I am not thankful for lice. And I never will be. But I am thankful for men. For a certain man in particular. You will see why.
Late November marks the season for thankful reflections. December quickly follows and now we reflect on what we would be thankful for, if only someone would buy it for us.
At my family’s Thanksgiving celebration this year, we took time as a family to share something for which we are thankful. My father added a twist. Instead of merely recounting the joyous occasions for which we have overwhelming gratitude, we now had to share about an adversity in our life and then offer thanks for that adversity. As you may well imagine, this required more effort.
In the fall semester of my sophomore year of college, lice infested my scalp. Just before I moved back to the dorms my family and I spent a week in a cabin in Colorado. The cabin was unique. It was furnished with 50 year old dolls, mounted boar heads, original (ancient) beaver pelts, rusted saw blades and ancient bear traps accented the décor. Though my head itched like crazy on move-in day, I wrote it off as sweat and dust. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that neither were the actual perpetrator. Sweat and dust don’t yield black dandruff. Why black dandruff? Allow me to explain.
Lice (plural form of louse) live in hair and thrive on the blood of their host. Your scalp itches due to your skin’s reaction to lice saliva. Your dandruff becomes black because of the amounts of dried blood now drifting through your hair. Grossed out yet?
Lice can live on your scalp for up to six weeks before symptoms begin. Their eggs (nits) are firmly attached to strands of hair that are difficult to find and even more difficult to remove. Once hatched, the louse scampers across your scalp biting and growing fat on your blood. They are fast and can leap from one scalp to another with ease. Though unconfirmed, some scientists believe lice can jump from blog posts to readers. Does your head itch yet?
All those symptoms happened to me. On the first day of History 151 a louse jumped from my head onto my notebook. I squished it immediately and looked around in disgust, horrified that anyone might have noticed. If I wasn’t confident I had a problem before, my worst suspicions were confirmed. Though it was the very last measure I wanted to take, I knew I’d have to tell my roommate and friends to give them fair warning.
They say when you go through a difficult time, you find out who your real friends are.
When I had lice I discovered I didn’t have any friends.
I would have been upset but I was actually quite impressed, I never knew my friends could run so fast. In fact, in subsequent years, I strongly encouraged them to go out for the track team.
After finding myself in a deserted room, I did the only thing I could think of, I called my older brother. Family doesn’t have the choice to run away. Besides, he’s put on thirty pounds since he got married.
“Sam, hi umm well umm I-have-lice-and-can-you-help-please?”
(Without a pause) “Sure. Come on over. What kind of beer do your lice like?”
Removing lice is an excruciating process. First you shampoo with pure gasoline and remove all matches, lighters, and other fire hazards from the vicinity. Once that is accomplished you must go through each strand of hair with a special lice-egg-removing comb that, not to nit-pick, costs more than what a sophomore working on campus earns in year. The funny thing is though, it’s nearly impossible to comb through your own hair in this fashion. Someone else has to do it for you.
Enter Sam, older brother extraordinaire and one of the few men I am thankful for.
Without a single snide remark or vomit-induced bathroom run, Sam combed through each individual strand of my hair. He squashed lice and plucked eggs without expression or notable repulsion. The growing pile of louse carcasses was rivaled only by the mountain of discarded beer cans.
This process took over three hours. He gave me beer after beer and we listened to Harry Potter audiobook. Despite the parasite infestation on my scalp, my brother turned my lousy day into an almost fun night.
The Bible says God knows the number of hairs on my head but for one night, my brother Sam might have had a more accurate count.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.