On July 7, 2016

Aging in Place; Old time medicine


By Scott Funk

It would be more accurate to call it “ old time no medicine ,” for in the world Boomers grew up in, there was precious little medicine in the medicine cabinet. In the medicine chest at our house, there was a battered box of Band-Aids, a bottle of mercurochrome, and a bottle of Bayer aspirin. There were other things, like my dad’s Noxzema and his Gillette safety razor. And in the kitchen, in the refrigerator, was the vilest of all remedies: cod liver oil.

As to the Band-Aids, the box was worn, battered, and old. One rarely ever received a Band-Aid because it came with the stinging application of mercurochrome. Anticipating the pain of that topical disinfectant was sufficient to prevent running home with a scrape or cut. Better to treat it with spit or by rubbing with any number of weeds or plants, rather than to head into the house, crying, “I’m bleeding!”

Headaches? Why should a child have a headache? Ridiculous! In my memory, none of the aspirin was ever dispensed to any of the children. In fact, I’m not aware of a new bottle of anything medicinal ever coming into the house. So severe was my mother’s application and so painful or upsetting the results, no treatment was worth the cure.

Which brings us to cod liver oil. It was kept in the far back of the fridge, where it could not contaminate edibles or be mistaken for anything else. The label was stained and the bottle was dark brown glass, like a patent medicine from the 19th century, sold as a miracle cure. No doubt that was how it made its way into our family in the first place: a cure-all for whatever ails you. If it didn’t right the problem, it certainly silenced the complaint.

If there is a more repugnant taste, I have not encountered it. The gag reflex from cod liver oil is instantaneous, but don’t dare succumb or you risk a double dose, administered with a pinching of the nose to help make it tolerable and a shoving of the whole spoon back to pour directly down the throat. A perfect pitch missed the taste buds entirely.

But not for long—there is no burp like the burp of cod liver oil! It comes up from the depths, carrying the breath of Jabba the Hut. You rumble, you bubble, you quake, and then you evacuate. It was alarmingly efficient, although dangerously unpredictable.

Now my medicine cabinet is filled with homeopathic salves, several types and styles of bandages (of various brands), aspirin, acetaminophen, assorted other pain-relievers and aids, shaving gear, creams and cleansers. Actually, they don’t all fit in the bathroom cabinet. There is also a shelf in the linen closet, and another in the kitchen for the vitamins.

No cod liver oil, no mercurochrome. These miracle drugs did their work; I survived them and now I survive without them.

Aging in place, it doesn’t happen by accident, but you do have to take your medicine.

Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

New plants available at Spring Plant Sale at Woodstock Union HS/MS Greenhouse

May 1, 2024
May 1-31—WOODSTOCK—The spring plant sale at the Woodstock Union HS/MS, 100 Amsden Way, Woodstock Greenhouse, will be open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on school days, with extended hours until 6 p.m. on Monday, May 6. Changes this year include sourcing all plants from a neonicotinoid-free nursery and featuring many native plants available this spring,…

Study: Vermont’s cigarette use has declined

April 10, 2024
Rates of vaping and use of flavored products by increased  Newly released data from the Dept. of Health on March 26 show that cigarette use among adult Vermonters is decreasing, but the number of adults who use e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, continues to rise. The 2022 Adult Tobacco Survey found that nearly one-quarter of…

Billings Farm & Museum Hosts 2024 Barn Quilt Exhibition: A Celebration of Rural Artistry

April 3, 2024
WOODSTOCK—Billings Farm & Museum is bringing the rural artistry of barn quilts to our scenic site for the 2024 Barn Quilt Exhibition from April 4 – December 1.  Barn quilting recreates the concept of quilt squares on durable mediums such as plywood. These squares, starting at 4 feet by 4 feet and up, feature striking…

The eclipses through Indigenous lenses

April 3, 2024
Sunday, April 7, at 2 p.m.—BRANDON— Peggie “White Buffalo Moon” Rozell will speak about how Indigenous people have thought about eclipses at The Brandon Inn, 20 Park St., at 2 p.m. Sunday. Rozell is a member of the Abenaki and Cherokee people but will also talk about how Navajo, Iroquois and Mohawk people have considered…