Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What's Bugging Me

I hate bugs.

As much as I enjoy the warmth of spring, I hate that it also means the revival of my lifelong battle with bugs—big bugs, little bugs, multi-legged bugs, bugs that fly, that crawl, that slither.

As they do most years at this time, large, black ants started showing up inside our home. I’ve already blotted out half a dozen of them, but then I got to wondering, if I kill these obvious scouts of the colony, am I undermining the effectiveness of the ant killing systems I’ve laid down in strategic locations throughout our house? After all, the principle behind the Combat Ant Killing System, to quote the promotional copy, is that it is “the better way to kill ants because ants carry the bait back to the colony to destroy queen and other ants.”

You can’t carry the bait back if you’ve been squashed. The queen will continue to send out scouts until at least one returns. So as I await the next confrontation with an ant, should I be faithful to my long-held anti-bug precept, “Out of sight, out of mind, but once in sight, you’re history (to the best of my ability to crush you),” or should I take a more measured approach?


Woody’s Friends: Like clockwork, the rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat noise pierces each morning’s serenity at 8. Short staccato bursts from our local woodpecker population. If I were sleeping, I’d really be upset. With rare exceptions I’ve not been able to sleep past 7-7:30, so the woodpeckers haven’t startled me awake .

I can’t quite make out where they are pecking, on a neighbor’s property or ours. Though it sometimes sounds as if they’re attacking our home, I haven’t seen any signs, that is, holes, from their pursuit of bugs hiding under the wood frame portions of our house.

We are hosting a visitor from Israel this week and next. To Tzipi, the rapid rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat sounded like a machine gun burst, an unnerving reminder of home during a trip intended to provide some relief from the pressure of a job counseling trauma victims in the communities near the Gaza Strip where she lives and works. She quickly realized it was not gunfire, but the reminder of her normal reality was made. Yesterday, a text message reported some small arms fire in the area of her kibbutz.


Walking Away: Today’s NY Times reported on a growing societal problem—elderly people suffering from dementia who wander off (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/us/05search.html).

It’s somewhat comical to her children now, but our mother wandered off during a visit to my sister’s some 20 years ago. We had gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate a family wedding. As dinner the night before was being prepared, our mother went outside to smoke. Twenty minutes later we asked Lee’s daughter to bring her grandmother back inside. Lauren came back alone. Grandma was nowhere to be found.

She was around 70 at the time. She suffered from diabetes and other infirmities. Congestive heart failures were routine, which we believe accentuated and accelerated her creeping dementia, yet she still smoked. She could barely walk a block, more only if she knew she could buy a cigarette at the end of a trek.

Though she was nowhere to be seen in the immediate vicinity of Lee’s home, we didn’t think she’d be too far off. She was, after all, barely ambulatory. A quick drive around the neighborhood failed to find her. Calls to nearby friends proved equally fruitless.

It was now almost an hour since she had vanished. We were getting anxious. She didn’t have any identification with her. She didn’t have a phone. She knew virtually no one else in Los Angeles. The phone rang. It was Lee’s mother-in-law, Esther, calling to say she just received a call from Lee’s mother. She had asked a man standing in front of his house if she could use his phone as she was lost.

We never could understand, nor could Mom explain, why she had called Esther and not Lee, how she had even remembered Esther’s phone number. Nor could we understand, nor could Mom explain, how she had arrived at this good Samaritan’s doorstep. For you see, Mom had walked more than four miles before seeking help. All that time she thought she was just around the corner from Lee’s.

Before they passed away, both of our parents suffered from forms of dementia. It is a painful way to lose a loved one, for the loss happens twice, once mentally, followed who knows how many years later by the physical.


Bug Update: Between the time I began writing this blog and now, several hours later, another “incident” transpired. My first instinct was to crush the intruder. But then I decided to gently direct him (or her) to the deadly ant bait. Only, my idea of “gently” apparently does not mesh with an ant’s. I maimed at least one of its legs. It was obviously in what ants consider pain. Or at the very least trauma. I did the only humanitarian thing left to do—I administered a coup de grâce.

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