Sunday, December 26, 2021

"The Fab Floor"

By Jerry Zezima

This old man, he is dumb, he played knickknack with some rum.

The geezer in question is, naturally, yours truly. And I am floored to tell you that in order to get new flooring in the dining room and the living room of my house, I moved approximately 1,387 knickknacks, tchotchkes (I had to look up how to spell it) and, yes, bottles of booze from one room to another.

I would have swept it all under the rug except that we needed new rugs in both rooms to replace the magic carpets that were pulled up and left on the curb. The carpets magically disappeared when the garbage guys hauled them away.

Because a man’s home is his hassle, I was required to help transfer all that stuff when my wife, Sue, the lady of the manor, in a manner of speaking, said she wanted new floors.

“Wouldn’t new ceilings be easier?” I asked.

“No,” Sue answered flatly. “We are going to get vinyl flooring.”

“Is that your vinyl answer?” I wondered.

“Yes,” she said. “Let’s call Anthony.”

That would be Anthony Amini, our contractor, who owns Performance Contracting and Management. He and his crew have done several great jobs at our house, including roofing and siding that would be the envy of any home improvement show.

Anthony’s standout assistant is Andy Campanile, a handyman par excellence who does bricklaying, plumbing and, of course, flooring.

Before they started this daunting project — which included putting new floors in the front hallway and the adjacent half-bathroom, which was entirely redone and made me flush with excitement — Sue and I had to shop for new rugs.

“I’ll take you out to lunch,” she promised.

“I’ve been out to lunch for years,” I replied.

“I know that,” Sue said. “I mean, I’ll buy you lunch if you come to the store with me.”

It was a place that not only sells rugs, furniture and all other kinds of household items, but also has a restaurant that serves, among other offerings, Swedish meatballs.

Stuffed more than the seat cushion of my favorite easy chair, I staggered through the aisles as Sue looked for the perfect covering to lay down in the dining room.

When she had settled on a rug, I asked if I could settle on the rug to take a nap.

“No!” she exclaimed, strongly implying that I was, indeed, out to lunch.

Then came the hard part: Bringing almost everything in the dining room to the living room so Anthony and Andy could install a new floor. That meant emptying the liquor cabinet, which contained the aforementioned rum, as well as whiskey, gin, vodka and so many other spirits that they could have anesthetized an army.

We also had to clean out the hutch, which contained glasses, china and silverware that, if put on a scale, would have weighed more than a pregnant walrus.

As I labored to cart stuff into the living room, I was hunched over like the Hutch-back of Notre Dumb.

When the dining room was finished, we had to reverse the process: Bring everything back to the dining room and also bring everything from the living room to the dining room so Anthony and Andy could put down a new floor in the living room.

It was a room with a whew.

The items included Hummels, lamps and enough books to fill a wing of the New York Public Library.

When Anthony and Andy had put down the new floor, Sue and I had to — you guessed it! — transfer everything back to the living room.

I must say that the flooring looks great, Anthony and Andy did another terrific job, and Sue is thrilled.

As for me, this old man can’t wait to sit down, take a deep breath and play knickknack with some rum.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 19, 2021

"The 2021 Zezima Family Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima

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 eventful year for the Zezimas!

The family got a shot in the arm by getting shots in the arm. It wasn’t so easy for Jerry and Sue because they couldn’t schedule an appointment for their first vaccinations, so Katie and Lauren, who are a tad more tech savvy than their parents, went online and made appointments for them.

At the suggestion of college buddy and fellow father Tim Lovelette, who said, “That’s why God gave us kids — to keep us alive,” Jerry tried to get a shot and a beer. Unfortunately, the bar was closed.

But Jerry and Sue did get both rounds of the vaccine, plus a later booster, which encouraged Jerry to needle everyone else. When he told Olivia, the nice medical technician who gave him his second shot, that now the public wouldn’t be safe from his stupid jokes, she said, “People may have to be vaccinated against you.”

This newfound freedom, after many months of quarantine, enabled Jerry and Sue to have family reunions. One of the best occurred when they drove to Washington, D.C., to visit Katie, Dave, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn, whom they hadn’t seen in a year and a half.

They went to the zoo (surprisingly, Jerry wasn’t put on exhibit with the other monkeys), had fun at a kiddie birthday party (it wasn’t for Jerry), watched Zoe and Quinn’s soccer practice (Jerry got a kick out of it), took Xavier to a baseball game (Jerry had a ball but didn’t catch one), saw the sights (Jerry wasn’t one of them) and generally had a grand time (because Jerry and Sue are grandparents).

As they were leaving, Katie told Jerry that Zoe and Quinn, who were infants during the previous visit, had joined the other grandkids in “The Cult of Poppie.”

Jerry and Sue also got to see a lot more of Chloe and Lilly, who live nearby but whom they had seen in person only periodically, and then it had to be outdoors while masked and at a safe social distance.

Now they could hug, kiss and, in Jerry’s case, act silly.

Among the highlights:

A spirited game of Wiffle ball, in which Chloe and Lilly hit home runs but mighty Poppie struck out.

A dance recital at a vineyard, where Jerry and Sue celebrated Chloe and Lilly’s dazzling performances with wine.

A beauty session in which Lilly painted Jerry’s fingernails pink and purple (Sue and Lauren were aghast, but Jerry explained that sometimes a boy just likes to feel pretty).

And a yard sale where Jerry helped Chloe and Lilly with a lemonade stand that netted a grand total of $6.25.

At another family reunion, Jerry visited his mother, Rosina, for the first time in 15 months. Mom, now 97 and sharper than her son, which admittedly isn’t saying much, reminded Jerry that their time apart was even longer than the 10 months she was pregnant with him.

“But,” Mom said sweetly, “it was worth the wait.”

A few weeks later, she visited Jerry and Sue with Jerry’s sisters, Elizabeth and Susan. Lauren and Guillaume were there, too, as were Chloe and Lilly, who lovingly call their great-grandmother Gigi.

On the domestic front, Jerry and Sue had new siding put on the outside of their house and new flooring inside — which, Jerry stupidly pointed out, was better than the other way around. Jerry also helped a bricklayer repair a crack in the foundation, which was not as hard as Jerry’s head.

The Zezimas got a new shed to replace the old one, which was home to a family of mice that ate Jerry’s hammock. Jerry got revenge by using a sledgehammer to help knock down the dilapidated structure.

In the field of entertainment, Jerry tried out to be a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune,” but he never got a chance to meet Pat and Vanna — or win any money — because he was far from letter perfect.

In crime news, Sue’s cellphone was stolen. In cooperation with the local police department, she and Jerry went on a stakeout that didn’t produce the phone but could have served as the pilot episode for a cop show called “CSI: Columnist Stakeout Idiocy.”

The biggest event of the year was Jerry and Sue’s 50th high school reunion. They had a blast, especially because they got to be with their good friends Hank and Angela Richert, whom  they hadn’t seen in several years. It was unanimously agreed that everyone looked great and that Jerry was still the class clown.

In good health news, Jerry joined a gym. He told a personal trainer that his main form of exercise is doing 12-ounce curls. The trainer said it was a unique way to work out, which gave Jerry a great excuse to stay home and drink beer.

In bad health news, Sue had a heart attack. Jerry drove her to the hospital, where she had three stents put in her left artery. It was a scare, to be sure, but Sue is feeling much better and is on the road to recovery. Jerry has taken the role of caregiver and has actually done laundry for the first time in 43 years of marriage. Love conquers all!

We hope you and your family have also overcome the challenges of this difficult year and have had fun in the process.

Merry Christmas with love, laughter and gratitude from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 12, 2021

"The Heart of the Matter"

By Jerry Zezima

Love means never having to say you’re sorry for not doing the laundry.

For the first time in 43 years of marriage, I have been washing clothes. I’ve also been performing tasks I did before but am now doing more frequently, like loading the dishwasher, vacuuming the house, cleaning the bathrooms, going grocery shopping and playing chauffeur.

There’s a good reason for this uncharacteristic usefulness: My wife, Sue, recently had a heart attack.

She’s recovering slowly but well. She gets tired easily, especially after watching me fold the clothes I just took out of the dryer and pile them on the bench in the family room. And she will be the first to say that this life-changing event came as a shock — though not, in retrospect, as a surprise.

“The warning signs were there for months,” Sue admitted. “I chose to ignore them.”

She’s not unlike a lot of people who shrug off chest discomfort as stress or indigestion (in our house, I’m the cause of both). This is especially true of men and women of a certain age (in Sue’s case, 68) who acknowledge that they’re no longer spring chickens but don’t think they are old enough to have a heart attack.

Sue also wasn’t a good candidate for cardiac problems because she’s slim, she exercises daily, she eats healthily, and she doesn’t have either high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

But she does have a family history of heart issues. And that, even without the warning signs, should have been a warning sign.

The attack happened the day after Thanksgiving, at our daughter Lauren’s house. It was late morning and Sue and I were preparing to go home after what our granddaughters Chloe and Lilly called “a double sleepover” (we spent Wednesday and Thursday nights there).

I loaded the car while Sue was in the bathroom. Right after I came back in, she emerged ashen-faced and said she had just vomited. She sat down and said she was having chest pains that radiated to her back. She also felt dizzy.

Lauren, who is on the ball with everything, said Sue needed to go to the hospital. I concurred. I probably should have called an ambulance, but the hospital was close by, so I drove Sue to the emergency room.

Her EKG was normal, but her blood work showed an elevated enzyme level, a sure sign of a heart attack.

Sue was rushed into surgery. Two hours later, Dr. Andrew Persits came out and told me that Sue had an attack during the procedure.

“I did an angiogram,” he said. “Two or three spots in her left anterior descending artery were 70 to 80 percent blocked, so I put in three stents. Her right side was 40 to 50 percent blocked, but that can be managed with medication.”

Sue stayed in the hospital for two nights and was released on Sunday morning.

Dr. Persits and all the other doctors, nurses and technicians who attended to Sue at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, New York, were wonderful. In fact, they were lifesavers — wintergreen, the best kind.

When Sue got home, it was my turn to attend to her. Even for a writer, words can’t adequately express the depth of my love for her. That’s why I was happy to be the caregiver for someone whose care and giving have made her the backbone of our family.

Which brings me to the laundry.

“I appreciate that you’re doing it,” said Sue, who had to show me how to use the washer and dryer. “But you think you do it the best. You hadn’t done it for 43 years, but now that you’ve been doing it for a week, you think you’re the King of Laundry.”

“I do a pretty good job,” I said immodestly. “And I haven’t flooded the house.”

“Even though you know how to do the laundry, you don’t know how to put it away,” Sue responded. “You just let it pile up. It’s clean, but it’s in piles.”

She did have kind words for my ability to do other household chores.

“You do clean the bathrooms. And you vacuum nicely. It gets me off the hook,” Sue said. “You also do a good job with the dishes. I can tell because you have dishpan hands.”

Before dinner, I set the table. And I clear it off afterward. But if it were left to me to prepare meals, we both would starve.

“You don’t cook,” Sue reminded me. “You don’t know how to turn on the oven and you don’t turn the stove off.”

That’s not entirely true because, by Sue’s admission, I do make scrambled eggs. I also heat up leftover pizza in the oven. And I can operate the microwave.

“At least I haven’t burned the house down,” I said in my own feeble defense.

Sue said she’s grateful that I chauffeur her around, mainly to go to doctor’s appointments and to run errands. Because she’s not yet ready to get behind the wheel, I am the designated driver — even though I don’t have a chauffeur’s cap.

“You’ve been very good about it,” Sue said sweetly. “But,” she added, “I don’t like going to the grocery store with you. You’re always 10 paces behind me. Then you wander off somewhere. And you put stuff in the cart that we don’t need.”

“We always need beer,” I countered.

Sue smiled, took one of my dishpan hands and said, “Thank you for taking such good care of me.”

“It’s my pleasure,” I responded with a kiss.

“I know being a caregiver isn’t easy,” she said. 

“It’s easier than being a patient,” I said.

“I’m getting better every day,” Sue said. “Some days I get tired, but overall, I’m doing all right. I just never thought this would happen to me.”

“Once you start cardio rehab, you’ll be back to normal,” I assured her. “And I did buy that pillbox for you.”

“You mean the old lady pillbox,” Sue said with a smile. “I went from not taking anything to taking five pills a day.”

“Am I a pill?” I asked.

Sue smiled again and said, “No. You’re good medicine.”

We both laughed because laughter is the best medicine — and the cheapest.

“Now if you will excuse me,” I said, “I have to do another load of laundry.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 5, 2021

"Chime and Chime Again"

By Jerry Zezima

Since it’s my job to ferret out problems, most of which I cause myself, I am obligated to report that my neighborhood is on high alert for a missing ferret.

That’s the latest urgent message I have received from the company that operates the doorbell camera I recently purchased. It’s especially unnerving considering that: (a) we don’t have a doorbell and (b) the camera doesn’t work.

But that hasn’t stopped me from being inundated by daily alerts about Peeping Toms and weaselly critters that have been spotted near my house.

(For the record, ferrets aren’t spotted, although some of them are striped. Stripes are what the Peeping Toms should be wearing. And a few of the reportedly missing cats that prowl my backyard are, I am sure, peeping toms.)

At any rate, this is alarming because the alarm company also sends me home security alerts so often that I now live in a constant state of home insecurity.

Then there’s the neighborhood group that bombards me with emails about nefarious doings on my street.

I would become a shut-in except I’d keep receiving alerts about a motion being detected in the living room or a window being open in the kitchen.

It’s a good thing the world can’t see what goes on in the bathroom.

I wasn’t about to tell a technician named Vinny, who came over to fix the alarm system.

“If you really want to feel safe, get a wireless camera,” he advised. “You can install it yourself. A monkey could do it.”

“Where can I rent one?” I asked.

“A camera?” Vinny said.

“No,” I answered. “A monkey.”

The next day, I went to a home improvement store and spoke with Tool Master Mike, who also is a camera guru.

“This is the kind you need,” he said, handing me a small box containing an indoor-outdoor camera, batteries, a charger and instructions that not even a monkey could understand.

“Will the camera pick up suspicious activity?” I wanted to know.

“Yes,” Mike replied. “And suspicious characters.”

“Like me?” I wondered.

“Could be,” said Mike. “It also will detect dogs, bushes, leaves and anything else that moves around. After a while, you will know if it’s suspicious.”

I took the camera home and instantly regretted not hiring an orangutan to put it up. The house’s brick facade wasn’t as much of an impediment as the fact that the stupid thing failed to function.

Technically, it operates fine, but since I decided to put it on a windowsill inside, it couldn’t send moving images of what was going on outside.

I walked out the front door and waved to the camera, which miraculously didn’t break when I flashed a dumb grin, but I might as well have been Claude Rains, who not only starred in the original screen version of “The Invisible Man” but also, for the time being, is dead.

Back inside, any movement in the living room set off a series of chimes that were so annoying, so relentless, so absolutely maddening that I wanted to smash the camera with a crowbar.

A friendly technician said over the phone that the camera couldn’t pick up movement outside because the front window has two panes.

At that point, I had two pains — one in my head, the other in my neck.

“Put the camera outside and it will work,” the technician said.

Fortunately, a great handyman named Andy, who was doing a job at the house with our equally great contractor, Anthony, put up a shelf on the window frame outside. When the guys return, they’ll secure the security camera.

Then the chimes will start again. And all those other alerts will continue.

That’s why I am on the lookout for a missing ferret. I hope it doesn’t turn up in the bathroom.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima