My brother Jim was concerned when he heard that I was being treated for an ant bite. You should understand that for years he has maintained that I’m working my way through the alphabet with serious diseases in general, and innocuous medical problems in particular. So the fact that I had gone from “A” to “Z” and was back to “A” for “ant bite” was cause for alarm.

Because my monthly supplemental medical insurance costs $20 more than my monthly Social Security check, it is understandable that I do not hesitate to visit my physician when something is amiss. A suture in time saves nine and my partner always pays the bill.

Two or three years ago I noticed a raised red spot on the back of my aged, veined hand. Having recently seen ads on TV about melanoma, I quickly booked an appointment with my favorite medical practitioner. To her credit my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, only rolled her eyes when I came home and confessed that it was a mosquito bite.

But one can’t be too careful, even if it does give one a reputation for being an alarmist or, if you will, crying “wolf.” This is why, when I woke up one morning and announced that I was having a heart attack, my beautiful young trophy wife said, “I’m going to take a shower.”

So I dialed 911 and, even if my diagnosis was wrong, my medical friends whisked me away and inserted two $44,000 stents. Why a 140-pound man who rides a bike 8 miles most days and binges on lettuce should have a heart attack has never been satisfactorily explained. Since then you’ve read that on a good day, raw veggies and exercise can take the place of stents.

OK. If I had to do it over, I’d still go with the stents. You are very receptive to a doctor’s suggestion when there is an elephant standing on your chest.


Every time I think I’ve successfully avoided or survived most popular handicaps or diseases, pill pushers invent new ones and promote a tablet that will cure them. They hope that you and I won’t read the caveats that appear on the screen in small print as a smiling, ageless woman does cartwheels in a multi-colored field swarming with butterflies: “Can cause internal bleeding or rash.” “Discontinue if unable to breathe unless otherwise directed by your physician.” There is always something about damage to your liver in there, too, which might lead one to believe that the capsule contains 190 proof ethanol.

Last week, a pill ad that captured my attention said, in very small print, that 3 percent of the people who used it did just as well with a placebo.

I mentioned being treated for an ant bite. Red-ant bites are nothing to fool with, and I know of one case near West Palm Beach where dozens of them swarmed up an elderly man’s leg and killed him.

One or two bites are bad enough if you are wimpy. A while back I had a bite on the calf of my leg that turned into a painful purple bump. After three years Dr. Gordon surgically removed it, so I knew better than to fool with this one. How many times do insects have to crawl up over your shoes and bite you before you always spray your shoes with insecticide before venturing into the fields or forests? After one or two years one forgets and that’s when they strike.

Walking in another person’s sprayed or unsprayed shoes gives one perspective. You don’t hear this anymore, because psychobabble translates perspective into “finding oneself.” You know the futility of trying to find yourself. If you have ever found yourself, you know that the next day you had magically morphed into a person with different needs and desires, so you had to start finding yourself over again. Watch the 1978 movie “Same Time, Next Year,” which is about how people change as they age.

Read 20 pages in your 1955 diary and you’ll probably think that the person who once walked around in your shoes was backhouse-rat-hootie-owl crazy. You didn’t know that you had no more brains than a tomcat when you were 19, and it is not until you are safely settled on the next plateau that you can look back and gratefully realize that you’ve changed. No matter how old you are, the same law applies.


Take, for example, the two policemen in full riot gear who interrupted an elderly couple’s breakfast. It seems that the old folks were always fighting and neighbors had grown tired of the noise and had complained. After an officer explained the nature of their visit, the old man turned to his wife and said, “What did he say?”

Whereupon, his wife moved closer to her husband and screamed at the top of her lungs, “He said it was time for you to get hearing aids.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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