My Life

I Thought I Was Dying

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I’ll never forget being 9 years old and thinking I was going to die.

One summer morning, my mom and I drove to Meijer and went straight to the pharmacy. My mom handed the pharmacist something in a ziploc baggie.

I had no idea what it was, but they were both looking at me and whispering.

And then my mom started crying. She came over and hugged me and cried some more.

On the way to the car, she stopped at the payphone to make a phone call. I had no idea what she was saying, but she started crying even harder.

And then we went to my dad’s job site. My mom told me to stay in the car, and I watched her trudge through the dirt of the construction site and call my dad down from the ladder. She talked to him for a minute, and then she broke down in sobs.

My dad hugged her for a long time – and I sat in the car knowing that something was very, very wrong. And I knew it probably meant that I was going to die.

Turns out, I had lice.

That was my first time getting lice. And it was also the first time I realized what it meant to have a Greek mother (but that’s a post for another day).

The next time I got lice was just a year later, in 4th grade. My diagnosis prompted a school-wide lice search. And in an attempt to keep the secret that I was the reason for the lice check, they went ahead and checked me too.

And then I got it again in 5th grade. That time, I took the entire cast of the 5th-grade school play down with me. It wasn’t pretty.

And with three kids, I’m sure my future holds countless lice scares and probably a few lice realities.

A Letter to My Children

Dear Miles, Alice and Simon,

If you ever have head lice, I promise not to cry and carry on in front of you. I will hold back my Greek-ness and not let you think that you are dying for even a second. I will give you the lice treatment, bomb the house and do everything I can to calm your fears.

But – I’ll be honest – I’m also going to write all about it on my blog, post pictures of you with your lice treatment in your hair – and most likely post it on my Facebook page. Sorry in advance!

S’agapo! (Greek for I Love You)
Mom

Image credit.

19 Comments

  1. Abby

    April 10, 2012 at 7:28 am

    So YOU were the kid who had lice in elementary school?!? Kidding, but that was always a thing in my classes. At least one kid had them and then moms freaked out and resisted the urge to send us to school wrapped in bubble wrap.

    I’m glad you survived such a traumatic event–and that you mentioned Meijer, as I’m in Michigan and at the dang store at least four times a week.

  2. mark

    April 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Every elementary student suffered having a lice.I’m glad you survived having a lice.Hope you don’t have it now.

  3. Mandy

    April 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Girl, I’m there for you. Except it wasn’t lice for me … it was chicken pox. I was 9 years old, and was feeling bad one night. While lying in bed, Mom lifted my shirt, looked at my stomach, and then, with wide eyes and an “Oh my gosh!”, put my shirt down and took off to tell my dad. I just knew I had cancer or there was a gigantic hole in my belly or something dreadful. I was scared to move in case my guts fell out. When she told me I had chicken pox, I just laughed in relief. Chicken pox, I can handle … gaping wound in abdomen, not so much.

  4. Kim

    April 10, 2012 at 10:13 am

    We lived on a farm, it was ticks for me…I got like 3 of them….then they came out with lyme disease. Good Times. ( I don’t have lyme disease)…

  5. Kai

    April 10, 2012 at 10:25 am

    That’s SO funny! Not the lice. Or the fear you were experiencing. It’s just that the ENTIRE TIME I was in elementary school, every. single. freakin’. time. anyone came down with head lice (even when I was in 5th grade & the kid who HAD it was in kindergarten & I’d never in my life been within a mile of him or her) I would hear the crackle of the PA system, and the secretary saying MY NAME followed by, “Please report to the nurse’s office immediately.” Sigh. Did I EVER have lice? NOPE! (Never STILL in my 61 years!!!!) But I was, after all, a COMANCHE. And weren’t we heathen critters filthy? Didn’t we ALL have lice? LOL! Seriously! In the 50s, my people were considered just SLIGHTLY below roaches & slugs. Dumb nurse. Dumb people. Dumb prejudices. YAY to you for planning to CELEBRATE (and TREAT, of course) your kiddos should they ever get them. Remind me – if they do – to honor them with a Comanche name! Si-be-pa-pa’pi would be good. It means SHAVED HEAD. (That’s what they USED to do to kids with lice. Charming.) I also have a nice Comanche name for my old school nurse: O’-BE-MAH’-E-VAH. THAT means ‘get the f*** out of my face’! I just LOVE my language. BWAHAHAHA …!

  6. Carol

    April 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Your article in your blog is so funny. this is so refreshing and lighten up my day!

  7. Jenniffer

    April 10, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I just heard a story about lice on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ yesterday that you might find interesting. The scientist would place male lice on his children to test treatments. His children are in their twenties now and love to tell that story to freak out their friends! Here’s the link:
    http://www.npr.org/2012/04/09/150299564/the-key-to-keeping-lice-at-bay-a-lot-of-hot-air

  8. danee

    April 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    My SIL was as hysterical as your mom when her kids got lice. They live in NYC which means two things…1: they are lucky it wasn’t bed bugs cause I hear they are impossible to get rid of and 2: their apartment was so freakin’ small it couldn’t have been that hard to get rid of them. My boarding-on-hoarding house would not be so much fun. My mom was my school nurse so I was always afraid I would get lice but luckily I didn’t. When I was working (I’m a pediatric nurse) in Texas on a post-surgical unit I had a sweet little 10 year old ask me “What would you do if a patient had head lice”….hmmm that can’t be a random “what if” question…. I sweetly asked “do you” OMG she did. They were crawling everywhere. She had a NYC population on her head in lice. I scratched my head all day and since I was going to meet my boyfriend for the weekend and he was an Air Force pilot in training (now my hubby) I didn’t want to take the chance of infecting him during training so I washed sweet patient’s hair in 3/4 of the bottle of lice-deforestation shampoo and kept the rest for my own prophylactic wash. Though it makes a funny story it was really sad- I asked her if her parents knew and basically they knew but it was so chronic they weren’t doing anything about it anymore. This kid was literally COVERED so it must have been unbelievably itchy as well as the worry she must feel of being discovered at school.

    Another great lice story- I was working at a cancer camp from your neck of the woods. “Special Days” ran (runs?) 3 weeks in the summer at Storer YMCA in Brooklyn MI. We had a big breakout amongst my cabin but not wanting to embarrass the kids my fellow counselor (also a nurse) and I told the kids it was time to shower…no mention of lice. One innocent kid says “I don’t have any shampoo” Funny… but I do! I will let you use “mine”! Another crisis averted and fellow counselor and I laughed and laughed and laughed. And washed our hair as well.

  9. danee

    April 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    My SIL was as hysterical as your mom when her kids got lice. They live in NYC which means two things…1: they are lucky it wasn’t bed bugs cause I hear they are impossible to get rid of and 2: their apartment was so freakin’ small it couldn’t have been that hard to get rid of them. My boarding-on-hoarding house would not be so much fun. My mom was my school nurse so I was always afraid I would get lice but luckily I didn’t. When I was working (I’m a pediatric nurse) in Texas on a post-surgical unit I had a sweet little 10 year old ask me “What would you do if a patient had head lice”….hmmm that can’t be a random “what if” question…. I sweetly asked “do you” OMG she did. They were crawling everywhere. She had a NYC population on her head in lice. I scratched my head all day and since I was going to meet my boyfriend for the weekend and he was an Air Force pilot in training (now my hubby) I didn’t want to take the chance of infecting him during training so I washed sweet patient’s hair in 3/4 of the bottle of lice-deforestation shampoo and kept the rest for my own prophylactic wash. Though it makes a funny story it was really sad- I asked her if her parents knew and basically they knew but it was so chronic they weren’t doing anything about it anymore. This kid was literally COVERED so it must have been unbelievably itchy as well as the worry she must feel of being discovered at school.

    Another great lice story- I was working at a cancer camp from your neck of the woods. “Special Days” ran (runs?) 3 weeks in the summer at Storer YMCA in Brooklyn MI. We had a big breakout amongst my cabin but not wanting to embarrass the kids my fellow counselor (also a nurse) and I told the kids it was time to shower…no mention of lice. One innocent kid says “I don’t have any shampoo” Funny… but I do! I will let you use “mine”! Another crisis averted and fellow counselor and I laughed and laughed and laughed. And washed our hair as well.

  10. Beth @ QueenBee

    April 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    LOTS AND LOTS of hairspray keep the lice away….at least that’s what they told me when I was teaching in the inner city. I can picture you with a big ‘ole bouffant!!! Do it! Do it!!

  11. [email protected]

    April 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Holy cow! That is a lot of lice. Your mom is too funny. Hope the karma doesn’t hit you too badly!

  12. imklvr

    April 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    I’m so glad you are going to make a celebration out of it if your kids get lice! Cracks me up! My family has had our share…actually, not me or my girls, but my granddaughters! We all have VERY long hair, and when the girls would go to church camp they would always come home with them. And what Beth said seems to work. My daughter would treat them, then put their hair in an up-do with lots of hairspray. But what a gigantic pain it always was, combing all that hair.

    The saddest story I have of head lice is a little girl in my class when I worked with Special Ed in CA. I was combing her hair for picture day and a huge bug jumped out….I think it was a cockroach. I told the nurse who came and checked her and sent her home. Her mom shaved her head and she wore a stocking cap for the rest of the year….from cold weather to hot. My heart broke for her. Would have liked to kick her mom right in the patootie.

  13. Alexarrie

    April 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you for making up my day now… I really enjoyed reading your post and I was a bit scared when I first read your post…

  14. Lacey

    April 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    When I was in elementary school I got head lice 2 or 3 times within the same year. I stayed with a friend after school until my mom got off work and she always had it. My mom was understanding the 1st and 2nd time but the 3rd time she made me cut all of my hair off. I had really long, really thick hair. She cut it just like a boy’s haircut. I was mortified. She thought that I wasn’t washing my hair and taking care of it properly so that was her punishment.

    Just talking about lice makes my head itch, but hey, it happens!

  15. Jackie

    April 11, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Oh my, I remember head lice…my mom had an in home day care. Well, one time when the kids brought it with them, (I was in 7th grade) my mom didn’t have the money for the lice shampoo so she used kerosene. Wash after wash that smell wouldn’t come out. When I went to school the next day, I still smelled so horrible. I had to go home sick from the smell. I was so embarassed. Like the kids didn’t have enough to make fun of me for. I still cringe.

  16. Violet

    April 12, 2012 at 4:32 am

    I love your mom.

    My mom washed my hair with kerosene too. It stunk, I got a little in my eye, but hey those lice were GONE.

  17. Brooke

    April 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Lol Anna if you want to see what it looks like go read my post on lice ..yikes we had 3 runs just this year

  18. Dana S.

    April 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Funny I should find your blog today because I found lice in my DDs hair last night!!! It’s 9:00 on a Sunday night and we live out in the middle of nowhere. Funny thing is, I’d been to Walmart JUST THAT AFTERNOON and bought a bottle of lice treatment because I’d heard they were really going around the school. OUr girls are homeschooled so it must have been God’s prompting that made me buy it. So, we’ve done one treatment on her long, long hair. Combed out lots of dead one–not one live one to be seen. Hope they’re gone for good!!!

  19. Dana S.

    April 17, 2012 at 1:08 am

    Ok, so here’s my follow-up to finding lice in my DD LONG hair last night: I found a live one in my hair this evening! So, of course, we started the whole treatment thing, much to the delight/horror of both DDs! Then, we combed out NOTHING! Nada. Zilch. Zero. I’m glad of course, but I went through all of that for…..nothing! Maybe it’s so I’ll be understanding of what everyone else is suffering through around here! 🙂

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