Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Balm BenGay and Other memories

When my brother and I were little, if we caught chest colds--which it seems we often did--Mom would rub our chests with Bengay. She had strong, capable hands, and she rubbed until it burned and we squirmed in protest. Then she'd pin an old sock around the neck to hold in the heat.
I wished for Mom last night about three when I woke with a tight feeling in my chest, a scratchy sore throat, and a cough. I'd noticed I coughed a lot yesterday but I thought I could will my way out of a cold with positive thinking. It didn't work. Today I can't tell if I really feel draggy or I just think I feel draggy because I have a cold.
Our father was, like much of our family, an osteopathic physician. If you were sick, in the evening when he came home, you'd hear him coming upstairs and know he was about to treat you. Brother John says he used to hide under the covers and pretend to be asleep. I remember that I squirmed and wiggled until Dad said, "Be still. People pay me five dollars to do this." Bless his heart, in the 1970s, retired in North Carolina and spending his days in his beloved garden, he still treated a few people. He'd shower and put on a fresh white shirt for each patient. John asked one day what he was charging, and he said five dollars. I guess prices hadn't gone up since the 1940s. Today I'd love to have an osteopathic treatment--wish John and his magic hands weren't so far away.
When my children were young and in school, I was pretty strict about "Get up and go about your business. You'll feel better." Once, when Jamie suffered an unexplained but terrifying series of dizzy spells, he told me, "I can't go to school. I'm dizzy." "Nonsense," I said briskly, pulling him to his feet. When I let go he sank into a puddle in front of me. He stayed home that day. I had a friend who used to say my children had to have a 106 degree fever before I let them stay home. Maybe it was because I had so many colds as a child and spent so many days in bed--I didn't want that for them.
I'm still wary of malingering myself, a sort of constant questioning of how I feel. I've decided to give this cold one day and that's all. Not a day in bed, but one with a good nap. I've cancelled lunch plans mostly because I don't want to infect the friend I was to lunch with; not sure yet about dinner. But tomorrow it's back to normal. My spring break is flitting away and all my plans are going awry.

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