Leave it to Boomer; A Look at Life, Love and Parenthood by the Very Model of the Modern Middle-Age Man, by Jerry Zezima, iUniverse, Inc., New York, Bloomington, 2010, 154 pages (paperback, $15.95)
Jerry Zezima is a funny guy. You may have read some of his columns in the Vineyard Gazette over the years. In his first book, Leave it to Boomer, he traces his life as a middle-age father and husband. When someone tells his wife and daughter that Jerry is “very witty,” they both respond: “We just ignore him.”
Born in 1954, Mr. Zezima is a clear-cut baby boomer. He married in 1978 and became a father twice, to daughters, in the early 1980s. He writes a humor column for The Stamford Advocate in Connecticut and his idol is Art Buchwald.
“In 2002 I did something I never could work up the nerve to do before: I wrote Buchwald a letter, telling him that he was why I got into journalism and thanking him for the fact that I was in a field that not only didn’t require me to do any real work, but paid so little money that it actually simplified my tax returns. To my great surprise and delight, he wrote back. It was a nice, cheery, funny letter.”
Most of the book is about boomer fatherhood. With his daughter at a sleepover, he has to deliver her morning papers. “So it has come to this, I said to no one in particular, because no one in particular would listen to me. Almost 20 years in journalism. Now I have a paper route.” His three main concerns: “I would have a heart attack. I would deliver papers to the wrong people. I would be recognized by the neighbors.”
He is a hands-on father. During a heat wave, in the interest of science, he tries to prove to his daughters that he can fry an egg on the hot pavement. He calls the White House to see if daughter Lauren’s bedroom can be declared a disaster area so he can seek federal clean-up funds. To test his daughters’ fashion choice he wears pajama bottoms for an entire work day.
He wanders through home ownership: “. . . painting the kitchen is even worse than painting the bathroom . . . You have to use four miles of masking tape before you even begin to paint,” and “You must risk pulling virtually every muscle in your body so you can move both the refrigerator and the stove.”
And doggy dentistry: he must brush the dog’s teeth to combat doggy halitosis. The directions recommend finding a quiet, convenient time when you and your pet are both relaxed. “This was impossible. Whenever Lizzie sees me, she wants to play . . . Still, to make sure at least one of us was relaxed, I had a glass of wine.”
He tries to take out a loan to buy his wife the new $10-million Millennium Bra from Victoria’s Secret.
He turns 50. His daughter threatens to contact the AARP but fails to follow through. “(Do you think I was going to spend time on the phone with an old person?)”
He passes a kidney stone, home brews beer (“I decided to brew my own beer after discovering that I was one of approximately six male adults in the United States who had not yet done so”), and models jewelry at a Silpada party. He becomes a father of the bride, where his most important duties are to rent a tuxedo and let the women take care of everything else: “My second duty will be much simpler because letting the women take care of everything else is what I do all the time anyway.”
As a boomer Mr. Zezima finds humor in experiences never imagined by Beaver Cleaver’s dad. After a fender bender: “I helpfully pointed out . . . that if he had been looking at the road instead of his GPS, he would have seen two things: (a) an arrow indicating that he was going the wrong way and (b) me.”
Yet beneath the sarcasm and self-deprecation Mr. Zezima is a proud father and husband. In the introduction he quotes his wife Sue, “We’ve never had much money, but we’ve always had a lot of fun.”
Liz Durkee lives in Oak Bluffs.