I’ll take beaches over bugs any time

So, here I am lounging on a Florida sugar sand beach, watching blue-green IMG_2020waves and listening to the ocean’s roar while Gulf breezes cause me to forget that it’s 100-plus degrees back home in East Texas.

No stranger to the region, like a moth drawn to a flame, I’ve been lured by the Sunshine State’s sandy shores to revisit here many times over the years.

The scenario is a vast improvement over one of just a few days ago. I was lounging in an East Texas hospital bed watching the sterile clock on the wall count off minutes and hours, listening to the rhythmic clicking of a medical device plumbed into my arm as it dispensed fluids allowing me to forget about pain—and almost everything else.

We’ll reserve descriptive details of the experience for the setting where such conversations belong—at family reunions where comparing one’s latest medical problems and procedures are prime points of comparison. Suffice to say, however, while the medical malaise that landed me in an infirmary scant days before the Florida trip’s departure date was scary at the moment, it ended well.

Pondering recent medical matters during early morning walks on Florida beaches this week has prompted me to count blessings. First, that my years numbered 67 fading in the rear view mirror before seeing the inside of an ambulance or spending the night in a hospital room, at least one with my name on the door.

For better or worse, those two were crossed off my “never have” list last week.

Another is that the fortunately few times I’ve required acute attention to reinstate a healthy status quo have been neither serious in nature, nor in attitude. Likely through some derivation in my DNA, facing medical urgency invokes humor more often than fear.

More than humor or fear, excitement is usually the mood during the summer of one’s college graduation. That was perhaps the summer I first recall working my way through a trip to an emergency room, laughing all the way.

With degree in hand, full-time job secure and my first home purchase completed, I moved into 107 Dogwood Lane in Mount Pleasant. No newcomer to the home I purchased from Doris Neeley, no introduction was needed either for next-door residents, Mr. and Mrs. Nat Hoggat.

Décor for a single-guy, recent college grad’s domicile was by no stretch demanding. A sofa borrowed from parents on one wall and cinder block and board shelving supporting a tiny television and lamp on the other completed the living room. While it was a far cry from the exquisitely furnished ambiance the house had become accustomed to when Mrs. Neeley and her son, and my friend, David lived there, it was my first home purchase—my castle.

I was barely done with unpacking (paper plates, three pairs of blue jeans and my velvet Elvis painting) before the Hoggats called on a Saturday evening wanting to come over and welcome me to the neighborhood.

Minutes before the retired couple’s arrival, I engaged a moth (also known as a candle fly in the south) in hand-to-hand warfare over rights to the living room lamp. The insect fluttered from under the shade, I swatted, and he darted—right into my ear.

The more I tried to remove him, the more entrenched he became. In desperation, I stuck my head under the kitchen faucet hoping to flush him out. The sound of the tiny creature treading water in the proximity of my eardrum was excruciating. At first it resembled a rumble, then acquired an odd resemblance to a doorbell.

My neighbors! They were at my door.

“Come in,” I said opening the door and standing aside, observing the startled looks on their faces. Could it have been the wet head and the towel in my hand? “Are we early,” asked Mr. Hoggat.

We made small talk as they sat on the sofa facing me where I was perched on the edge of a chair borrowed from the kitchen. “I really like the day lilies you have planted along your fence,” I said, smiling at Mrs. Hoggat. “ I enjoy them every day.”

“Good,” she replied. “Perhaps you could plant some flowers in your yard for me to admire.”

I opened my mouth to offer light hearted remarks about “brown thumb” gardening skills, but instantly closed my eyes and winced in pain as the winged insect in my ear sprang back to life at that very moment producing sounds rivaling the intensity of a high school marching band taking the field. Grimacing, I jerked my head to the left and back to the right in hopes that the blasted bug would take exit of my cranial cavity.

It stopped moving and I stopped flopping my head about. Thankful for the respite, I opened my eyes to the sight of an elderly couple staring at me with wide-eyed wonderment. Disbelief. Horror.

“Is everything OK,” Mr. Hoggat asked.

“Actually, no.” I admitted. “I have a bug in my head.”

“Oh my,” they said in unison as they rose and quickly headed for the door without looking back. “You should get that seen about right away.”

The good news was that it took ER personnel less than five minutes to flush the errant insect, ending the candle fly’s deafening diatribe in my ear. The bad news was that for the five years I lived on Dogwood Lane, my neighbors never came back to visit. In fact, I was pretty sure that they retreated into their house every time I stepped outside.

The best news however, is that while I’m still drawn to the warm Florida sand, I have yet to encounter another moth drawn to my ear.

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