From my previous blogs any astute readers might have figured out by now that I have been deadlocked in a war with those I call ‘them varmints’ for the produce of my garden. In particular, I have been fighting the fervid forces of chipmunks and squirrels for my treasured tomatoes. But what readers will not know is that over this same summer I have also been battling a much more pernicious enemy–my eldest son (who on this blog I refer to as Little Lion at his request) was diagnosed with a chronic gastrointestinal disease known as ulcerative colitis when he was only four. We were very fortunate that he was able to remain on a medicated remission for the following four years but now, starting in May, just as the garden was beginning to grow, the medications stopped working. Little by little as the tomato vines grew up their stakes, the beans wrapped around the fence, and the squashes spread underneath my son’s health declined in equal measure.
And then came the rodents. First it was the greens–nibbles on the luscious lettuce and big bites out of the succulent spinach. OK, I put out those evil-smelling coyote-urine granules and figured that would stop the damage. Meanwhile, we took LL to his specialist and put him on new medication and hoped that would do the trick. But the varmints wouldn’t stay away and either would LL’s symptoms. Thus began a war fought on two fronts; battle for the veggies in the garden and battle for my son’s health at home. And somewhere in the midst of it all, the two became linked in my mind. I know it sounds insane. It’s not like I really thought that if I took care of the garden my son would get better. It’s just that it was a lot easier to get mad-utterly outraged–and battle with the damn beasties than stop the progress of my son’s disease.
Unfortunately, as the summer progressed, I continued losing the battle on both fronts. In the garden I brought out the organic arsenal: smelly sprays, urine granules, netting, fencing, even traps made from buckets of water and bird seed lures. Nothing has worked. First one tomato with a bite, then a few, then we started seeing the smug little squirrels running across the lawn with whole tomatoes in their mouths. And it’s at the point where I’m afraid to let any tomato ripen on the vine, if there is even a blush of color there is a bite mark, too.
Meanwhile LL, has been dealing with this disease so long he has become somewhat of a minimizer, and rarely complains, even with the cramping and multiple trips to the bathroom. So we tried to ignore it the best we could and enjoy the summer. Then the other day, just as school began, he doubled over in pain before running to the toilet, and called me over with the first bit of fear in his voice. (WARNING: GROSS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION FOLLOWS.) Let’s put it this way–you know that scene in the movie CARRIE, the stuff that they dump over her head at the prom? That’s what was in my kid’s potty. Only it smelled like day-old road-kill. Still, I calmly shrugged and said, “Oh, no big deal” before rushing out to call the doctor.
Now it’s been several weeks with visits to the specialist, blood tests, new medications, allergic reactions to new medications, more new medications with more and greater side-effects and we are still trying to get control over this disease. And I feel totally helpless. As it turns out, I’m pretty helpless defending my garden, too. Which all leads me to why, the other day, when I found several big bites taken out of my prized giant tomato (see previous blog) which I had been carefully watching over, defending with everything I could muster, and waiting to show just enough color I could pick, well, I could not help but cry. Because sometimes a tomato is just a tomato. And sometimes it’s not.