Friday, June 21, 2013

"Grumpy's Guide to Grandparenting"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Ever since my adorable little granddaughter was born in March, I thought I knew everything there was to know about being a grandfather but was afraid to ask.

Then, flush with triumph after changing a diaper, I got over my fear and asked for pearls of wisdom from my college buddy and longtime friend Tim Lovelette, who has three granddaughters.

“One of the most important things you can do when you have granddaughters,” said Tim, who lives on Cape Cod, Mass., “is to get them to watch the Three Stooges. This is the difference between being a grandfather and being a grandmother. Men love the Stooges and women hate them. Women are missing out on a huge piece of culture. So it’s crucial that we get the next generation of womenour granddaughtersto watch the Stooges. Have a Stooge marathon. Your granddaughter will love it. Then she’ll be hooked. And it will be too late for her grandmother to do anything about it.”

Tim added that his wife, Jane, is the best grandmother in the world, despite not being a Three Stooges fan.

“I’ll put my wife up against any other grandmother,” he said proudly. “We’ll have a competition. They can duke it out and Jane will win.”

I told Tim that my wife, Sue, is a wonderful grandmother.

“I don’t doubt that,” he said. “But Jane has a height advantage. And Sue doesn’t have Jane’s experience.”

That’s because Tim and Jane’s oldest granddaughter is 6 years old, the middle one is a year old and the youngest is 8 months.

“Jane watches one on Mondays and another one on Thursdays,” Tim said. “She’ll take the bus into Boston to baby-sit the youngest one and come back at night. And Jane watched the oldest one before the little girl got big enough to go to school. The most impressive thing is that Jane has to baby-sit me. I’m less mature than any of them.”

As a result, Tim said, very little is expected of him.

“Jane assumes all the grandparenting responsibilities,” he noted. “Nobody expects me to do anything. I’m not responsible by design. It’s a conscious irresponsibility. I run a successful insurance business, I keep out of jail, I’m the same guy you met in college — a little heavier but even more handsome — but I’ve developed this aura of irresponsibility. If you start out with low expectations, you can’t go wrong. That way, if you do something good, like go for a walk with your granddaughter, you can be a real hero.”

“My granddaughter is too young to walk,” I said, “but I’ve put her in the stroller and taken her for a spin around the patio.”

“You’re a good grandfather,” said Tim. “I’m impressed. I’m in awe. I mean, you even change diapers.”

“I guess I’m a late bloomer,” I said, “because I didn’t change a lot of diapers when my two daughters were babies.”

“I’ve changed one diaper in my life,” Tim acknowledged. “You’re willing to do things that I won’t do. I love being a grandfather, and I love my granddaughters, but there’s a limit to everything.”

Tim does take credit for being diplomatic.

“You have to be very judicious when you have more than one granddaughter,” said Tim, whose daughter-in-law is the mom of the oldest two and whose daughter is the mom of the youngest. “If one mother senses a child is getting more praise than another, it’s Armageddon.”

Tim said choosing the name you want your grandchildren to call you also is important.

“I like the names you and Sue picked out: Nini and Poppie,” said Tim. “I’ve always been Big Daddy and Jane has been Go-Go. But when the youngest one was born, my daughter said she didn’t like those names and wanted us to change them. So now we’re Grammy and Grumpy.”

Tim paused and added: “I’m Grumpy. And pretty soon, I’m going to introduce her to the Three Stooges.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, June 7, 2013

"My Mother, the Plumber"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

As a man who has regularly plumbed the depths for column material but doesn’t know how to plumb a sink to get rid of even worse material, I recently faced a flood of problems that threatened to turn the laundry room into a scene from “Titanic.”

So I called Rosina the Plumber.

Rosina, in case you need her services, is my mother.

Momz, as she is lovingly known in our family, isn’t a plumber by trade. She had a long and rewarding career as a registered nurse, so she knows about human plumbing. Now that she’s retired, she has been taking care of the plumbing in her house, the difference being that she doesn’t have to take its blood pressure, dispense medication or put up with complaints.

“One time,” Momz recalled, “I dropped an earring down the sink.”

My father, the original and best Jerry Zezima, who passed away a couple of years ago, was the handiest guy I ever knew. He could have solved the problem, but he was at work, so my mother had to fish the earring out herself.

“I took off the elbow of the pipe under the sink,” she said. “And there was the earring. It wasn’t expensive, but I didn’t want to lose it.”

“If you had,” I told her, “you could have said it was from the van Gogh collection.”

“Another time,” said Momz, politely ignoring the remark, “the bathtub got clogged up with soap and bath oil. I wasn’t sure if I needed a snake or a plunger, but the guy at the hardware store said to pour this stuff down the drain. It didn’t work. So I got a long brush with black bristles. I threaded it down the drain andbingo!the clog was gone.”

I told her about the problem I was having with the sink in the laundry room.

“A hose from the washing machine empties water into the sink, but the sink is clogged and today it overflowed,” I said. “I thought we were going to have an indoor swimming pool.”

“Did you put on your bathing suit?” my mother asked.

“No,” I replied. “But I did stick a piece of wire down the drain. It didn’t work.”

“Do you have a snake?” Momz wondered.

“Yes,” I said. “Fortunately, it’s not the poisonous kind or I’d need COBRA health insurance.”

Momz politely ignored that remark, too, and said, “Stick it down the drain.”

“I tried,” I said, “but it won’t fit.”

“Take the elbow off the pipe under the sink,” she advised, “and run the snake through from there.”

“You don’t make house calls, do you?” I asked.

My mother, who lives in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., two hours from my house on Long Island, N.Y., said, “Yes. And, unlike other plumbers, I wouldn’t charge you. But you should take care of this right away. I know you can do it.”

I was skeptical, so I drove to a nearby Home Depot store and went to the plumbing department, where I spoke with an associate named Charlie, who said, “Your mother is absolutely right.”

“Could she work here?” I asked.

“We’d love to have her,” Charlie responded.

I went back home and took the elbow off the pipe under the sink. Then I ran the snake through and pulled out about half a ton of wet lint and soapy residue.

When I had finished, my wife, Sue, did a load of wash. The water went down the drain perfectly.

I called my mother to tell her the good news and to say that Home Depot could use her services.

“I’m going to stay retired,” she said. “But maybe I could be a consultant. Who says you can’t get a good plumber anymore?”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima