Every fall, I can predict when winter is nigh because my thumb splits.
I know what you’re thinking: “Nigh? Who says ‘nigh’?” You’re also probably thinking, “Gross…” but also, “How can a split thumb predict the onset of winter?”
It’s actually not so unusual. Think of all those clichés of oldtimers sitting around on their porches, muttering, “It’s gonna rain; my corns are achin’.” Such clichés must have a kernel of truth to them — a corn kernel, if you will — although, come to think of it, I can’t remember ever hearing anyone actually say that. Some cliché!
For that matter, do people still get corns? Hasn’t modern medicine eradicated this malady? Has science creamed corns? What about ring around the collar? This likewise seems to be a bygone affliction, back when the greatest social embarrassment you could suffer was having a stranger approach you and say, “You’ve got ring around the collar.” Not like today, when strangers come up to you and say, “You’ve got Type 2 diabetes,” and then they legislate away your trans fats. So you Taser them.
But back to my thumb.
Every winter, as the cold, dry air settles in, a small crack appears on my right thumb starting at the thumbnail and heading north about a quarter inch. It will remain there, an ugly blight, for the duration of the winter, not unlike the all-season tires I left in the driveway instead of putting in the garage where they belong.
No amount of lotion, ointment, emollient, balm, salve, cream, or Poly-Fila will heal this small wound, not until the warm weather returns in spring.
Do I enjoy being a human barometer? Do I get a kick out of being compared to the Old Farmers’ Almanac — lightweight, highly unreliable, mostly yellow, and frequently found in the bathroom? I do not.
I do not like it because it hurts like a son of a digit.
You wouldn’t think that one small chronic cut on the thumb would be so debilitating or, as my wife describes it, “don’t be such a baby.”
But when your hands are already sensitive from the icy cold and you jam said thumb into a door jamb or even a jar of jam or possibly your close friend Jan, that really stings.
Buttons become the enemy.
Shoelaces become torture.
Writing becomes rambling and inconsequential — although that has nothing to do with my bum thumb.
There’s also the very idea of a split thumb. A man’s hands should be tough, gnarled, weathered. They should have callouses, corns even, not some minor blemish that could be managed with routine manicures.
It’s also a reminder of the many ways my body is letting me down as I age. If my thumb can split like that, I’m mildly worried that the increasingly severe lines on my forehead will one day simply crack open.
Ultimately, it’s disappointing that my body’s best party trick is predicting the onset of winter.
If my elbow could predict lottery numbers, though, then we’d be talking!