Thursday, May 31, 2018

"The Mother of All Rehabbers"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
Some people get all the breaks. That goes especially for my mother, Rosina, who recently fell and broke three vertebrae in her back. Fortunately, rehab professionals have her back, which is good because my mother would like to get rid of it.

It was the third time in five years she has fallen and broken something (first it was a leg, last year it was a wrist) and she has bounced back each time, though she didn’t bounce each time she fell, which is why she has needed physical and occupational therapy.

I should mention that my mother is 93 years old and, as a legend of the fall, is in better shape, physically and mentally, than I am. She’s absolutely amazing, which she demonstrated when I visited her in the Van Munching Rehabilitation Unit at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut.

“Look at the bright side,” I told her. “You’re running out of things to break.”

“At least my head is still in one piece,” my mother pointed out.

“So is mine,” I said, “except it’s empty.”

My mother, being a good mother, just smiled.

In fact, she did a lot of smiling in Van Munching, which ought to be the name of the cafeteria. And she had a blast, especially with her friends Elaine and Eleanor, who also were there for therapy.

One evening, I joined my mother for an informal party in Elaine’s room. If there had been a curfew, they would have, of course, broken it. By the time they called it a night, I was exhausted. I guess, at 64, I’m too old to keep up with these nonagenarians.

I had a blast, too, when I met Mason, a therapy dog in training who was visiting from Indiana and has a foot fetish.

That was amply evident when the 2-year-old tri-colored Pomeranian, who has a tri-colorful personality, became infatuated with my size-11 sneakers.

“He loves feet,” said his owner, Barbara, whose sister, Cathy, was a patient in the rehab unit.

“Mason,” I said as I lifted my left foot and turned it over, “would you like to do some sole searching?”

Mason sniffed my foot and sneezed. Then he ran back to Barbara.

My mother didn’t need a therapy dog because she had a therapy son. And I found out first hand, followed by my second hand, how tough therapy can be.

It wasn’t tough for my mother, who’s an old pro at things like the arm ergometer, a machine with two handles that a patient must push in a circular motion.

“You’re doing great,” said Colette, an occupational therapist who watched my mother breeze through the 10-minute exercise.

“May I try?” I asked when my mother was done.

“If you think you can do it,” Colette said.

I grabbed the handles and started pushing. After three minutes, my arms were burning.

The conflagration continued when I tried to replicate my mother’s performance with two-pound weights, which she lifted upward, outward and sideways in reps of 30 each.

“I’ll never make the Olympics,” I admitted.

“No,” Colette said. “But your mother might.”

“She could have her own gym, Planet Rosina,” I said.

“You should sign up,” Colette suggested. “You have work to do.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ed, a rehab tech, and Chris, a registered nurse who trained at The Villa at Stamford, another excellent rehabilitation facility.

“Your mom’s fantastic,” said Ed, who talked with her about Italian food, obviously the key to good nutrition.

“We’ll have to get her out on the ice,” said Chris, who like Ed is a hockey player. “Skating is good exercise.”

My mother, a retired nurse who complimented Chris by saying he is a credit to their profession, replied, “I could be the puck.”

Everyone in the rehab unit said my mother is amazing, not just because she is, injuries aside, in remarkable shape for someone her age, or even mine, but because she has such a positive attitude and keen sense of humor.

“You’re fortunate to have such a great mom,” Chris told me.

I nodded and said, “Just call it a lucky break.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"A Hole Lot of Fun"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
My granddaughter Chloe, who’s 5, is so sweet that she doesn’t mind that I have a hole in my head. She’s also sweet on doughnuts, most of which have holes that rival mine.

So it was only fitting that, in keeping with the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial in which Fred the Baker said, “Time to make the doughnuts,” we recently went to Dunkin’ Donuts because it was, as Chloe the Baker said, “Time to make the doughnuts.”

We arrived at the Dunkin’ Donuts store in Coram, New York, where Chloe and I often go so she can have her favorite doughnut (strawberry frosted with rainbow sprinkles) and I can have mine (jelly with powdered sugar), and were warmly greeted by shift leader Dinora Ramos.

“Is it time to make the doughnuts?” I asked.

“Yes,” Dinora replied. “How did you know?”

“I have a hole in my head,” I said.

“Doughnuts have holes, too, Poppie,” Chloe told me.

“Also,” I said to Dinora, “I’m half-baked.”

“That’s why Chloe will be making the doughnuts,” said Dinora, who asked me to help Chloe wash her hands (I had to be useful somehow) and then gave her a pair of clear plastic gloves so she not only would be abiding by health standards but wouldn’t get frosting and sprinkles all over her fingers, which happens when she eats doughnuts.

After donning an apron, so she wouldn’t get frosting and sprinkles all over her clothes, either, Chloe stepped up on a stool and got ready to decorate a batch of bare doughnuts that sat on a counter behind the store’s display case.

“These have already been made,” Dinora explained, “but you can put on any kind of topping you want.”

Dinora gave Chloe a spreader, which she dipped into a container of strawberry frosting. Then she spread the pink mixture over the first doughnut well enough to impress Dinora and the rest of the friendly staff.

“She’s a pro,” said Carlos Rivero, another shift leader.

“I use a spreader when I put spackle on the walls at home before I paint,” I said.

“It’s a good thing you’re not making doughnuts,” Carlos noted.

“That’s true,” I answered. “Spackle wouldn’t taste too good, even with sprinkles.”

“Speaking of sprinkles, would you like to put some on your doughnut?” Dinora asked Chloe, who chose the rainbow variety, which she sprinkled, very neatly, over the frosting.

“Great job, Chloe!” I said.

Chloe beamed proudly and replied, “Thank you, Poppie! Can I do another one?”

Dinora kindly let her do several more, including one for me, a jelly doughnut that Chloe topped with powdered sugar.

“Now,” said Dinora, “let’s go to the kitchen.”

Safety rules prohibited Chloe and me from getting near the oven, but Chloe actually did make doughnuts by filling a couple of them with jelly (she pushed the button on a pump machine) and spreading powdered sugar on others.

“She could be a baker,” said Johnny, one of the store’s three bakers, who make about 10,000 doughnuts a day for the area’s 11 stores.

After Chloe made two more jellies, we went back out front.

“You’re quite a chef, Chloe,” said Dinora.

“I know,” Chloe replied.

“Did you have fun?” asked Dinora.

“Yes!” Chloe exclaimed.

We both thanked Dinora, who handed us two boxes of doughnuts and said, “I know they’ll be really good because you made them, Chloe.”

Then we drove back to Nini and Poppie’s house, where my wife, Sue, aka Nini, waited with Chloe’s mommy, Lauren; her daddy, Guillaume; and her little sister, Lilly.

Chloe’s creations ran the gamut from vanilla to chocolate to jelly to Boston cream, topped with all kinds of sprinkles, chips, sugar and frosting.

As we got ready to savor her delicious treats, the little baker sat at the kitchen table and, holding a strawberry frosted with rainbow sprinkles in soon-to-be-messy fingers, smiled and said, “Time to eat the doughnuts.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, May 3, 2018

"All Hands on Tech"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
In a world of rapidly increasing technology, which I understand about as well as I do the theory of relativity, which states that my youngest relatives, who happen to be my grandchildren, know more about this stuff than I do, there is one question that stands out as the most vexing of all:

How many months of my life have I spent waiting for that little circle on my computer screen to stop spinning?

To get the answer to this and other confounding computer conundrums, I tapped two tech titans, Karen Woodward and Vinny Demasi, who are among the nice, talented  and very helpful IT folks where I work.

“The little circle used to be an hourglass and you had to wait for it to fill up,” Vinny said.

“That’s why it seemed like an hour before I could do anything,” I recalled.

“Now it’s a spinning circle,” Karen said. “If you look at it too long, you’ll get dizzy.”

“I’m that way already,” I told her.

Karen, 63, who has been in the computer field for 19 years, and Vinny, 30, who has been in the business for nine years, work on the Help Desk and have patiently and expertly helped me and countless colleagues with problems ranging from the simple, like signing in, to the complex, which involves rebooting.

“My definition of rebooting,” I said, “is putting your foot through the screen.”

“Then you’d have to pay for a new computer,” Vinny pointed out.

“And,” Karen added, “you’d probably break your foot.”

When I said that computers run the world and that IT workers are the linchpins of our existence, Karen said, “I wish I had put that on my self-evaluation.”

“Break into the system and add it,” I suggested. “I’d do it for you, but I don’t know your password. I can barely remember mine.”

“That,” Vinny said, “is one of the problems we deal with every day.”

There are plenty of others, he continued, like when people call to say that their computer screens are upside down.

“Have you asked if the people are upside down?” I wondered.

“If that were the case,” said Vinny, “I’d go over and take a picture.”

“We get calls for everything,” Karen said. “Your coffee maker doesn’t work? Plug it in. But if your computer is on fire, we can’t help you over the phone.”

“We’d recommend a fire extinguisher,” Vinny said.

“How about marshmallows?” I suggested.

“You could stick them on the end of a ruler,” said Karen.

“Most of the time, it’s not that extreme,” Vinny noted. “The people we deal with are really nice — when they’re not yelling at the computer — and we like helping them.”

It’s true, Vinny acknowledged, that older people such as yours truly aren’t as computer savvy as younger ones.

“I have three grandchildren, ages 5, a year and a half and 1, and they’re more technologically advanced than I am,” I said.

“I have a 1-year-old granddaughter,” Karen said. “I was babysitting her the other day and my daughter texted me on my phone. All of a sudden I saw this little finger like a toothpick scrolling up. She already knows what to do.”

“My 1-year-old daughter knows how to go on YouTube,” Vinny said. “On my phone, she skips ads in the bottom right corner. She pulls the bottom up to show related videos.”

“Even I didn’t know that,” Karen admitted.

“I didn’t teach her,” said Vinny. “She saw me and my wife doing it. Kids are really smart these days.”

“It’s a good thing there are child labor laws or they’d be working in IT,” I said.

“And take our jobs,” said Vinny.

“Then,” Karen told me, “you’d have to ask a toddler to show you how to get that little circle on your computer screen to stop spinning.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima