40 Reflections – #13: 40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season
Last week my son had a chest cough, and then a fever, ultimately diagnosed as the flu. As time was critical, I picked up the phone in search of Tamiflu, the possible remedy to stop the virus from escalating. After calling dozens of pharmacies that had too little of the correct dose, only the adult dose, and definitely not the liquid suspension, I realized a four-leaf clover would be easier to stumble upon. Likewise, Tamiflu was only effective for the first 48 hours of symptom onset, so I abandoned the idea.
From the essential oil enthusiasts, elderberry pearls were touted as an even better option. Contemplating my search for the vintage antidote, I heard 90’s guitar music being strummed by my son whose fever had broke and looked 95% better. Plan B is always “let it run its course”.
All the digging for the Tamiflu took me back to the sick days of my childhood. Back in the 70’s band 80’s when I grew up, very rarely did we miss school. If you were sick, there were two diagnoses: 1) you were throwing up and/or feverish, or 2) you had a cold – likely the result of you “going out with a wet head” which mom said would definitely lead to “catching pneumonia”.
Sickness 1: With the stomach bug and a fever, you were sure to stay home. A trashcan was placed next to your bed, a towel over your pillow (not sure why – but I do it with my kids), and a 911 antique bell sat on your nightstand to knock over as you lunged for the trashcan alerting anyone close by to help. Mom would give you flat Coke, and if that settled, warm Jello would follow with saltines. The scent of chicken and rice would linger in the air, ready to be served to the rest of the crew and you, IF the aforementioned items settled.
Sickness 2: Colds. As in any family, sharing is only easy when it involves germs. In fact, when I was five, one of my sisters who had Chicken Pox had a nightmare, climbed into bed with me, and kindly gave me the itchy sickness as she slept soundly.
When we were kids, at the onset of a tickle in your throat, you were directed to:
- Gargle with saltwater.
- Apply Mentholatum to your chapped nose (Vics Vapo Rub knockoff).
- Take your Penicillin.
Notice how I skipped one compulsory step in our current healthcare system? Yes, the “go to the doctor” part.
From birth to 18, mom took my sisters and me to Dr. Tandysh. A kind man, respected by my mom which was key, and the perfect combination of doctor and father. For colds, Dr. Tandysh would typically send us home with a prescription for penicillin. About 10% of the time, on the way home, we’d swing by Ruppee’s Drug Store, and Victor, the Pharmacist, would fill it while we waited. The other 90% of the time, Mom would say, “We have plenty, no need to get more.”
Plenty of Penicillin?
Who has plenty?
Mom, back in the day.
At home, nestled between the Afrin and Baby Asprin in our lazy susan deemed, “medicine cabinet”, sat a transparent medicine bottle that read: Penicillin. By the word refill, I’m guessing there must have been the tired #8 lying on its side representing infinity because the bottle was optimistically half full. Always.
The Penicillin regimen would begin after a few days of consistent cold symptoms. If it was tough to swallow, Mom would crush the pill between two spoons and add honey (10% less yucky). We were then directed to only take it for a few days, thus supporting the stockpile of little white pills. I never thought there were any oddities about our limitless stream of Penicillin. I figured it was a staple item, like soap, toothpaste, or butter. “Pass the Penicillin” was parallel with passing the milk. And for goodness sake, don’t use the last one, save some for the rest of us.
In the ’90s, once I began paying for my own insurance, picking up prescriptions, and visiting doctors, I quickly learned to have plenty of Penicillin was apparently not typical.
Today, if one of our children is sick, the rigmarole begins by:
- Calling the doctor’s office at 7:28 a.m.,
- Pressing redial until 7:30 when the office opens,
- Once answered, set it on the counter on speaker – and from rote memory.
- Press 1 – then 0 –
- Then hold.
- Attempt to make a sick appointment.
- Abort the idea of seeing a doctor; a nurse practitioner is fine too.
- Go to the office; be reminded of your high deductible, which has not been met.
- Linger outside the “sick” seating area, and avoid touching anything.
- Prepare to hear “Let it run its course” or receive a prescription.
- Leave the doctor’s office.
- Realize you forgot to get a note for school.
- Return to doctor’s office, attain note, and slip out flu-free. You hope.
- Call Mom and have her pass you the Penicillin via mail.
My childhood was a much simpler time. We ate clean, organic meals without having to label them as such. The exercise was simply going outside and playing. Phones were attached to walls. Hose water was quenching and even tastier when made into Tang. Finally, my favorite part of growing up was having family down the street if you needed them, or just some of their Penicillin.