Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The Show More
In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing grander -- not even finding a pile of cash worth several hundred grand -- than being a grandparent.
I have been saying this to anyone who will listen, and anyone who won't, which encompasses everybody, since the birth of my beautiful, adorable, precious, smart, sweet, funny, etc., granddaughter, Chloe, who is about to turn 2.
Now I can brag to even more people as a new member of the American Grandparents Association.
Membership in the AGA costs only $15 a year. That bargain price lets you save your money, perhaps the aforementioned pile of cash, so you can buy toys and ice cream for your grandchild, who is not, let's face it, as wonderful as Chloe but must be pretty cute anyway.
According to the AGA website, grandparents.com, there are 70 million grandmothers and grandfathers in the United States. That includes my wife, Sue, and yours truly, known to Chloe as, respectively, Nini and Poppie.
Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that the chairman and CEO of the American Grandparents Association, famed rock music impresario Steve Leber, also is known as Poppie to his seven grandchildren.
"I love that name," Leber told me in a recent telephone conversation, adding that his late wife, Marion, was called Meme. "But it doesn't matter what your grandchildren call you. The best part of being a grandparent is when they look up to you."
"Chloe has to look up to me," I said. "She's not even 3 feet tall."
"There's a difference between being a parent and a grandparent," Leber said.
"Yes," I agreed. "And that difference can be described in one word: diapers. I have changed more of my granddaughter's diapers than I ever did for my two daughters, including Chloe's mommy."
"You have to change diapers," Leber said. "The funny thing is, it's not so bad when it's your grandchild. Unfortunately, I wasn't around too much when my three kids were young."
That's because Leber was frequently on the road, handling such artists as the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross, the Jackson Five, the Beach Boys and Aerosmith.
"But I've made up for it with my grandchildren," said Leber, adding that one of his proudest accomplishments was being the good luck charm for his grandson's soccer team.
"I was the mascot," Leber remembered. "And my second-oldest grandchild, Jack, was the star. The team was going for the New York state youth soccer championship. I missed a couple of games because I was in Florida and they lost. Everyone said to Jack, 'You have to get him back.' I came back and they won the state title. I became the trophy grandfather."
"Chloe is too young to play sports, although her daddy is a soccer fan," I said. "And I don't know if she considers me a trophy. But we have a special bond. She can be in her mother's arms, but when I walk into the room, she wants to come to me."
"That's because you're more fun," Leber said.
"And less mature," I added.
"You should never take your grandchildren for granted," Leber advised. "Kids rebel against you, but not grandkids. They'll confide in you."
"And they won't be embarrassed to be seen with you?" I asked.
"Not like children are when they're growing up," Leber replied.
"I felt like a typhoid carrier," I recalled.
"Grandchildren will show you off," Leber promised. "They'll enjoy your company. It's great. You'll see."
I am already seeing it because Chloe enjoys my company and loves being seen with me. She doesn't even mind when I change her diapers.
"And now that you're an AGA member," Leber said, "you can get all kinds of discounts. That means you'll have more money to buy toys for your granddaughter."
"Thanks," I said. "But I'm already the biggest toy she has."