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My Own Medicine

by Stephen Lautens


December 13

, 2002

I'm not sure when it happened, but someone sneaked into my house recently and replaced my bathroom cabinet with the medicine chest of an old person.

Not that long ago I boasted that my medicinal intake rarely rose above six aspirins a year. The only things in my bathroom cabinet were a toothbrush, tweezers and a bottle of very expired cough syrup. I was the picture of health, waking up clear headed even after a night out with the boys, and immune to the colds and flu that friends and relatives did their best to pass on.

I've always been the kind of person who drives the major drug companies nuts. No matter what miracle cure they've invented, I don't have it. I don't even have the diseases the drug companies make up just so they can sell you the cure.

I probably got my distain for medications from my grandfather, whose first aid kit consisted solely of a bottle of Bactine. No matter what injury you came to him with, the solution was always to squirt the affected area with Bactine. Cut? Bactine. Scrape? Bactine. Arm cut off? Bactine (two squirts).

Then again, Grandpa was a hale and hearty guy who wrestled, played football and can be seen in the back of every wedding picture holding one of the guests over his head. When he was having trouble breathing later in life he finally went to a doctor to see why his nose was so clogged. He admitted that he had broken his nose three times playing football. "No - I can tell you've broken it at least five times," the doctor informed him. Grandpa hadn't noticed the other two times. He also had a blue bulge on the back of his hand that he claimed was a nail head that got stuck there by accident in the 1960s and he never bothered to have removed.

But when I cleaned out the bathroom last week to give it a new coat of paint, I needed an extra big box to hold all the jars and bottles I now keep in my cabinet. Sorting through them I realized I'm turning into an old man. Maybe not Howard Hughes "hiding in my room with foot-long fingernails" old - but I'm definitely no spring chicken anymore. These days I'm requiring far more drugs, creams, lotions and pills to keep my body functioning.

First of all there are all the things you take to feel better after a night out - the big jar of antacids and a slightly smaller jar of aspirins. For some reason I have a lot of moisturizers and face creams. I don't use any of them, but people keep giving them to me. Maybe they're trying to send me a message.

When you get older you lose your patience for being sick - you want to be well right away. That's why I apparently now own a half-finished box of every cold remedy under the sun. They cover cough and headache, cough without headache, headache and runny nose, headache and stuffy nose, hacking cough, wheezing cough, cough with fever, and my favourite - knock me out until Spring. Of course none of them work, but it makes you feel better knowing there's a medicine box for every combination of symptoms you can imagine.

The only thing I have in my medicine cabinet that still makes me feel young is zit cream. And it's a cruel trick of fate that I occasionally still need it even though I'm starting to get gray hair.

I would have been nice to have at least a week between adolescence and old age.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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