LIFE IN THE TIME OF CICADAS

A lifeA A a

As a child I was pretty fearless around bugs. I remember one summer when I was at camp – I was probably about ten at the time – walking with two friends to the dining hall for lunch. A passing yellow jacket decided to join us. As he buzzed around the three of us my friends screamed. I thought they were being goofy. I stood very still and the yellow jacket landed on my hand. He and I had a staring contest as we checked each other out. And then he just flew off and my friends and I continued on to lunch. Another time, at about the same age, I remember a praying mantis who took up residence in our backyard at home. I was thrilled to be able to get close to him, to observe his eating habits – mainly spiders and insects – and to witness his amazing agility.

Unfortunately as I got older my bug curiosity diminished, but I was blessed to marry a man who has an insatiable interest in so many subjects – including bugs. Jerry loves to pick them up and to observe them. Recently when we were walking from the first green to the second tee of the golf course he said, “Peg I want to show you something”. I moved closer and he opened his hand to display a beautiful ( I say this in retrospect) cicada. Before the cicada flew off I had a good look at his big eyes, and his delicate looking wings. I had no desire to hold him as Jerry was doing, though I sometimes do wish I had been able to retain my childhood interest in bugs.

We have been in our present home since 1990 which means we have experienced two visitations of the 17 year cicadas while living here. The first experience was very mild – perhaps all the construction in our new neighborhood interfered with the cicada habitat. The present visitation is exactly the opposite. It is all pervasive. Our home is bounded by woods on two sides. The cicadas love the woods, they love to sing and they love to buzz around our backyard. If you decide to sit on the patio you have to expect that a few cicadas will come to call. The negative of the cicada influx is that they have cut down on bird traffic at our feeders. We have had several house finches, and several hummingbirds, a woodpecker, and an unnamed gray bird which we have enjoyed very much but nothing like the bird traffic jam that gives us so much pleasure.

Once it was determined that the cyst causing my left kidney blockage was not malignant the surgeon presented three options: major surgery lasting four hours plus where the cyst would be removed – such lengthy time under general anesthesia not being the best idea for a 84 year old ; stent placement in the blockage area which would have to be replaced several times a year; and fluid withdrawal from the cyst to cut down on its size and blockage capability and which would also have to be done several times a year – for both these last options the anesthesia would be minimal – compared to the major surgery option. Right now I have a small stent in place and my body is not really liking this foreign object invasion. Lots of good opportunities for prayer and for offering up the discomfort caused by the stent which the surgeon is hopeful will go away with the passage of time.

In late June I have my next appointment with the surgeon. By then enough time will have passed to correctly evaluate the efficacy of the stent as my pathway to kidney recovery. I am gradually coming to like the surgeon. Because of his skill with robotic surgery he was the strong recommendation of an old friend who happens to be a urologist. I had assumed my urological issues would be cared for by our old friend. But after seeing our friend for an initial visit he was adamant that my medical needs would be better served by the skills of this other doctor. So I went from a warm fuzzy doctor’s office to one where a welcoming atmosphere seemed to have been outlawed. The surgeon himself is very friendly. He allots about 45 minutes per patient – which is pretty amazing. He answers all questions with a thoroughness that I appreciate. It is some of the support staff who make you wonder what you have done wrong. I can’t help but compare the doctor’s office manager to a recent sales clerk I did business with at Home Depot( not a store that we frequent – since the owner of Home Depot is a proud Trump supporter). But, I was at Home Depot because after searching on line they were the only store nearby that had the assembled Weber grill we were looking for. The sales clerk who helped me was a young woman who I would guess was in her early thirties. She was tall, with dyed blond hair and arms that were covered with tattoos. She must have had some sort of managerial position because other clerks kept coming to her with questions. She had a welcoming smile that generated warmth and competence. I was in and out of HD in record time. From the time of my arrival to my departure, with the new grill in the back of my car, perhaps thirty minutes elapsed. I shook hands with the sales clerk and thanked her for my successful and speedy shopping adventure. I could not help but reflect on the different vibes generated by the renowned surgeon’s office manager and the Home Depot sales clerk.

Saturday, May 15, was the 26th birthday of our third oldest grandchild,Jeremy. Such fun to have a phone visit with him – so proud of him and all our grandchildren. Granddaughter Lilly provided Saturday night’s dinner of home made empanadas. It was meaningful to learn from son- in law Paul, who grew up in Argentina, that empanadas are a staple of the Argentine diet. Jerry and I had never had empanadas before – what a yummy introduction Lilly provided.

This is graduation season – for the academic world at large and for our family in particular. Atar is graduating from 8th grade. Brian, Khushi and Elsa are graduating or have just graduated from high school. Gus graduated from nursing school. And Annie and Jimmy graduated from the University of Virginia. Annie actually graduated from UVA last year with a Covid 19 inspired remote graduation ceremony. When UVA offered Annie’s class the chance to have an in person ceremony this year, more than 2000 accepted and showed up for the ceremony. It was tasteful, appropriate and inspiring. As was her brother Jimmy’s ceremony, Class of 2021, the following week. It was another live streamed ceremony – it was done so tastefully and the speeches had that inspirational touch that you want at graduation time. One of the more difficult aspects of Covid for Jerry and me, has been not being able to attend all our grandchildren graduations. But that loss is helped so much by the live streaming and the zoom ceremonies.

I was in the last class of New York state students whose first day of kindergarten was in February, and all my subsequent first days – grade school, high school and college – were also in February. Just two days after finishing high school I began my college life. It was too soon. It is important when passing through different stages in life to have time for reflection on what has been experienced and anticipation for what the future holds.

And though I feel that my time at Marymount College was a bit rushed as I strove to get in the sixty credits necessary for admission to Cornell’s nursing school and its BSN program,I did have some amazing experiences at Marymount. Since the academic load was heavy I only allowed myself to join one club and I chose the Collegiate Council for the United Nations. Just because I had chosen to follow the academic path to nursing my interest in history and current events was in no way diminished. I loved being part of this organization and the interactions we had with students from other colleges. When Marymount offered me the opportunity to represent the college at a week long overnight seminar at Sarah Lawrence College I accepted – even though it meant missing a week of the summer school session that all the students who started in February were being required to take as the college prepared to close down its February admission program. Catching up after missing a week of a six week summer session was tough but as I look back now I have no regrets. It was an amazing and challenging experience. The two speakers at the seminar who still stand out for me were Krishna Menon who was at that time the Indian ambassador to the United Nations, and Eleanor Roosevelt. I don’t remember now how many colleges were represented at the seminar – perhaps twenty – but I do remember being a little star struck by the intimate setting and the thought provoking words offered by these speakers.

In this season of the cicadas I find their continuous drone to be a bit mind numbing.As we age it is important to continue to challenge our minds and thoughts. I like this excerpt from the diary of the journalist and activist Dorothy Day who died in 1980 at age 83: No matter how old I get ………my heart can still leap for joy as I read and suddenly assent to some great truth enunciated by some great mind and heart.

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