Saying Goodbye and The Vicks Vapor Rub


A flashback occurred today as I went to say my goodbyes to Uncle Bob.  He will not be here when I get back. Bob suffered from a massive brain event, and when he came out of surgery he told me all about his wonderful sex life with Aunt Joyce.  Apparently the tumor took out some inhibitions.

Watching my Aunt Joyce taking care of him at the nursing home made me remember the time over 20 years ago when I went to have dinner with Granny, Mom and Aunt Joyce on a hot summer night at her house on Glenwood Ave. with the big wrap around porch.  I suddenly broke out into hives.  I guess they were pretty bad hives because Granny made me lie down in her bed and she started rubbing Vicks Vapor Rub all over my chest.

Aunt Joyce looked at me and said “are you pregnant?!”  (I kind of don’t think hives are a symptom of pregnancy, and I also don’t think that Vicks Vapor Rub is a remedy for hives…but what do I know?) These three southern women were running around the house trying to figure this out.  Finally my mother said, “get in the car, we are going to the emergency room.”   They are all take charge kind of women.

We got into the emergency room and the doctors came in and I casually mentioned that I had just gotten back from the Amazon.  They literally started backing out of the room and just left me alone thinking I was going to die at any minute.  Lyle and I had been working in Rio de Janeiro and made a special trip to the Amazon where we chartered a semi-private boat to check out the Amazon and Rio Negro.  We had prepared for the worst on this trip….all the travel guides tell you about how you will most likely get malaria and dengue fever with one mosquito bite.  We knew how bad DEET was, but evidently it was better than one of these diseases.  We had this wild rogue gringo tour guide that didn’t seem to think mosquito netting was important and threw caution to the wind.  We were a little nervous after he told us about all his near misses and accidents.

The first night we slept on the top of the pretty small boat in these horrific hammocks that looked like they were made of fishing line and you kind of slept in upside down fetal position.  At the same time you were hearing mosquitos buzzing in your ear the whole time and our mosquito netting was really old and holey.

The next day we grabbed the DEET and sprayed all it over our bodies.  Then we read the directions that said DO NOT MAKE CONTACT WITH SKIN.  Evidently you are supposed to only spray on your clothing….what the hell?  Who reads directions?  We were in a panic because you also couldn’t jump into the Amazon because there was threat that a little candiru (parasitic catfish that has razor sharp spines on it’s head) would swim up the urethra (more painful for men) and attach itself and drink your blood.  And only surgery would get them out.  Damn!

We stayed out of the water and just lived with all the DEET all over our bodies.  So, possibly there was a correlation to my emergency room visit.

These were the thoughts running through my head as I left Bob’s bedside.  I was too choked up to tell Bob safe journey and that I wish I had not let politics keep us from a real relationship.  I wanted to say I saw his brilliance while he was in the hospital.  I now know why Joyce was so enchanted with him.  I wanted to tell him that it makes me happy to know how good their sex life was…not that I had ever thought about that before.  And I wanted to tell Joyce it would be OK and that family and friends would take care of her when Bob has passed.


About tamischwerin

I run a non-profit (Abundance NC) that builds community resilience including health of the earth, our bodies and our spirits. I also am active in creating an Eco-Industrial Park community in Pittsboro NC.

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