The Walking Drug Store

Posted: December 29, 2010 by writingsprint in Memories
Tags: , , , ,

This is from an exercise called, “I don’t remember.” The idea behind this one is to focus on a non-memory, something that was absent, or was the opposite of what you thought it would be. I brainstormed a few and used this one.

I don’t remember being healthy much when I was growing up. My brother used to call me “the walking drug store,” because of all the cold medicines I would take, one after the other, day and night, trying to stay ahead of the symptoms I was buried under. Nasal snot. Lungs filled up. Headaches. Coughing. Itching. Wheezing. Chills. My winter wardrobe included half a pound of Vicks vapo-rub under my shirts.

Most of my memories of winter, other than snow and ice, were filled with coughing fits, phlegm, those awful-sounding coughs that sound like it’s coming out of a rusty pipe. Is it discolored? More like, what color is it this week? White or clear means allergy. Green means infection. Really green or brown means get stronger antibiotics. Red means go see the doctor, like, now.

You learn to love your cold medicine when you’re a sick kid. You start with the childrens’ stuff, then move on to heavier medicines as you get older. One thing you learn is that worse the medicine tastes, the more powerful it probably is, so the better it probably is for you. I toughened up on Vicks Formula 44. Some kids learn to be tough playing football; I learned to be tough taking cough medicine. It felt like liquid fire going down my throat, but I was a tough enough little kid and I was going to take whatever I had to.

We didn’t know that it was allergies at the time. The fact that it was seasonal probably should’ve been a clue. Those were the days that I lost my fear of needles. To get tested for allergies, they lay you on your back and map out a grid in ballpoint pen. Then they stick you with needles coated with allergy agents in solution. Whatever turns red or bumps up, that’s what you’re allergic to. That was bad enough. Next, my psychotic German allergist — is it safe? — decides he’s going to treat me by giving me massive doses of allergy shots in quarterly intervals. Imagine you’re 11 years old and your dad is holding down your arm while you get a dozen needles, one after the other. Three months later, you do it over again. And again. After that some genius got the idea that we could do three shots weekly instead. That person is still on my Christmas card list.

The one payoff was that I was so doped up on medications that when the chicken pox ran through my school, I was infected, but only barely. I probably had five spots over my whole body, and barely any headaches or sore throat. Count your blessings where you get them. Years from now I’ll be the one who mysteriously survives an alien virus… and no one will ever know it’s because I took Dimetapp like it was pancake syrup.


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