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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Of Lice and Men (Women and Children!)...

First published in 1937... 
In his classic novel, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck wrote a story about friendship, mental illness and broken dreams, which were shattered with an unexpected turn of events that spun his characters' world upside down and ended in tragedy.

I realize trying to fit my story line into this plot is a bit of a stretch but, in an effort to use the play on words in my title, I could say that, while my tale doesn't have a grievous ending, at the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic (which may not be that out of character for me!), it does include an unforeseen turn of events that also had a topsy-turvy effect on my family (if only for a couple of weeks!).

Of course, it wasn't murder.  It was just a case of head lice!

Say what?  Ah yes, I thought the same thing.  As we shockingly discovered, even in the friendly confines of suburban Coral Gables, among the tree lined streets, well kept lawns, imported cars and yuppie well groomed families, the nagging parasites can strike.  And, strike they did!

Not only did they affect my children but my wife as well!

It all started on an otherwise lovely day with a mid-morning call from my wife.  Without giving me much of a chance to talk, she quickly blurted out, "Carlos, we have to pick up Nico (our six-year-old son) at school. They called to say they found lice in his hair!"

What?  My boy?  The chip off the old block and apple of his father's eye?  How?  Where did he get them? Obviously, I immediately imagined that it had to have come from another classmate!  Where else could he have gotten them?  We keep him clean.  I bathe and wash his hair almost every night.  What other explanation could there be?

Still flabbergasted by the news, I quickly call my Dad after hanging up with my wife.  My Mom and Dad pick up the kids at school for us and watch them until my wife gets home.  After breaking the news to my Mom, I asked my Dad if he could pick up my son a little earlier since they had him in the nurse's office at school.

Well, it didn't end there.  To my chagrin, the story gets better.

Shortly, after calling my Dad, my wife calls me back saying, "Forget it.  I have to go pick them up.  They all have lice!" You gotta be kidding, right?  But of course, she wasn't.  She told me she had to go get some lice treatments at the drug store and the chances were good that we all had lice.

I was stunned.  But, moreover, my head immediately started itching.  Then I remembered my son had been sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night!

That's a lot of hair... 
I didn't know the first thing about lice but, let's face it, the word has negative connotations.  I would expect them to be more prevalent in the backwoods of the Robertson land in Louisiana on Duck Dynasty than in the classrooms of a Catholic school in Coral Gables.  I mean, not to throw stones but have you seen Si and Phil Robertson?  I love the show but you gotta admit, their scruffy beards and unkempt hair would be a louse's paradise.

I couldn't help but think about the time I was in high school, and my dog Candy (a medium size poodle that slept under my bed) was hit by a car during flea season and the vet put her leg in a sling and we couldn't take her to the groomers for several weeks.  Well, it wasn't long before she got fleas and our entire townhouse in Hialeah, which was wall-to-wall carpet inside, got infested!  It took us about a month to finally get rid of the irritating insects, which left more red welts on my body than an allergic man with food poisoning during a dust storm in Death Valley on a blistering day.

For some reason, I have always had a propensity to attract critters.  In fact, I remember one time several years ago, when our oldest daughter was still a toddler that I met my wife after work at a property she was showing with an empty field next door.  While my wife showed the house to the potential buyers, I tried to keep my daughter entertained and we walked around the neighborhood for a while and ended up in the vacant lot.

Out of nowhere, I started feeling this tingling sensation up my leg (unlike Chris Matthews during an Obama speech) near my ankle, which freaked the heck out of me.  I started slapping my pant leg and stumping my foot on the ground hoping to jar whatever had gone inside my pants lose.  After frantically beating the tar out of my leg, while my daughter played, in hopes of killing whatever was moving in my pants, I didn't feel it anymore.

My wife finished the showing and we agreed to go to a nearby pizza joint and got into our respective cars and drove away. As we approached the restaurant, the tingling sensation was back.  Now, it really startled me and I started slapping my leg like Kurt Russel (Wyatt Earp) bitch slapping Billy Bob Thornton in the saloon scene in Tombstone, while still trying to keep my other hand on the steering wheel.  Between slaps and pounding my foot on the floor, my leg started feeling numb.

It wasn't ants in my pants!...
I walked out of my car and again felt the tingling sensation.  Whatever was in there was not dead. In fact, by now, it was crawling up my leg into my inner thigh.  I walked as fast as I could into the restaurant, and as my wife and daughter sat down, I ran into the bathroom and tore my pants off.  A lizard landed on the floor, making me jump like a school girl in my underwear!  Fortunately, no one came into the bathroom at that moment.  It would have been a tough one to explain!

In any case, my wife and the kids went to a lice clinic (I didn't know they existed) in Kendall and had all the parasites removed.  It seems they are quite common in our area and, every year, my wife says there are usually a couple of kids that get them at our kids' school.  Just not our kids (until now!).

So, it was a long week of washing and drying bed sheets, pillow cases and blankets for my wife, and me being forced to wait for her to finish so we could make our bed to go to sleep late every night!  We had to put every single cloth decorative pillow, stuffed animal and such into garbage bags for two weeks, where the doctors say they die without human blood to feed on (there are piles of black garbage bags throughout our living room, bedroom and the kids' closet!). We've had to make sure no one is sharing hair brushes, wash our hair with a preventative shampoo and thoroughly clean our area rugs (I finally got the Dyson I've been wanting to get!). Nobody has been allowed to sleep on the same bed, although our son continues to sneak unto our bed in the middle of the night!  In other words, the disruption has been felt by everyone in the family.

On a positive note, unlike fleas, lice don't jump or fly, they basically spread through close contact, like sleeping in the same bed, using the same hair brush, lying on the same pillow, blanket or stuffed animal, clothing, etc. It seems my younger daughter may have been the carrier since she had the most and it was possibly from when she attended a dance competition and shared brushes with some of the other girls.

After my kids fought to treat and inspect my hair when I got home that first night, no louse was found.  Upon another inspection and treatment several days later, still no lice.  It may be because my hair is short and I wear hair gel every day, which the doctor said keeps the lice from being able to latch on.

So, while, unlike Steinback's novel, the only tragedy was to the lice and no one had to die for love, or because of it, the best laid plans of mice and men went out the door the day the lice came in and we have yet to get our lives back in sync ever since...


Robert Molleda said...

Wow...something else to worry about if you have kids! ;)

BTW, love the Duck Dynasty plug in the middle!

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thanks, Robert.
Yes, it's a never-ending adventure with kids...

Dominic de Souza said...

Now that's an impressive lizard. What a beating! :)

Carlos Espinosa said...

Dominic, I think I beat the heck out of myself more than the lizard! Thanks for the cccomment...