My mother prescribed aspirin for whatever ailed her children.

My mother prescribed aspirin for whatever ailed her children

The pills, capsules, powders, liquids, injections, infusions and scans I was administered at the hospital recently were nothing compared with the doctoring I got as a child from my mother.

She was Little Pharma compared to the wares of today’s educated healers, but she had her own ways of keeping us kids alive in the hills back home…. How can I be sure? Under her care, I never saw the inside of a hospital, but as an adult I know practically all the medical folks by name in this hospital town.

We grew up in the country, so far out that it was barely our country any longer. “The doctor” was a man we heard about but rarely visited; in the good old days of house calls, he didn’t know our address, either. When a crisis arose, it was Dr. Mama to the rescue.

She treated colds, flu, toothaches, sprained ankles, the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

Although she would have recognized the end of my previous sentence as being stolen from Shakespeare, she didn’t possess a stethoscope or a little black bag to help with her doctoring. All she had was a bottle of Bayers.

These days they say that aspirin is a wonder drug for which new uses are being discovered all the time. When I was a boy, though, my mother didn’t have a library of scientific studies on which to base her medical decisions. And she didn’t let our childish injuries keep us from the important things in life.

“I think I broke my arm, Mama.”

“Well, calm down and take a couple of aspirin. I’ll show you how to hoe the field with one hand.”

Remember, there were no Tylenol and Advil back then, and I took so many aspirins as a boy that they seem to have lost their effectiveness on me now. Having been plied with so many pills for so many years, my body is immune to pain relief in general.

That wasn’t the worse of it. Mama’s medicine cabinet held other miracle cures that were meant to help her children.

Because we ran around barefoot in summer, we stepped on rusted nails. For that, Mama would send us to the nearest store (on foot, of course) to buy kerosene. We would soak our foot in a dishpan of the fuel, keeping us from having to get a tetanus shot.

Indeed, we never got lockjaw, which was the same but sounded worse.

For colds, we rubbed Vick’s VapoRub – commonly called Vick’s salve – on our chests and even ate a spoonful of it. It was greasy and aromatic, as was a liniment called camphorated oil. I’m pretty sure it was the smell, not the ingredients, that gave these home remedies their power.

Another wonder cure was paregoric, perfect for diarrhea. It has since been ruled a controlled substance because it is, well, opium, but that was out of my mother’s medical field. Her specialty was aspirin: Just take two and call if we needed her.

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