My whole family and I are sufferers of migraines. So when I arrived at my family’s humble Barboursvillian abode with a mind-crushing headache they instantly rallied around me offering neck rubs and support. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, I can fight the pain, pretend it’s not really a migraine and go about my day like a semi-normal person. Then there are the times that the pain will win at all costs, no matter to my vision or ability to operate heavy machinery. On these occasions I crawl into my darkened bedroom, pull the heavy blankets over my pounding temples and wish the agony to end.
I was almost to the bed-crawling stage when I slowly meandered up the back porch steps of the wonderland that is my parent’s backyard. There, surrounded by beheaded fountain sculptures, giant metal ants and disgruntled and overfed squirrels, I collapsed into a green rocking chair.
“Here, baby, let me rub your neck,” my mother cooed as she approached me. I instantly tensed because as bad as my migraine is, I know that my mother’s talons were going to be worse. I’m in no state to defer so I scoot to the end of my chair and wait for her to rip my shirt and back tendons to shreds. It’s not her fault. She grew up in the country where “massage” meant “beating the crap outta each other” so I knew my neck rub was going to get lost in translation. As her fingernails speared the base of my neck and instantly transformed my ears into finger shish kabobs, all I could think of was the pain that had settled into the hole behind my right eye socket. I had begrudgingly named these headaches, the ones that hung around for days and made me clumsy and more than a little stupid, “Icepick Headaches” after one of the Die Hard movies in which Bruce Willis uses an icicle to disarm (dis-eye?) a man who had wronged him. Or tried to kill him. Or steal his parking space. Honestly, I’m not sure. I paid very little attention to the plot after the whole-icicle-through-eye thing.
Next, my sister, the possessor of skinny fingers that are pale and needle-like, takes over the therapeutic and migraine-reducing job of rubbing my back and neck. Keeling over dead on to the granite kitchen table nook, she giggles over my lifeless body and asks in her monosyllabic speak: “Oops! Wasthattoohard?” Her rapid non-pausing language and fingers wriggling somewhere in my chest cavity makes my eyes cross in horror.
“Maybe a bit,” I say as I upright myself and try to slow my rapidly beating heart. After a slight adjustment my sister is slowly kneading away the pain. But, like many suffering from ADD, she is quickly distracted by her child, or dinner, or bellybutton. One can never be sure.
“Move over,” my dad’s voice boomed through the kitchen. My eyes widen as he snaps on a pair of white rubber gloves. I fear the worst.
“What’re you-?” I start and then am filled with dread which mixed with the pain from the horrible migraine feels a bit like a cold egg being dropped on one’s unsuspecting head.
“I’m going to put some Ben Gay on your neck. It’ll make it feel better.”
It’s not in me to fight. “Okay,” I agree. At first, the warmth is soothing. I feel my skin heating up and my muscles start to unknot. The gyrating pain in my brain is momentarily silenced.
“ARGH!” I scream. Dad, my father figure and caretaker of my well-being smiles at me from the sink. “ARGH! WHAT THE -?! I’M ON FIRE!” My sister laughs heartily and I can hear mom cackling from the couch in the other room as her youngest is engulfed in Ben Gay flames. All involved apparently find the chubby pained girl hilarious when her head is on fire. “What is in this stuff?! And – I SMELL LIKE VOMIT! I SMELL LIKE WINTERGREEN!” My elder sibling folds an arm over the front of her brown wrap dress and doubles over laughing as I continue to scream about the fact that I now smell like the sawdust that they used at Barboursville Elementary to clean up regurgitation spills in the hallways.
“Why did you do that to me?” I yelled at my daddy dearest. “Why in the world did you think that would help?”
“How’s your head?” he asked. I stopped my tirade about burning flesh and vomit long enough to think.
“Better,” I said sheepishly. I guess it just goes to prove that sometimes, on rare occasions and when watching Final Jeopardy, that fathers occasionally do know best. Or else they just like to torture their daughters with foul-smelling cream that lasts through two showers. Either way, my head feels much better and I will go on to live through another (albeit slightly minty-smelling) day.