Sunday, March 27, 2022

"These Folks Are Good Medicine"

By Jerry Zezima

I have never been an ambulance chaser, mainly because I can’t run that fast, but if the producers of “Chicago Fire” are looking for a stunt driver, or even a guest star to provide comic relief, I’d be happy to sign up.

In a scene straight out of the popular TV show, I jumped in my car and managed to keep up with an emergency vehicle that recently rushed my wife, Sue, to the hospital, where she was successfully treated for an intestinal issue and I should have been admitted for having a bleeding knuckle and only half a brain.

The adventure began a little after midnight, when Sue complained of the same symptoms she had when she suffered a heart attack late last year.

Springing into action, which almost resulted in a sprained ankle, I called 911.

About five minutes later, an ambulance pulled into the driveway and a pair of paramedics, Tom and Steve, knocked on the door.

“You’re bleeding,” Tom said when I let them in.

I looked at the knuckle on the middle finger of my right hand and said, “I have dry skin.”

“You called an ambulance for that?” Steve said incredulously.

“No, but if you have a Band-Aid, I’d appreciate it,” I replied. “Actually, it’s my wife. I think she’s having a heart attack.”

I led the dynamic duo into the family room, where Sue was sitting in a chair. They gave her an EKG (results: normal) and gave me a warning:

“Don’t try to follow us,” Tom said.

“People do that all the time,” Steve added. “They run red lights and stop signs to keep up with us.”

After Sue was put into the back of the ambulance, Tom said to me, “We’ll see you at the hospital. Drive safely!”

Sue said later that the guys regaled her with stories during the ride.

“Crazy drivers are constantly bumping the ambulance,” Tom told her. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been knocked around.”

“One time I hit my noggin on the door,” Steve chimed in.

“This is fun!” Sue squealed. “It’s like ‘Chicago Fire.’ ”

Tom shook his head and responded, “We’re better than ‘Chicago Fire.’ ”

Ten minutes later, I met Sue and the paramedics at the hospital.

“Some idiot was right on our tail,” Sue said while lying on a stretcher in the emergency room.

“It was me,” I confessed.

“We tell people not to do that,” Tom said. “The one person we don’t tell is the one who will do that.”

“If I got pulled over by a cop, I would have said you told me it was OK,” I said.

“Thanks for having our backs,” said Steve.

“You guys are the ones who should be thanked,” I told the two paramedics. “You’re lifesavers.”

“Wintergreen?” Tom asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “The best kind.”

Overhearing this exchange, Sue confided, “It’s a good thing I brushed my teeth.”

“Otherwise, I could just imagine the diagnosis,” I told her. “Bad breath.”

After Tom and Steve left, a nurse took Sue’s vitals. Then I gave her a list of the medications that Sue has to take.

“I never used to take anything,” Sue said. “Now I have my own pharmacy.”

When Sue was settled in Chest Pain 1, a unit next to the ER, a doctor came in and said, “Susan?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m Jerry. This,” I added, pointing to the patient, “is Susan.”

As the doctor examined Sue, a woman from the billing department, who was on the job at 1 a.m., handed me a piece of paper. It was headlined “Your Rights and Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills.”

“I don’t like bills, even if they’re not a surprise,” I told her.

“I don’t blame you,” she said.

“Can I make this into a paper airplane and fly it across the room?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied. “I just gave a copy to the patient on the other side. You can fly the planes to each other.”

Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for an air show because the nurse had to take Sue’s blood. She tends to pass out when this happens, so I had to hold her hand — the other one was where the needle would go — and assure her that it would be all right. This entailed telling her stupid jokes to distract her.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “It won’t be in vain. Well, actually, it will be in vein, but it won’t be in vain.”

The nurse chuckled. Sue rolled her eyes.

“I think I’m going to pass out,” I said, feigning a faint.

Sue smiled and said, “Stop it!”

I stopped at 3:30 a.m., when it was decided that Sue would stay and I would go.

When I returned the following afternoon, I greeted Sue, who had slept comfortably, and went to the nurses’ station because my knuckle was bleeding again.

“Would you by any chance have a Band-Aid?” I asked.

“A Band-Aid? What’s that?” said a nurse named Victoria.

“I just found the last one,” said Kristen, a nurse’s assistant.

When she gave me a plain adhesive bandage, I said, “Thanks, but don’t you have Hello Kitty or Care Bears Band-Aids?”

“Not even Smurfs,” Kristen said.

“We’re getting Batman next week,” Victoria added.

In the next bed, on the other side of the curtain, was Jim, a heart patient who was being visited by his wife, Bonnie.

“I have plaque,” Jim told me.

“You should see a dentist,” I replied.

“I already blew off a dental appointment the other day,” Jim said. “Now I have plaque in my heart, too.”

A hospital staffer named Don came in to give Sue a nuclear stress test.

He prepped her with saline, then said, “Here’s the chaser.”

“How about red wine?” I suggested. “It’s good for the heart.”

“We serve that at dinner,” said Don, adding that the test tricks the body into thinking it’s getting exercise.

“When I watch sports on TV, do I trick my body into thinking it’s getting exercise?” I asked.

“Sure, if your body really thinks so,” Don replied.

“Since this test is nuclear, will Sue be radioactive?” I wondered.

“No,” said Don, “but you could cut down on your electric bill.”

I looked at Sue and said, “You glow, girl!”

All the tests administered to Sue, including a CT scan, showed that she wasn’t having heart issues.

“My colon is swollen,” she informed me.

“Hey,” I said, “that rhymes!”

It wasn’t pleasant, but the news was good because things could have been worse. The three stents that were inserted when Sue had her heart attack a little over three months ago were working fine.

“I guess they’re still under warranty,” I noted.

Sue, who hadn’t eaten in 24 hours, wolfed down a meal of chicken, rice and carrots before she was released.

Full credit goes to the doctors, nurses and technicians at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, as well as to the paramedics at the Coram Fire Department, for taking such good care of Sue.

“Thanks for saving my life,” I said to the nurses as we were leaving.

“That’s our job,” replied Victoria.

Kristen smiled and added, “You owe us a Band-Aid.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 13, 2022

"The Rise and Fall of a Real Klutz"

By Jerry Zezima

Being a grandfather has put a bounce in my step, frequently followed by a stubbed toe, but I really got a jump on fun when my granddaughters invited me to join them on their new trampoline.

I’ve had my ups and downs over the years, but I had never been on a trampoline, even when I was the girls’ age. That’s why Chloe, a third-grader, and Lilly, a kindergartner, were happy to help me reach new heights of giddiness when the three of us cavorted on the springy circular device that was recently erected in their backyard.

“You’ll have a blast, Poppie!” Chloe promised.

“Don’t fall on your face!” Lilly added thoughtfully.

My wife, Sue, and I hadn’t seen the girls in a couple of months, so we drove to their house for Family Movie Night, which included pizza for dinner, ice pops for dessert and homemade popcorn to munch on while watching the feature film, “School of Rock,” which was selected by our younger daughter, Lauren, who happens to be the girls’ mommy.

“I love rock and roll!” Chloe exclaimed while dancing in front of the TV.

“Rock on, dude!” Lilly chimed in.

Right after Sue and I arrived, we watched parts of “Encanto,” which Lilly said she has seen “169 times.”

She and Chloe got up and boogied to the popular animated movie.

Then we cackled while watching cartoons starring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.

“The Acme Company has a lot of crazy products,” Chloe observed after the Coyote had received several orders from that esteemed corporation.

“The poor Coyote,” Lilly said sympathetically when one of those products blew up in the luckless canine’s face.

It all set the stage, before we sent out for pizza, for fun and frolic on the trampoline.

“Take off your shoes, Poppie,” Chloe instructed from inside the trampoline, which was surrounded by netting to prevent a clumsy person (“like you, Poppie,” Lilly emphasized) from bouncing off the synthetic sheet, doing a somersault that would have earned a perfect score in a gymnastics competition and banging his head on the hard ground, in which case the aforementioned klutz would be even dizzier than usual.

“Just like the Coyote when he falls off a cliff,” Chloe reminded me.

I doffed my sneakers and slowly climbed onto the trampoline, where I immediately developed rubber legs. I felt like a Weeble, except that, according to the commercial song for the famous roly-poly toys, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

I fell down.

When I got up, I started to bounce with the girls. It was exhilarating. Until I fell down again.

“Let’s play Ring Around the Rosie!” Chloe said.

“How about Ring Around the Poppie?” Lilly suggested.

We sang the lyrics with my name and, at the end, we all fell down.

The merriment continued as we danced to more songs and circumnavigated the trampoline while each of us hopped on one foot. We also skipped, slipped and tripped.

In every case, I ended up on my keister.

“Attack Poppie!” the girls cried in unison before jumping as high as they could and landing with full force on my fallen form.

It took my breath away.

Half an hour later, we called it quits. I wasn’t good enough as a trampoliner to be in the Olympics, or even to join the circus, although I might have made it as a clown. But I did, as Chloe predicted, have a blast.

“You’re more fun than the Road Runner and the Coyote,” she told me.

“And,” Lilly added, “you didn’t fall off a cliff.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 6, 2022

"Diary of a Silly Grandfather"

By Jerry Zezima

If I have learned one thing as a father and a grandfather, aside from the important fact that maturity is best left to young people, it’s that kids grow up fast. This is what happens when you feed them.

And if you think your kids grow up fast, wait until you have grandchildren.

That’s what my wife, Sue, and I discovered when we visited our older daughter, Katie; her husband, Dave; and their children, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn.

We hadn’t seen them in 10 months. And before that, we hadn’t seen them in a year and a half. Considering Xavier is about to turn 5 and Zoe and her twin brother, Quinn, will be 3 in July, Sue and I have missed a lot.

But we made up for lost time on this visit, a diary of which appears below.


Sue and I drive from Long Island, New York, to Washington, D.C., where we admire the beautiful and spacious house that Katie and Dave just bought. It’s bright, which is more than I can say for myself, and is filled with toys, children’s books and other fun stuff to keep an immature grandfather entertained.

When the twins arrive home from the playground, Sue and I marvel at how much they have grown. They speak in complete sentences and actually make sense, which distinguishes them from yours truly. Our one similarity: We act silly. This entails running around the house, which depletes me so much that I need a nap. But I don’t take one because I know Xavier will soon be home from school.

When he walks in, he beams and exclaims, “Hi, Nini! Hi, Poppie!”

He’s tall, sweet and handsome. We hug and kiss him. Then I take all three kids downstairs to the play area and — you guessed it — play. So do the kids.

After dinner, everyone has ice cream. When the kids go to bed, the adults have wine.

It’s going to be a great week.


Sue, Katie and I walk Xavier to school. Then we walk back, get in Katie’s car and make an exciting trip to Costco, where I am the designated cart driver. It’s a physical challenge because the cart is filled to overflowing with approximately a ton and a half of groceries.

When we get to the checkout area, I ask loudly, “Where’s the express lane?”

At dinner, we play a guessing game involving animals, dinosaurs, trucks and planets, all of which Xavier knows by heart. I do pretty well in the prehistoric category because, as I explain to Xavier, I was his age when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

After another ice cream dessert, I go downstairs and play hide-and-seek with Zoe and Quinn, who tell me where to hide so they can find me.

“You have to hide in a very specific spot,” Dave informs me.

Before the kids go to bed, I sit with all of them and watch Xavier’s favorite show, “PAW Patrol,” an animated series about hero dogs. Over the course of a week, I see about 87 episodes. I still can’t get the theme song out of my otherwise empty skull.


We go to the zoo. Zoe brings a toy vacuum cleaner, which she uses in front of the great ape exhibit.

“She’ll have a lot to clean up when she gets inside,” the father of a baby says as we stand in line.

“Just wait until she sees the elephants,” I respond.

Unfortunately, the tusked titans are nowhere to be found because it’s too cold for them to be outside.

“They must have packed their trunks and gone to Florida,” I remark.

But we do see a bunch of creepy crawlers in the reptile house, where Quinn waves to a snake.

“I don’t think he can wave back,” I tell him.

Undeterred, Quinn says, “Hi, snake!”

He calls the turtles, crocodiles and lizards “cute.”

Back outside, Quinn is delighted by the ducks, cows, alpacas and otters, but he’s not too enamored of the seals and sea lions, which he says are “scary.”

As we are leaving, Zoe shouts, “See you later, alligator!”

When we get back, Xavier helps Sue bake cupcakes, expertly cracking eggs, pouring flour and mixing it all in a bowl. After the cupcakes come out of the oven, Xavier spreads chocolate icing on them and tops it all off with rainbow sprinkles.

“These cupcakes are delicious!” I exclaim, getting icing on my nose.

“Silly Poppie!” Xavier says with a giggle.

Zoe and Quinn concur.

It’s a sweet end to a busy day.


After breakfast, I take the twins downstairs and start playing with a soccer ball.

“That’s for outside,” Zoe says firmly. “This one,” she adds, handing me a smaller ball, “is for inside.”

“Despite evidence to the contrary,” Dave says, “they do listen.”

Both balls come in handy when we go to the playground, the first of two trips we make to the schoolyard facility. Each time, I push Zoe and Quinn in their double-seated stroller and go “super fast” on several stretches of sidewalk, stopping occasionally to catch my breath. It’s a miracle I don’t need CPR (Cardio Poppie Resuscitation).

In between playground trips, Dave beats me in Strat-O-Matic, a baseball board game. It’s a sad reminder of why I never made it past Little League.


Zoe is up at 5 a.m. Bright-tailed and bushy-eyed, so am I.

We color with crayons for a while. Xavier gets up at 6:30.

At 7 o’clock, Quinn is still sleeping.

“WE HAVE TO BE QUIET!” Zoe shouts.

Five minutes later, Quinn is wide awake.

I change the twins’ diapers — I’m a hands-on grandfather — before everyone gets dressed so we can go back to the playground.

This time, Zoe and Quinn are in their seats and Xavier is on the running board of the stroller, which I push — super fast! — with all three children aboard.

When we get back, I take a nap while Sue brings Xavier outside so he can use chalk to draw the solar system — including dwarf planet Pluto — on the front steps.

Later, we all go to a family-friendly brewery that has toys for the kids and beverages for the adults.

“Cheers!” I say, clinking glasses with Katie, Dave and Sue. “It’s too bad they don’t serve beer in sippy cups.”


Katie, Sue and I take Xavier to a nice pizzeria for lunch. Then we go to the National Children’s Museum.

“Are children on display?” I wonder.

“No,” Sue replies. “But you should be.”

It’s a fantastic place with interactive exhibits. Xavier has a ball, especially with the trains.

“What did you like best, buddy?” Katie asks him as we are leaving.

“All of it!” is his enthusiastic reply.

At bedtime, Katie gathers all three children and reads a hilarious book called “Dog Breath.”

Xavier turns to me and says, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth, Poppie.”


It’s the last day of our visit, which has gone by way too fast. As Xavier gets ready to go to day camp, he says to Sue, “You and Poppie won’t be here when I get back, will you?”

It brings a tear to the eye. We hug and kiss him. We do the same with Zoe and Quinn before they go to the playground.

But we’ve had a great time. Sue, who had a heart attack late last year, couldn’t pick up the kids or push them in the stroller, but she has enjoyed every minute. So have I.

We thank Katie and Dave and head out to the car.

Seeing them all again after such a long time has done Sue’s heart — and mine — a world of good.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima