By Dr. Jim Ferguson
My mother often referred to my father as an “interesting man,” whose projects challenged our whole family. I remember when we raised quail in the basement for training hunting dogs. My job was to daily rotate each egg in the incubator a quarter turn, somewhat like a sommelier rotates fine bottles of champagne in the catacombs. And my dad’s gardening enterprises included scientific mixtures of sand, soil and compost blended together in a barrel cage of wire turned with boy power. My father gravitated to challenges, such as fishing in blinding rain storms with Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” playing in the background.

My wife, Becky, is also an interesting woman and multi talented. She designed our cabin in the mountains and the Big House now occupied by our daughter and her growing family. Becky also designed our retirement home, whose charm is celebrated by others and is perfect for us.

She is the manager of our home, and is my “handy ma’am,” having introduced her bookish husband to power hand tools some years ago. The Proverbist in chapter 31 describes the attributes of a noble wife, though nowhere does he mention “she frugally selects jewelry at Elder Ace” like my Becky.

I once read you get to choose your friends, but not your family. Of course there are exceptions to this flippant saying, but I think it speaks to community more than biology. Mr. Webster qualifies a family as a group in one household, of one clan, one race or perhaps of one belief or creed. It can even refer to various elements in the periodic table and chemical compounds. The usual designation of family relates to our relatives, but could we also include co-workers or fellow parishioners? Diversity has challenged the notion of the traditional American family and perhaps if there is a family of Americans any longer. Civil war destroyed families in the 1860s and is doing so today.

Perhaps time is a component of family. If you spend time with someone you become familiar with them, and perhaps more tolerant of their peccadilloes. (Yes, that’s the word challenge of the week, which has nothing to do with picadillo, a Spanish dish). I think you cut family members more slack than non family, even when they frustrate you.

I’m rereading C.S. Lewis’ most celebrated book “Mere Christianity.” The book is a compilation of fireside radio chats he delivered to the British people during the Second World War. Lewis’ prose is that of an Englishman and Oxford don which can be challenging for an American with a postmodern ear. An example is the title of his book which translates as “basic” Christianity. Nonetheless, Lewis’ logic is impeccable, but one concept jumped out at me this time through. He maintains you should express charity/love to someone even if you don’t feel very loving at the moment.    And by doing so the loving perspective will grow on you and ultimately transform you. Similarly, the grace of Christ is transmitted by those of the Way. Jesus supped with sinners, and so we are challenged to love the unlovable.

My concept of love was certainly challenged as I watched the spectacle of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice. Reason, justice and love were suspended in this useless exercise of the Senate’s Constitutional role of “advise and consent.” And when Chuck Schumer’s orchestrated family of grandstanding Democrat Senators and radical protesters repeatedly insulted Judge Kavanaugh, his children had to be removed from the chamber. Pandering to the basest aspects of humanity and demonstrating the dysfunction of Washington’s Swamp were on full display. As an American, I was embarrassed.

As I watched devious octogenarian Senators and their younger guttersnipe colleagues, the image of spiders and bloated ticks flashed into my mind. Perhaps it’s the spider’s web that generated the analogy for me. A web is necessary for a spider to trap its prey. Nonetheless, the savagery of spiders made me think of malevolent Senators. The scientist in me knows that spiders are part of the natural order of things. Without spiders we would be overrun by insects. And because spiders are common, patients often complain of spider bites. However, humans are not often bothered by these arachnids. I can’t speak to dangers apparent from infestations in Washington DC.

Ticks are another issue, and it seems like there is an ever increasing number of diseases transmitted by these creatures. I once asked an entomologist patient of mine if he knew of any benefit ticks provide. Off the top of his head, he couldn’t think of any. However, perhaps everything has a purpose in nature because I later learned that guinea hens feed on ticks. So, if you want to rid your property of loathsome ticks fill your yard with those strange looking birds.

Ticks can transmit a bewildering array of nasty infections. Most notably in our area is a condition called Rocky Mountain spotted fever caused by the microorganism rickettsia which causes fever, headache and later a rash followed by more serious symptoms. There is also a Rocky Mountain “spotless fever” from transmission of the microorganism ehrlichia.

Most people have heard of Lyme disease originally discovered and named after a town in Connecticut. This tick borne illness characteristically occurs in New England, the upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. However this infection can occur in our area if someone is exposed to so-called “seed ticks.” I once read that in our area one in 100 of these tiny (like sesame seeds) ticks is infected with the borrelia microorganism.

Ticks can also carry viruses which cause encephalitis, and protozoa (babesia) which rupture red blood cells. Ticks can even inject a toxin while feeding and cause tick paralysis.

I’ve often wondered how ticks attach themselves to humans. They don’t fly, they don’t jump, and they move slowly. Apparently, ticks wait on grasses and bushes with their sticky legs outstretched and then grab hapless travelers or dogs passing by.

Ticks are one of God’s creatures, but I still find them loathsome, and like bloated Senators, they should be avoided.