Sunday, December 22, 2019

"The Zezimas' 2019 Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the daughtersiarch; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch; and Chloe, Lilly, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn, the grandchildreniarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2019 for the Zezimas!

The first big event of the year was when Jerry turned 65. He celebrated by applying for Medicare at the Social Security office, where he encountered so many fellow geezers that he figured he’d still be there when he turns 66, at which time he can get full benefits.

He also took the AARP online safe driving course and passed with flying colors, mainly because he didn’t actually have to take the test in a car, where he is considered a menace to society.

In sports news, Jerry was a volunteer for Field Day at Chloe’s elementary school, where he helped referee the water relay, a rigorous event that would have given Jerry a heart attack if he competed and proved, as if anyone needed verification, that he is all wet.

On the domestic front, both of Jerry and Sue’s refrigerators died at the same time, probably in a suicide pact. It was a major calamity because: (a) Jerry’s beer got warm and (b) he and Sue had to clean 21 years’ worth of junk out of the garage to make room for the auxiliary fridge. Jerry made so many trips to the dump that he should have his own parking space. At least his beer is cold again.

Speaking of appliances, Jerry and Sue got a new water heater and oil burner. Now their house won’t either be flooded or blow up.

Jerry, who suffers from acrophobia, which is an irrational fear of being any higher off the ground than the top of his head, had to climb to the peak of his two-story house to accompany a guy who came over to give him an estimate for a new roof. Jerry survived, but the experience was, as his widow-in-waiting agreed, the height of folly.

Speaking of houses, Lauren and Guillaume bought their first home, a cozy ranch that Lauren has decorated beautifully. Chloe, 6, and Lilly, 3, love it because they have bunk beds and their own playroom, where Jerry, when he visits, is the biggest toy.

He has plenty of time to play because he retired from his day job as an editor (he continues to write his column, proving that not all the news is good) and is now free to be a full-time babysitter for his grandchildren.

The number increased to five, enough for a (very short) basketball team, when Katie gave birth to twins, Zoe and Quinn. Jerry and Sue met the dynamic duo on a trip to see Katie, Dave and big brother Xavier, who is 2.

Jerry, no stranger to bottles, learned how to feed the twins simultaneously with the help of a nursing pillow called My Brest Friend. He did double duty several times and even did quadruple duty (two twin feedings in one night) twice.

On a subsequent visit, Jerry learned how to bathe a baby (and then take a shower) after having double doody done on him.

But it all came out in the end, making for a wonderful year. Here’s hoping your 2019 was great, too.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"Too Cuticle for Words"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Sometimes, a boy just likes to feel pretty. In my case, that would involve plastic surgery.

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have put the “man” in manicure. And I have put my worst foot forward even less frequently to get a pedicure.

But I recently discovered that I like to make others feel pretty, which is why I opened Poppie’s Beauty Salon and Nail Spa. The first customers were my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly.

The girls, who are 6 and 3, respectively, are into fashion and love to get the spa treatment. I have a fashion plate in my head, which means I am more likely to go to a saloon than a salon.

Still, when they asked me to paint their toenails, I resolved to be a beaut of a beautician and make their piggies as pretty as a picture.

The first thing I needed, of course, was nail polish. Since my wife, Sue, wasn’t home, I went through her drawers and stole a few bottles.

“I want pink, Poppie!” said Chloe, who sported rainbow fingernails painted a couple of days earlier by her mommy.

“Me, too!” agreed Lilly, whose fingernails were bright red.

Initially the girls couldn’t decide between red and purple for their tootsies but settled on pink because it matched their unicorn pajamas.

Since it was the morning after a sleepover, I also wore pajamas. They were blue with egg and sausage stains from breakfast, which is part of the service at Poppie’s Beauty Salon and Nail Spa.

In addition to polish, my equipment consisted of a nail file, which I used to file the girls’ nails (file this under “duh”); a hair dryer, which I used on the wet polish (it was easier than a ceiling fan); and paper towels, strips of which I stuck between the girls’ toes so the polish wouldn’t get smudged (when you can’t find cotton balls, you have to improvise).

But first, I gave each of the girls a foot massage.

“That tickles, Poppie!” shrieked Chloe, breaking out in giggles.

Then I started to apply the polish.

“Hold perfectly still,” I instructed as Chloe sat in a chair and I carefully painted the big toenail on her right foot.

Some of the polish got on the toe itself, but I immediately wiped it off.

“Poppie needs more coffee,” I said as I continued down the other four toenails, after which I started on her left foot.

The hardest part was not applying either too much or too little polish. By the time I got to Chloe’s last toe, I had it all figured out.

Next it was Lilly’s turn.

I grabbed her right foot and, pinching each toe, chirped: “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none. And this little piggy went wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

“I don’t have to go wee-wee,” said Lilly, who was eager to get it over with.

It didn’t help that she sneezed a couple of times as I applied polish that had to be wiped off her pinky toes.

When the pedicures were done, the girls sat in the family room, their toenails pretty in pink.

“Nice job, Poppie!” Chloe exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Lilly chimed in.

“Should I paint my toenails, too?” I asked.

“No!” the girls responded in unison.

“Don’t you want me to look pretty?” I said.

“Boys don’t look pretty,” Chloe declared. “They look handsome.”

“You’re handsome, Poppie,” said Lilly.

Chloe agreed.

“Thank you, girls,” I said. “You just saved me a fortune in plastic surgery.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, November 24, 2019

"It All Comes Out in the Wash"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Because I don’t do laundry, even though I often air it in public, I am frequently in hot water. But I didn’t want my house to be in it, too, so I recently contracted to replace the water heater, which threatened to blow like Old Faithful and spray steaming hot water all over me, which at least would have allowed me to do laundry without having to take off my dirty socks and underwear.

The two guys who came over to do the job were the father-and-son team of Keith and Keith Scanlon.

Keith Sr., 63, and Keith Jr., 25, are hot stuff themselves.

“I hope he’s a good cop,” father said of son, who has applied for the NYPD, “because he’s a terrible plumber.”

Replied son, “Not all of us have been doing this since dinosaurs roamed the earth.”

Even though Keith Sr. has been in the business for 40 years, he’s not exactly prehistoric, which is more than I could say for the oil burner, a rusty contraption that was in worse shape than the water heater and had turned the laundry room into the appliance version of Jurassic Park.

“It did its time,” Keith Sr. declared.

“Are you going to put it out of its misery?” I asked.

“Yes,” Keith Sr. answered, adding: “Now it’s going to cause us some misery.”

That’s because the metal hulk weighed 860 pounds.

“Being a cop has to be easier than this,” Keith Jr. said as he and his father loaded the burner onto a dolly, wheeled it through the garage and put it on a device that lifted it into the back of their truck. “The heaviest lifting I’ll have to do on the NYPD is bringing guys to jail.”

“At least this keeps me in shape,” said Keith Sr., who has no plans to retire because he has three adult children — Keith Jr. is the “baby” — and has to pay for weddings and help with college tuition bills.

“I was father of the bride recently,” said Keith Sr., whose younger daughter, Arianna, had a destination wedding in Mexico.

“It was unbelievable,” Keith Sr. said, adding that the groom, Aleck, had his bachelor party in Iceland. “I didn’t go,” Keith Sr. noted, “but my son-in-law’s family is from Macedonia, so we’re going to have a second event in the U.S. so they can attend.”

I told Keith Sr. that I have been father of the bride to both of my daughters and that the younger one was married in France.

“We also had a second event in the U.S. for the people from here who couldn’t make it there,” I said.

“We have a lot in common,” Keith Sr. said when I told him that my daughters took a trip to Iceland.

“I didn’t go, either,” I noted.

“My older daughter is named Lauren,” he said.

“That’s my younger daughter’s name,” I replied.

“My wife, Antoinette, and I have been married for 39 years,” Keith Sr. said.

“My wife, Sue, and I have been married for 41,” I said, “but I’m two years older than you are, so it evens out.”

Then I found out that Keith Sr. and Antoinette were married two days after my older daughter, Katie, was born.

“Do you do laundry?” I asked.

“No,” Keith Sr. answered.

“Neither do I,” I told him.

“We’re so much alike, it’s incredible,” he said.

The one thing we don’t have in common is that I’m retired.

“If you get in your wife’s hair, you could work for me,” Keith Sr. said. “Now that she has a new water heater, she won’t mind washing your dirty socks and underwear.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, November 10, 2019

"How to Bathe a Baby"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Even though I haven’t taken a bath since I was a baby, which dates all the way back to the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose bathing habits are classified information, I am now an expert on the subject. That’s because I recently gave a bath to a baby who needed it so badly, after her diaper exploded all over me, that I would have taken one, too, except I couldn’t fit in the sink.

All of this happened at 3 a.m., a time when babies (and their grandfathers) should be sleeping like babies. I would have been except that Zoe and her twin brother, Quinn, woke up hungry, which meant they had to be changed, then fed, then changed again, and again, and again.

In the end, which is where the worst of it came out, a bath was in order.

Before you get to that point, however, you will notice that babies are trained to follow a very strict routine that requires them to go through several diapers, onesies, burp cloths, towels, baby wipes, table pads, bassinet covers and, if they haven’t already been kicked off, socks.

The No. 1 concern is, of course, No. 1, which can soak a diaper so thoroughly that it weighs more than the baby.

This is followed by the No. 2 concern, which is followed by No. 3 (a combination of the first two) and No. 4 (a regurgitation of the entire contents of the bottle, which can burst like lava from the front end of the child and land all over your shirt, pants and, if they haven’t already been kicked off, socks).

If you are in charge of twins, as I was, you have eight concerns. But on this particular night, Zoe outdid her little (by two pounds) brother by emitting approximately two pounds of the aforementioned substances.

Lacking a power washer, which is great for getting baby effluent off the side of the house, I decided to give Zoe a bath.

The first thing I had to do was take off all her clothes. Or I would have if I could fit into them. I’m glad I couldn’t because they didn’t need to be laundered so much as incinerated, but I didn’t want to call the fire department in the middle of the night because: (a) it would have awakened Quinn, who had finally gone back to sleep, and (b) my own clothes were almost as filthy as Zoe’s and would have repulsed even the bravest smoke eater.

I filled the sink with warm water that covered most of the baby tub, which features a mesh seat on which I placed Zoe, who looked up at me with teary eyes as if to say, “Here’s another fine mesh you’ve gotten me into.”

Then she started to squirm. Wet babies and greased pigs are extremely difficult to grasp, although why anybody would want to grease a pig — or change its diaper — is even harder to grasp.

I took a small washcloth, wet it and squirted on some baby wash, which was “pediatrician recommended” and “lightly scented.” Even a pediatrician knows that a light scent can’t mask a heavy one, so I used more soap and worked Zoe into a lather. Her continued squirming worked me into one.

I scrubbed and rinsed her, shampooed her hair and engaged her in baby talk, which I was glad nobody else could hear because Zoe didn’t sound nearly as infantile as I did.

Afterward, I dried her off, dressed her and put her in her bassinet, where she fell fast asleep.

Then it was my turn to come clean. I took off all my clothes and got in the shower. I would have taken a bath, but I ran out of baby wash.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"With Beer, the Sky's the Limit"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Every time I hear that somebody is on cloud nine, I wonder what happened to the first eight clouds. But the ninth altocumulus, not to be confused with the second alto sax, was where I found myself after the airplane on which I was a passenger had to turn back, possibly after hitting the fourth altostratus, causing so much inconvenience that I got a free beer out of the deal.

My anxious airplane adventure began en route to Washington, D.C., where I was winging it to visit my older daughter, her husband and their three children.

About 10 minutes into the 10 a.m. flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, where it takes longer to find a parking space than it does to fly to Washington, something felt wrong. It was as if the engine was wired on caffeine and couldn’t stop humming a really bad song that plays over and over in your head.

My head, which had been empty, filled with dread as I saw Shaqwanna, one of the two flight attendants, on the phone. As soon as she hung up, I heard this announcement:

“Due to a mechanical issue, we are returning to LaGuardia. Please fasten your seatbelts.”

There was, we were informed, a problem with the bleed line.

“Sounds like the plane needs a transfusion,” I told Toni, the very nice woman sitting next to me.

“Are you a doctor?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, my heart racing, “but I could use one.”

The bleed line, we were further informed, provides air that pressurizes the cabin. It would take about 15 minutes to fix once we were back at LaGuardia. If that didn’t work, we’d have to change planes.

“To make up for this,” I asked Paige, the other flight attendant, “will you be serving beer?”

“It’s always an option,” replied Paige, who had been on the job for only two months. “I’ve had some delays,” she told me, “but this is the first time we’ve had to turn around.”

After we landed, I spoke with the pilot, a pleasant young man named Joe, who looked barely old enough to drive a car, let alone fly a plane.

“Do I qualify for infrequent flier miles?” I inquired.

“Considering we didn’t go too far, you should,” said Joe, who has been flying for six years.

“Paige told me I could get a free beer,” I said.

“She’s the boss,” Joe stated.

It turned out that the problem had no quick fix, so we had to change planes. We got off and were directed to a terminal gate where our new plane would be.

On a table, there were snacks, which served as the lunch we would not be served once we were again airborne.

I walked up to the desk and spoke with a friendly “customer experience representative” named Yvette.

“I was told by the crew that I could get a free beer,” I said.

“You deserve one,” Yvette said with a smile. Then she handed me a voucher for a complimentary cocktail.

About half an hour later, we boarded the new plane. I took my seat and, after taking off, waited for Paige to come by with the refreshment cart.

“Hello!” she chirped. “Welcome back!”

“I have a voucher for that free beer,” I said.

“Here you go,” said Paige, handing me a cold one.

Later, I handed her my drained can.

“This really hit the spot,” I said.

“I’m glad,” said Paige.

I was glad the new plane didn’t have to turn around.

After we landed in D.C., I congratulated Joe on a good flight.

“The second time’s the charm,” he noted.

“I was on cloud nine,” I said. “And I got here on a wing and a beer.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"The Kindest Cut of All"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
In this age of rampant egotism and false pride, it’s nice to know that there is still a genuine star who hasn’t let fame go to his head, even after his head has just had a haircut.

I refer, of course, to my grandson Xavier. I also refer to Diego D’Ambrosio, who owns the barbershop where Xavier goes for a haircut but not, as yet, a shave, since he’s only 2 and a half.

Still, Xavier and Diego stand head and shoulders above all the other notables in Washington, D.C., where I recently saw both stars.

I was visiting Xavier; my older daughter, Katie, his mommy; my son-in-law Dave, his daddy; and my twin grandchildren, Zoe and Quinn, his sister and brother, who may be infants but are not as infantile as their grandfather.

I spent a week helping Katie and Dave with the twins, who needed to be fed, burped, changed and brought to the doctor’s office. I also helped with Xavier, who needed to be brought to school, played with afterward, read to before bed and, on the last full day of my visit, taken for a haircut.

I found out when Katie and I walked into the doctor’s office with Zoe and Quinn that Xavier isn’t the only Xavier in the nation’s capital.

“Xavier!” shouted a nurse.

“Xavier was here yesterday,” Katie told me, looking confused. “He had a shot.”

Just then, a young man with a child in his arms walked toward the back to see the doctor.

“There’s another Xavier,” I said. “But of course, he’s not the main one. Our Xavier is.”

“That’s right,” Katie said as she held Zoe, who promptly threw up all over the front of her mother’s striped dress.

In the examination room, the doctor looked at the glistening streak and said, “It’s like modern art.”

Zoe and Quinn each had two shots and an oral vaccine. Afterward, Katie and I took them to a bar. We each had a beer. The twins, making their first visit to such an establishment, had already consumed their bottles (of milk) and were passed out in their two-seat stroller.

“It’s good to get out of the house,” Katie said.

“Cheers!” I replied, clinking glasses with her.

At the end of the week, Katie and I took Xavier to Diego’s Hair Salon, which is on Diego D’Ambrosio Way.

“Diego must be the only barber in America who has a street named after him,” I told Katie.

“He’s famous,” she said.

That was evident when we walked in and saw that the walls were lined with autographed photos of D.C. notables, among them Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

We had to wait for Xavier’s turn, so we went back outside and encountered yet another Xavier, also 2 and a half and also waiting for a haircut.

“He’s the second other Xavier we’ve met this week,” I said to the second other Xavier’s parents.

Back inside, Diego couldn’t give Xavier a haircut because he had broken his hip and was using a walker, so Tania had the honor of cutting Xavier’s hair. She did a wonderful job.

On the way out, I spoke with Diego, who’s 83 and has owned his shop for more than half a century.

“You’re famous,” I told him.

Diego smiled modestly.

“My grandson is famous, too,” I said. “He’s been the star of many of my columns. I think you should have a photo of him on the wall. He’ll even autograph it. In crayon.”

“I’ll put it up,” Diego promised.

“And don’t worry,” I said. “Like you, Xavier won’t let fame go to his handsome head.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 29, 2019

"Retirement Is Going to Work"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
On the first day of the rest of my life, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

For 43 years, four months and 17 days, but who’s counting, I had set the alarm for an ungodly hour, which was so early that even God wasn’t up. Then I would stagger into the office, mumble “good morning” to no one in particular, because no one in particular would listen to me, plop my posterior into a worn-out chair, and roll over and go back to sleep at my desk.

Now that I’m retired, I don’t have to get out of bed to do the same thing.

One of the best things about being retired is that you don’t have to wear pants every day. If you try that at work, you will end up being unemployed, but without a buyout. What you will receive is a get-out: No severance, just leave. And don’t let the door hit you in the boxer shorts on the way out.

The buyout, which came with a generous package that did not, unfortunately, include beer, was a surprise to me and my colleagues, many of whom are fellow baby boomers who had been go-getters in their day (mine was March 30, 1976, when I began my career) but who had grown weary of the daily grind.

As an army of anxious employees crammed into the auditorium, the stunning announcement was made: The company was offering buyouts.

Naturally, there were questions:

How much would we get? Could we apply for unemployment? What would happen with our 401(k)s?

I raised my hand.

“If someone is injured sprinting to the human resources department to apply for a buyout,” I asked, “would it be covered under our medical plan?”

Everybody laughed. Nobody answered.

When the meeting was over, I texted my wife, Sue, with one word: “BUYOUT!”

Eight seconds later, she replied: “How much?”

It was enough for me to sprint to the human resources department to apply.

Three weeks later, I was without a job.

It raised an important question: How could I stop working when I never really started? Also, what would I do with myself? What would Sue do with me? Would I become so fantastically annoying that I’d have to work part time as a stock boy in a grocery store just to get out of the house?

The answers were easy: My job may have ended, but my career isn’t going to. For 22 years, I was an editor at Newsday. For all of that time and for the previous 21 years at my hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate, I have been a writer, including 34 as a columnist whose work, I am proud to say, has no redeeming social value.

I quit the editing and staggering into the office but not the rest.

From home, I will continue to write my nationally syndicated humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group. I’ll write more books. So far I have written four, all of which are crimes against literature. And I am writing a sitcom based on my work. If you think TV is bad now, wait until my show gets on the air.

But my most important job involves my five grandchildren, who range in age from 6 years to 2 months. And they’re all more mature than I am.

Sue, who isn’t retired yet, also likes to keep me busy.

“I am making a to-do list for you,” she often says.

I don’t make a big to-do out of it. I just do it. Marriage, after all, is dear season: “Yes, dear.”

Of course, all these retirement chores can really tire a guy out. So please excuse me while I roll over and go back to sleep.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"New Grandkids Double the Fun"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
In my younger days, which date back to the last century, I was a two-fisted drinker, with a bottle in each hand and one large mouth to fill.

In my older days, which date back to last month, I was a two-fisted feeder, with a bottle in each hand and two small mouths to fill.

The latter scenario took place when my wife, Sue, and I met our new twin grandchildren, Zoe and Quinn.

Our older daughter, Katie, had given birth to the dynamic duo three weeks before Sue and I visited for seven days and (more important) nights, during which we helped Katie and our son-in-law Dave with babysitting Zoe, Quinn and their big brother, Xavier, who is 2 and a half and is a sweet boy who loves his little siblings even more than he loves playing with me, which he did constantly at home, at a friend’s house and at a birthday party to which I, a bigger kid than any of the toddler guests, was invited.

The two bottles came into play when I fed Zoe and her younger (by 25 minutes) brother, Quinn, both of whom have healthy appetites that must be sated simultaneously to keep them on the same schedule.

This entailed, often between the wee small hours of 1 and 4 a.m., placing them on either side of me while using an ingenious invention called My Brest Friend, a nursing pillow that wraps around the feeder to ensure that always the twins shall eat.

I did double duty several times and even did quadruple duty (two twin feedings in one night) twice. I also did double doody (dual diaper detail) each time I did double duty, always before the feedings but sometimes directly afterward, too, which is doubly daunting for a geezer working on precious little sleep.

The greatest challenge was getting the bottles into both mouths and keeping the babies balanced while each guzzled between two and four ounces of 100 percent, all-natural mother’s milk.

At halftime, there was burping. The babies also had to be burped, then fed the remainder of their meal, after which further eructations had to be coaxed before they could be swaddled (the only part at which I did not excel) and put back in their bassinets to sleep it off while I attempted to do the same on a nearby couch.

Two hours later, it was feeding time again.

Katie, who is nursing, had the most important role, of course. Dave did double duty with the pillow, but Sue never got the hang of it because, she said, “I’m too short.” During the day, she fed either Zoe or Quinn while I fed the other.

Xavier provided moral support, saying hello to his infant siblings and kissing them in a touching display of brotherly love.

He also provided moral support to Nini and Poppie, by which Sue and I are known to our five grandchildren, who now number enough for a (very short) basketball team.

Xavier helped Sue make blueberry bread and meatball pizza, which he scarfed down for breakfast and dinner, respectively. And he helped me be uncharacteristically useful by reading to him, driving his toy trucks and trains, and engaging in spirited games of hide-and-seek.

“Xavier has joined the Cult of Poppie,” Katie remarked, noting that his cousins, Chloe and Lilly, are already members and that Zoe and Quinn are applying for admission.

They proved it by spitting up on me after a nighttime feeding. The next morning, I attended the aforementioned birthday party with Xavier and Katie in a T-shirt streaked with spit-up stains.

But I didn’t care. Meeting my newest grandchildren was a twin-win situation.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima