Recently, I traveled to Jamaica. One of the souvenirs I brought home was a domino set. The locals had taught me their version of the game, and I wanted to be prepared if I get to go back, so my wife and I bought an inexpensive set.
The other souvenir was free. And itchy. It was a chest rash of some sort. You know how in the Harry Potter movies they shoot spells at one another? I imagine those spells land with a fiery, burning sensation. And that was how my chest felt. You could roast s’mores over that sucker. I itched my way through each day, thankful to get home, lose my shirt, and itch some more. At night, I’d toss and turn, digging my nails into my inflamed chest and wondering if this was the end for me.
Scabies was my wife’s first diagnosis. She had worked for a dermatologist for awhile and took one look before declaring, “Looks like Scabies to me.” I was pretty excited about this because it sounds like the skin irritation most likely to be had by pirates. At least it sounds cool and severe, I thought proudly. Then I Google-image searched “Scabies” and saw things I can never unsee. And rashes on those things. No matter your circumstances, friends, don’t ever, under severest duress, Google-image search “Scabies.” Just don’t, okay?
Scabies requires the assistance of a doctor, but I didn’t have time to go to a physician, so logically I concluded it wasn’t Scabies. Also, Scabies is seldom a chest wound–as Google grossly testified–so I decided to move on to the next malady. I visited my hometown too, so my sister and mother got in on the doctoring.
Sea Lice was their unprofessional opinion. So they looked up some home remedies that had me on the floor with first vinegar and then boiling oatmeal lathered about my chest. I kicked and writhed, and yes, I itched all the same. If it was a colony of saltwater lice, they were persistent little monsters–and now well-fed to boot. They laughed and took pictures ecstatically of me in my oatmealed condition.
The next day I preached at a church, leprous state and all. Lunch afterwards with my father and his girlfriend brought on a new idea. “Eet ees bed bugs,” my dad’s Latin American lover confirmed authoritatively. I was fairly sure it wasn’t, but we talked it over for the better part of 45 minutes. What she lacked in knowledge, she made up for in passion (and margarita consumption)–I’ll grant her that. And, again, it gave us all something to talk about, to laugh at, and, weirdly, to rally around.
Then it was back home to Columbia, shirt off, ointment on, and wife suggesting this and that home remedy. I told her of my weekend exploits and she rolled her eyes with a smile, and teased me for the dramatic absurdity of my family. We had a laugh and even thought about hugging, but decided it best to keep our distance–a household divided beats a unified itchy one any old day.
The next day, the rash had all but vanished.
It was nice to finally sleep, and to reflect properly on the trip and all it brought. I even found time to sit on the deck and play a round of dominoes with family. We scramble up the dominoes before each hand, and then pluck up seven apiece. We don’t always know what the upcoming round will bring, but we know, like life and everything else, there will be good pieces and bad ones; good things and bad things. With a bit of perspective and some ointment, one comes to realize what a blessing both are. Through both we come to know the people around us, and the God who made us a bit more. And, of course, we see things we can never unsee, and live some precious moments we wouldn’t fathom unliving.