All I know is that this week I was feeling poorly and the doctor had not listened to what I was saying about experiencing the same symptoms as two women from work and they had near-miraculous outcomes with something called a Z-pack. Well, Mr. Dr. tut-tutted my comment in that way that makes you want to kick that little stool out from under them while they’re typing and stated that I did not need a Z-pack; therefore I did not get a prescription for said item. He gave me cough syrup and 800 mg Ibuprofen and told me to get some rest. Well, I left him with the most sarcastic cough I could muster and fled to the pharmacy in the sketchy part of town because that was the only Walgreen’s I could find in Long Beach. Fortunately, horking up a lung whilst traversing the parking lot in the hood seems to get you a free pass. I guess drug dealing gang members need to be in good health to cause mayhem. Or maybe they liked my teal chinos and my new pebbled leather and suede wingtips. Being in poor health is no excuse for poor attire. And, yes, I’m talking to you, every person in line, both in front of and behind me.
Once I got home, I took my pills and took my place on the bed awaiting blissful slumber that did not come. Apparently I inherited my father’s constitution and needed something along the lines of a rhinoceros tranquilizer to get me to sleep. As I lay, cursing softly under my breath, I remembered my father’s remedy for a sore throat; a ham sandwich. I feel pretty sure you're now wanting some back story.
When I was in fifth grade, we lived in Burns Flat, Oklahoma. Our next door neighbors were a family of one mother (Totie) and five sons (Rickey, Dickey, Mickey, Cabbie and Chad). I am not making this up. I only mention them as my father did not particularly like Ms. Totie, but my mother considered her a friend.
I came home one day with chicken pox because Stephanie Comes (yes, I remember her name) came to school with visible pox and infected most of my grade. But my mother was capable of handling any and all situations so my being out of school for a few weeks wasn’t that big of a deal, right? I was home for a day or so when something happened. Not unlike those who live below stairs on Downton Abbey, my siblings and I were not privy to much direct information. What we knew we had to piece together by listening in on snatches of conversations in darkened hallways. There were unfamiliar words being bandied about; like ‘hysterectomy’ and ‘emergency’ and ‘bed rest’.
Having no familiarity with any anatomy other than our own and with no inclination to discuss such matters (we are Southern Baptist, people) my siblings and I didn’t understand anything other than my mother was to be in bed for six weeks and we were to be cared for by The Dad; the three children (all of which now had chicken pox), a parakeet and a poodle. We shared the same look Carson gets when unexpected dinner guests arrive.
The Dad was “running a crew” of welders building and setting up oil rigs and he typically worked 18-hour shifts. He was home for only a few minutes when I told him that my throat hurt. He told me to fix a ham sandwich. I did and I ate it and, by golly, if I didn’t feel better. So much so, that I ate another one, just to be on the safe side. My sister (seventh grader and ardent admirer of Scott Baio) asked him what we were to do and he told her that she would have to cook and we would have to help clean. My sister, always the bravest one, stated matter-of-factly, “I don’t know how to cook.” The Dad replied, shocked, “What? Aren’t you 13? You’re practically grown! You’ve watched your Mama cook! Figure it out!” I stood there thinking I’ve watched the Duke boys get away from Roscoe, too, but I don’t think I could make a car fly. My sister suggested Ms. Totie could help, after all she had offered earlier that very day. The Dad said under no circumstances would we take her charity.; we were too proud. I assume he was using the royal we because I simply did not agree with that statement at its very essence. The best kind of food is that cooked by others.
When he left, my sister looked at me and we both looked at my brother who looked at the parakeet and I said, “What would the kids on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ do?” So we went outside and rolled down the hill. Surprisingly, that didn’t solve anything. I offered to make everyone a ham sandwich, but my suggestion was rebuffed. I ate one anyway. No wonder I was chubby.
Ms. Totie, God bless her, came over to check on us and Mother. She asked if there was anything she could do and my sister burst into tears and said The Dad had said she had to cook supper and she didn’t know how and we couldn’t go tell mother because she was “laid up”. Ms. Totie hugged us all and said, yes, she would make something in the crock pot and just bring it over and The Dad would never know. That sounded more than reasonable to us; we had been hiding stuff from him for many moons, y’all.
When The Dad came home around dark thirty, we set the table and presented him with roast, potatoes, carrots, green beans and rolls. He looked at the food and then at us and, like a proper British gentleman, ate every bite and never questioned the manner by which the food came to be. We kept up this charade for six weeks.
And I only tell this story to complain that among my new neighbors, I do not have a Ms. Totie, willing to secretly bring me delicious dinners. I do have Glenn, the surprisingly well-spoken Harley aficionado next door and Justin, boyfriend of a bellicose young woman, below me. I haven’t actually met Justin; I’ve just heard his named screamed by said woman while I was trying to sleep away my illness. Glenn referred to her as “Shut Up or I’m Calling the Cops” but that’s probably just a nickname.
And that’s all I’m saying for now.