Sunday, January 28, 2024

"Calendar Guy"

By Jerry Zezima

Inspired by pop legend Neil Sedaka, who is most famous for his 1960 hit song “Calendar Girl,” I love, I love, I love to be a calendar guy, each and every day of the year. And since it’s 2024 already, this can mean only one thing for a geezer like me: Times flies when you’re incoherent.

That is why, as I leap into this leap year, which gives me an extra day to do nothing, I am grateful for a calendar featuring my five grandchildren.

In fact, I have two calendars.

One hangs on the refrigerator door, so when I stumble downstairs in the morning to make coffee, I can see the kiddies’ smiling faces, smile back at them and — not always the case for guys my age — know what day it is.

The other calendar, which is smaller but no less delightful, is on the desk in my office. It also features great photos of my grandchildren. This inspires me when I sit down in front of the computer with my coffee and, as I rack what little is left of my brain for a column idea, write about my grandchildren.

The calendar tradition was started a few years ago by my younger daughter, the mother of my oldest two granddaughters, ages 10 and 7. She makes the calendars using photos of her kids and her sister’s children — a boy, 6, and his twin siblings, a girl and a boy, 4.

Each month has a theme. The highlights are holidays and birthdays, including that of the children’s grandfather, who is a bigger kid than all of them.

Unfortunately, the calendar took a hiatus last year. But it’s back — twofold — this time around. And it’s better than any other calendar I have ever had or could ever be part of myself.

Until now, the best desk calendar I ever got was from 2022. It was called “Pun Intended” and featured a pun a day for an entire year.

Jan. 11 (my birthday): “A boiled egg for breakfast is hard to beat!”

April 28: “Seven days without a pun makes one weak.”

Dec. 23: “Santa’s helpers are subordinate Clauses.”

As a groan man, I am hanging on to this calendar, which has me in a days.

The replacements for last year’s nonexistent grandchildren calendars featured nature scenes: flowers, trees and snowy landscapes, not things that could kill you, like lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!

We’ve also had calendars with cute little puppies and kittens, because my wife is on ASPCA mailing list, but none featuring young, nice-looking human beings, which is why I don’t have my own calendar.

Still, if the Chippendales can be on a calendar, and hunky firefighters can get their own calendar, why not a calendar geared to geezers?

Last year, after seeing Martha Stewart on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, I contacted SI and pitched the idea of putting me on the cover. In a Speedo.

I never heard back.

I also didn’t get responses from the editors of GQ and AARP: The Magazine, who were probably afraid that circulation would plummet if they featured my goofy visage and flabby form on the covers of those otherwise esteemed publications.

So I am hoping that for 2025, there could be a calendar featuring grandparents.

And I could be the star, prominently displayed every month from January (scraping the ice off my car) to July (drinking a beer in a hammock) to December (fumbling with holiday wrapping paper I bought from my grandchildren’s school fundraisers).

Then I could really be a calendar guy. And I could sing my own version of that classic Neil Sedaka song, each and every day of the year.

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 21, 2024

"My 70s Show"

By Jerry Zezima

On Jan. 11, 1954, a date which will live in infancy, I made my grand entrance into the world. I arrived more than three weeks past my due date and have seldom been on time for anything since.

On Jan. 11, 2024, the date on which I turned 70, my mother, Rosina, who will turn 100 on Nov. 10, called to wish me a happy birthday and said, “I’d buy you a watch, but it wouldn’t do any good.”

Now that I have hit the big 7-Oh, I am planning a yearlong celebration. And I haven’t been late for any of the four parties — including one at my mother’s house — I have had so far.

The first occurred when my wife, Sue, and I visited the home of our older daughter and her family a couple of weeks before my birthday.

The highlight was when our grandchildren — a boy, 6, and his twin siblings, a girl and a boy, 4 — presented me with a coloring book. Then we had cookies.

“Happy birthday, Poppie!” they sang.

I felt years younger. In fact, if you transpose the numbers 7 and 0, that would be my intellectual age.

Later, my daughter and her husband took me (and Sue) out to dinner.

“Cheers!” they said as we clinked glasses.

It was a nice, low-key way to mark the momentous occasion. Afterward, I fell fast asleep.

The second celebration was with my mother, who reminded me — because I am getting forgetful in my old age — that I set the record for being the most overdue baby in the history of Stamford Hospital in our hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.

“You were due on Dec. 20,” she said. “You didn’t want to come out.” She smiled and added, “But you were worth the wait.”

My mom, a retired nurse who used to work at the hospital, said that since pregnancies aren’t allowed to go so long anymore, my record will never be broken.

“You were also born during a blizzard,” she noted.

“And I have been perpetrating snow jobs ever since,” I said.

Mom didn’t disagree.

“I never thought I would live to see a child of mine turn 70,” she said.

“I’m shockingly immature,” I told her. “It makes me seem younger.”

She didn’t disagree with that statement, either.

The party — which included Sue, our younger daughter, her husband and their two daughters, ages 10 and 7, as well as my two sisters, my niece and my two nephews — culminated with a birthday apple pie with, of course, the numbers 7 and 0 on top.

My granddaughters helped me blow out the five candles.

“If you had 70 candles,” my mother said, “we would have had to call the fire department to put them out.”

“Just wait until you hit the century mark,” I said. “It’ll be a hot time.”

On my actual birthday, I made myself an Egg McJerry for breakfast because, I told Sue, “I’m worth it.”

“You sure are,” she said before making an appointment for an arbor care specialist to come over in the afternoon to give us an estimate for taking down a couple of sick oaks and carting away a huge branch that had fallen in a recent storm.

“Some people celebrate milestone birthdays by going on a cruise,” I said. “I’m celebrating mine with a tree guy.”

That evening, Sue bought me a special dinner — spaghetti with red clam sauce — from an Italian supermarket. For dessert, I had a cannoli with a candle on either end.

“What an exciting birthday!” I gushed appreciatively. “I may have to go to bed early.”

A couple of days later, our younger daughter and her family — including our two oldest granddaughters — came over for yet another celebration.

Sue baked a Funfetti cake for the occasion. The girls again helped me blow out the candles.

“Being 70 is a lot of fun!” I said. “And it helps if you’re not late to the party.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 14, 2024

"The Root of the Problem"

By Jerry Zezima

Word of mouth has it that on a pain scale of 1 to 10, the bad tooth that recently made my jaw feel like it had been hit by lightning was a 47.

That’s why, far from home and without dental insurance, which only compounded the agony, I needed an emergency root canal.

Fortunately, I got one from a great endodontist who once gave himself a root canal and lived to tell about it.

My tale of misery began when my left lower molar — tooth number 18 if you are scoring at home — began to be sensitive to cold. Since my mouth produces nothing but hot air, I didn’t see how this could be possible.

But sure enough, cold water and, yes, cold beer nearly sent me ricocheting off the ceiling.

So I called my dentist. Just my luck, he was on vacation. Even worse, my wife, Sue, and I were leaving on a 300-mile road trip to see our older daughter and her family.

I figured I could tough it out for a week until we got back. My molar had other ideas. It was some nerve.

The pain intensified daily until I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had jackhammered my tooth and poured molten lava into it.

My daughter, taking pity on me, asked friends to recommend a dentist who was not on vacation and could see me immediately.

Thus did I end up in the office of Dr. Candice Turpin, a friendly, gentle and exceptionally capable dentist who said my molar was cracked and asked about my level of pain.

When I told her it was a 47, she said, “You’re very pleasant for someone who’s in so much pain. It’s amazing that you’re cracking jokes.”

“It’s better to crack a joke than to crack a tooth,” I responded.

“You’ve done both,” said Dr. Turpin, who suggested I see an endodontist. “You may need a root canal,” she added.

Mercifully, Dr. Kaveh Zand was in the same building, wasn’t on vacation and could see me right away.

Sure enough, he said I needed a root canal.

“Don’t worry,” said Dr. Zand. “It won’t hurt. In fact, I once gave myself a root canal.”

“Who held the mirror?” I wondered.

“I did,” he replied.

“How did it come out?” I asked.

“Great,” the good doctor said. “And I didn’t feel a thing.”

Then, as I reclined in a chair, he produced a needle that looked like it could be used for spearfishing and said, “This is the only part that’s not fun.”

After he numbed my gum, which conveniently rhymed, I said, “That was fun!”

Next, Dr. Zand took me to another chair, told me to open wide, put what looked like a plastic tarp over my molar and got to the root of the problem.

When the half-hour procedure was over, he said, “You have three canals under that tooth. One is infected, but it’s not the one that was giving you trouble.”

“It sounds like an eerie canal,” I remarked.

“You’re going to need a crown,” Dr. Zand informed me.

“Because my tooth was a royal pain?” I said.

Dr. Zand flashed a dazzling smile and replied, “I see the anesthetic has worn off.”

A few days later, I was back in Dr. Turpin’s office.

“How did the root canal go?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “Dr. Zand and I bonded.”

Dr. Turpin smiled and said, “You’re still joking. I’m going to numb you now.”

After she crowned me, she put a filmy material on my tooth and said, “Grind for me.”

I shimmied in the chair.

“No,” Dr. Turpin said. “I mean grind your teeth.”

With that, my torturous experience was over. Or at least I thought so. Because I don’t have dental insurance, which is said to be not worth the cost, the total bill came to $7,000.

“That’s a lot of money,” Sue noted.

I nodded and said, “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima