Friday, November 9, 2012

Frozen in the Headlights

~ Or ~

How I learned to stop worrying and love the bug

- By Redoubt

Back when my younguns were still in early grade school, there was this outbreak of head lice. This event led to an immediate crisis in communications, understanding and challenged our ability as parents to resolve refined facts from ridiculous rumors. It was a lesson in humanity, and humility that I’ll never forget.

It started with a note from our daughter’s teacher, advising us that OUR little angel had the hair bugs. My wife called me at work and I’m sure my first response was heard across the entire shop where I was foreman at the time, “Head lights? What do you mean she has head lights?”

Folks are born pretty stupid. After we live 20-or-so years, we are deemed old enough and surprisingly, wise enough to make babies of our own. Looking back, I don’t know how in the heck that head lice ever escaped my (or their) attention as a child. I was just lucky I guess… schools and society being what they were then and are now, it’s not entirely unbelievable I didn’t have that part of my education.

We both took the following day off from our jobs and rushed our daughter to the family doctor. Standing at the registration window, we were among a crowd also waiting to see the same physician so we didn’t think much about how openly we spoke of the problem…

“The teacher sent her home because she has lice in her hair” I said rather stoically.

I mean, I didn’t want to seem as ignorant as I already felt on this subject. Keeping a straight face and acting as if it were another day at the office seemed like the thing to do.

As we were seated, we noted that those sitting around us began to relocate. At first, it was just a trip to the restroom or to get a magazine from the rack but each person, in turn, found another seat further away from us. Then a little old lady across the room proudly announced that “The best way to git rid of them head lice is with a turpentine shampoo!”

My wife looked over at me from reading one of those magazines and whispered, asking whether we could just remedy this at home and save the office fee. I told her I didn’t think turpentine was a good idea because I knew already what it had done to me back when I was in the service and had a case of the red bugs whilst being stationed in Augusta.

The expression she gave me was enough to say she didn’t understand so to make the point clear, I explained that it was an entire year before my armpit hair fully returned. She rolled her eyes in a painful sort of way and went back to reading a Good Housekeeping as my child took my hand ever so gently and said, “Daddy, my head itches”.

At that point, my beloved spouse and mother of my kids slapped the book closed and gave me a look that would have burned a hole in carbon steel!

I had to do something now because I was rapidly losing control of the situation. So, I calmly stood and walked again to the window asking how much longer the wait would be because my daughter’s condition was fast becoming worse. That, of course, was less true than that MY OWN condition was the one rotting away in that waiting room. Maybe another 10 minutes was the response and satisfied that we would be out of public view shortly, I went back to my seat and opened a ‘Woman’s Day’ to hide behind.

We did eventually get back to see the doctor. He was a nice gentleman with a good bedside manner. Before we left, he offered me a prescription for Valium… and without having to even glance over at my wife, I knew to decline the offer, no matter how tempted I may have been at that moment to accept.

After getting home with the treatment, we were initially perplexed by the little bitsey comb that was inside the box with an equally small bottle of insecticide that we were to apply to my daughter’s head.

“What kind of comb is that?” my wife asked.

“It says it’s a nit comb.” I answered.

Then she seemed to perk up a bit, “Oh good, I know how to knit. Grandmother Rudy taught me that when I was a girl”

It was a long, long night as we sifted every strand of my little girl’s hair, removing every tiny bug egg we could locate because we knew she was going to be inspected upon returning to school. Sadly for all of us, our first battle against the bugs had failed and we were forced to repeat the entire process. Our little girl cried as we yanked and tore through her beautiful locks, searching out and destroying this enemy alien that has made our lives so wretched. And then finally on the third day, as we waited for the outcome, she was allowed to stay. We had finally won the war.

As we were leaving the school, we passed through the lounge area just outside of where the school’s various offices were located. There were about a dozen chairs and in each of them sat a child, similar in age as our daughter and all with white sanitary bibs tied around their necks. A young lady was making her way around the room, probing each child’s head with rubber gloves and then on each, marking the bibs with a red ‘X’.

I had now gotten my diploma and so we rushed back, grabbed our girl from that classroom and headed for the front door again but… just before we exited, my dear wife must have had one of the moments of delightful epiphany as she turned back to the scene and said very loudly… “Turpentine is the best thang to git rid of them head bugs!”

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