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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

"Something's Fishy in Our House"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Over the years, the fish population of our humble home has rivaled that of the Seven Seas, which is no fluke considering that the average lifespan of our fine finny friends has been approximately the length of the Super Bowl halftime show.

When my daughters, Katie and Lauren, were kids, our goldfish would go belly-up so often that you could set your watch by them, although only if your watch was waterproof.

As two little girls sobbed uncontrollably, my wife, Sue, and I would perform a solemn toilet-side service that involved flushing the deceased to kingdom come.

We did have one fish, however, that lived a good, long life. His name was Curly. He was the bowl mate of Moe and Larry, who died within minutes of each other, probably in a suicide pact. Curly lived for weeks, only to meet a tragic demise.

One day I opened a kitchen cabinet and a bottle of vitamins fell out. It plummeted into the fish bowl and brained Curly.

“You killed our fish!” Katie and Lauren wailed.

Naturally, I felt terrible and offered them comforting words: “They were Mommy’s vitamins.”

We had no more fish until recently, when our granddaughter Chloe, who is 6, said she wanted us to get a fish for our house. Her little sister, Lilly, who is 2 and a half, eagerly concurred.

Their fish, Igor, lives at their house.

“You have to get one, too,” Chloe said.

So we went to a nearby pet store on a fishing expedition.

“I want a girl fish,” Chloe said. “She has to be pink. And I want to name her Camilla.”

“Like Camilla Parker Bowles?” Sue asked, referring to Prince Charles’ wife.

“No,” said Chloe, who doesn’t pay attention to the royal family. “She’ll be Camilla Parker Zezima.”

“And,” I chimed in, “she’ll live in the Camilla Parker bowl.”

Chloe picked a light pink betta fish with dark pink fins. We got matching pink pebbles for the bottom of the bowl. We also got some fish food.

At the checkout counter, a cashier named Rufus inquired about the size of our fish bowl, which held 16 ounces of water.

“You should get a tank that holds at least two and a half gallons,” Rufus said. “Think of the fish’s quality of life.”

Unfortunately, Camilla’s life wasn’t long. She lasted 48 hours.

Chloe and Lilly, who had gone back to their house, where Igor, a blue boy betta, still swims happily in a 16-ounce bowl, were blissfully unaware that Camilla now resided in the suburban equivalent of Davy Jones’ Locker.

I went back to the pet store and bought another betta that looks exactly like Camilla except that it’s a male.

“I guess you could say the fish is gender-fluid,” I told a salesman named Matt.

He agreed, noting that Chloe and Lilly would never know the difference. Then he sold me a one-gallon bowl.

“I’m going to put it on the liquor cabinet,” I said, “so I can say he drinks like a fish.”

At the checkout counter, a cashier named Mary told me that she had a betta male that lived for 12 years.

“His name was Skipper,” Mary said. “He was exactly the color of your fish. And he was really sweet. He would come up to the surface so I could pet him. Sadly, he passed on. They don’t live forever.”

So far, the new Camilla has lived about a month. And, sure enough, Chloe and Lilly were none the wiser when they came over for a visit.

“I want to bring Igor to your house so he can have a sleepover with Camilla,” Chloe said.

“I don’t know about that,” I whispered to Sue. “I’m afraid they’ll end up sleeping with the fishes.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima