my grandchildren are more mature than I am, it’s that napping is very important to both kids and geezers.

I found this out recently during a weeklong stay in which I babysat infant twins Zoe and Quinn and beat them at their own game by sleeping on the job.

Of course, I didn’t sleep while they were awake, or even while one of them was awake and the other asleep, but I did doze off while both of them napped, which refreshed me so much that it was practically a full hour after they both woke up before I needed another nap.

The problem with naps is that infants need them but don’t always want them and oldsters either want them but don’t always have time or don’t want them but slowly come to the realization that they need them because they are, after all, old.

According to my daughter Katie, who also happens to be the twins’ mommy, Zoe is “a good napper” and Quinn is “a bad napper.”

They both seemed pretty good to me, even when they weren’t on the same napping schedule, because one or both of them would nap anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours.

This gave me time, when their naps coincided, to catch a few Z’s myself.

And I needed the rest because most of the time, one would be up and the other down, or one would want to eat and the other wouldn’t, or I’d start to feed one and then, five minutes later, the other would want to eat, too, or one would need to be changed and the other would fuss until I had the first one cleaned up, then I’d have to change the other one’s diaper as well.

No wonder I was fatigued.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t always get to sleep while both kids were napping because I was too wired to be tired. I solved the dilemma by watching daytime TV, which had such a soporific effect that I was soon snoozing contentedly and dreaming about bottles and diapers.

My reverie was often interrupted by crying. This was a signal that one of the twins was awake and needed to be fed, changed or both. Sometimes, however, I merely dreamed that one of them was awake. So I went back to sleep. Two minutes later, one of them was awake for real and my nap was cut short.

Then I had to put the kids in clean outfits. These diabolical articles of baby clothing feature either snaps or zippers. The ones with snaps were obviously designed by sadists whose job is to stymie exhausted grandfathers who can’t line up the snaps properly. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, they are not a snap.

The ones with zippers are easier but still troublesome when the baby kicks so furiously that the aforementioned grandfathers get their fingers caught or otherwise can’t get the outfit fastened. This often prompted me to say to either Zoe or Quinn, “Go out there and win one for the zipper.”

They had no idea what I was saying, but it made me feel better.

It also made me tired again. But I couldn’t take another nap until both children were taking one, too.

Still, naps are not a sign of old age. They are a pleasantly restorative experience that puts you in touch with your younger self and gives you the energy necessary to be a good babysitter.

Now that I’m retired, I like to nap even when I’m not watching the kids. As most geezers would agree, it works like a dream.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima