Saturday, April 15, 2017

Stories from Vacation: Bedbugs

This post conforms to the blog rules.I have encountered bedbugs before. But I have never encountered bedbugs in my next door neighbor's apartment. My next door neighbor is a retired policeman my grandfather's age. When I first moved in he gave me a new microwave oven, a re-gift he didn't need. I picked it up and as I was leaving with it, I noticed a semi-automatic rifle mounted on the back of the front door. "That's in case some guy I sent to prison comes knocking," he said.

"Ah," I replied, not sure what else to say. Was my neighbor paranoid?

"No, I mean it," my neighbor said. "There one particular guy who sent me letters and called me telling me he's coming for me now that he's out of prison."

"Sir, do you tell all your neighbors these things?"

"Well, I guess not," he mumbled. "Well anyway, I'm pretty sure it's not gonna happen but it'd be a good story if it did."

Img credit: houstondwiPhotos mp
My neighbor was full of life. He told me stories about his children, grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. "My step-son," he'd grumble, "was a disaster as a kid. He'd get drunk and get into fights and do drugs. I was always afraid that me and my wife were gonna get the call that he was dead. One time--" he started to laugh, "one time he called me, you know, once there were cell phones. He called me from the bathroom of a bar and said, 'Dad, come get me. I'm in this stall and the whole rest of the bar is out there ready to kill me.' I was in favor of him getting in trouble. His mom wanted me to go get him. She said 'He'll be arrested, and then he'll have a record.' And that gave me an idea. So I said, 'All right, son.' I got on my uniform and got my gun and a pair of handcuffs and went to the bar. Sure enough, there was a riled-up crowd shouting for him to come out and trying to bang in the door. Poor bouncers. I moved through them and banged a little myself. I shouted, 'You're under arrest!' And I put handcuffs on him, the works. We left and I took 'em off in the car. Everyone was happy."

I thought my neighbor was hilarious. I would bake bread for him occasionally and I took him to Mass once or twice. He gave me a tablecloth and an end table, and he made mechanic recommendations. We'd see each other as I went to and from work and make small talk. I knew that he helped the others, too.

Then I learned he'd been diagnosed with cancer, but couldn't be debulked because of his coronary artery disease. He had a combined triple CABG and cancer surgery. He came home in a wheelchair with an incision as long as my arm. Home health visited three times a day. I went to see him and found out that he had bedbugs. First, he told me the fact. "Thanks for comin' over," he said. "Don't mind the exterminator who'll be here in a bit."

"You're brave," commented his step-son, who dropped in to bring groceries in the middle of my visit. "When I visit him, I sit on a wood chair."

I soon learned why. I flicked away no fewer than five bugs of at least two different species (or different life cycle stages?) while I was sitting on his living room couch. It was tricky to be cordial and let him decide when the visit was over! He was clearly bored and wanted some company, and my visit lasted three hours. As I walked to my door when I finished, I vowed that I was going to wash every thread I wore with steaming water and dry it on super hot. As I was taking off my hoodie, I saw and crushed a blood-filled bug.

Img credit hiroo yamagata
Luckily, after that there were no signs of bedbugs in my apartment. Then a few days later, I noticed that the hand sanitizer at our secondary hospital really bothered my hands. I was itching like crazy. As I was driving home, I realized it wasn't the hand sanitizer. I had several discrete red bumps on my hands. "Oh good," I thought, "I can still use the sanitiz--OH NO. I HAVE BEDBUGS." I immediately called my apartment manager and he sent a home debugging bottle, complete with personal spray wand for the tough-to-reach spots.

I don't think I ever had bedbugs, though. Those were my only bites and I never saw a sign of bugs. I guess I got those bites just sitting with him. Happily, he's now bedbug free, too. Please pray for him as he recovers. Pray especially for his return to Christ and his conversion.