split finger(s)

If only I was talking about baseball.  True fans know about a tricky pitch known as the split finger.  It’s a fastball pitch where the pitcher splits his fore-finger and index finger on either side of the baseball laces, sending the ball in a diving motion as it nears the batter.

In my early days as a cub, I was an enthusiastic little-league baseball player.  I was a lousy batter, but was the team’s starting pitcher for most games.  Not to brag, but when I didn’t pitch (rules required pitching time off), we lost.  The team relied on my being there to pitch important games, especially tournaments.  Maybe it was because I threw left-handed.  Lefties naturally throw confusion to the opponent, even without the split finger.  I never tried throwing anyone a curve, and at that age the split finger was beyond me.

Back then my fingers didn’t split, at least not that way.  As an adult, the split finger has a different meaning, a split in the finger.  As I type this, half of them are split, right at the tips.  And the splits don’t care whether I’m a southpaw or not.  They come every winter, designed to disrupt.  They leave me wincing over mundane tasks like putting on socks, buttoning a shirt, or lightly punching keys on a keyboard.

They say that most fingers split because there is not enough moisture in the finger tips.  As with many, my finger(s) split in the winter only.  More specifically, during freezing-cold winters.

My fingers didn’t always split in adulthood.  The last time I had split finger was as a young man in my 20’s living in Pennsylvania.  At 29, I moved to San Francisco and the split finger stayed behind.  Occasional short visits to sub-freezing winters never gave the split finger time to catch their grip.  Decades of living in climates where winter weather hovers somewhere (way) above freezing, split fingers were nonexistent.  Off my radar, I didn’t realize that the split finger was patiently waiting for my return to the Northeast of the US.

There are lots of remedies floating around to cure the split finger, most using some kind of cream.  Some (doctors) even say super glue helps.  I read about one who professed oil mixed with yogurt did the trick.  I’ve tried more mundane remedies like an in-room humidifier, Vaseline with cotton gloves at night, staying hydrated, yada yada, but what I end up with are bandaids and tape capping several fingers for days at a time, making small chores slightly more cumbersome, but less painful.  The bigger downside to the bandaid and taped fingers is the periodic question, “what’s wrong with your fingers?”  Split finger, I say.

Thing is, I don’t see may others with band-aided and taped fingers.  Why would dryness cause split fingers in only a small percent of people?  Doesn’t the skin have enough protective properties in its ectodermal tissue to prevent splitting?  If the skin is lacking key ingredients, it’s open to bacteria and fungus, which live all throughout our bodies.  Bottom line, split fingers is a result of a deficiency, whether it’s circulatory, vitamin, or moisture.

When I travel out of the sub-freezing winter to a warmer climate even for short trips, the split fingers disappear within two days.  It’s like nature’s subtle way of saying “why the hell are you living where it’s so damn cold?”  Maybe I should heed nature’s not-so-muted message.

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