UBC DAY 17: Bitter Pill

You know how some things in your childhood are so traumatizing that they stick with you for years?

I’m pushin’ sixty, and to this day I can’t stand the smell of coconut. Mom used to make coconut and chocolate chip squares, but she didn’t tell me that coconut had such a chewy texture, nor did she mention that the smell of freshly shaved coconut can stick in your nose for hours. Yuck.

And beets. Don’t come near me with beets! Cranberry sauce? Beets with no backbone. Yuck.

Ah, but my all-time, don’t-come-near-me-with-that trauma is … pills.

The idea of sticking some pellet into my mouth and then downing a gallon of water in an effort to trick my throat into letting it sliiiiide down has always terrified me.

It was probably Mom’s fault.

I’m her first born. She had a lot to learn about being a Mom the first time around, so I was the guinea pig. By the time Tracie got here, Mom was a lot more … savvy … about the whole child-raising thing.

So. There I was, about four years old and sicker than a dog.

Mom relied heavily on her own parents for guidance, since she was divorced and we lived with them.

When she woke up one morning to find me all sick and blotchy and snotted up, well—she went into overdrive.

Grandma suggested cod liver oil. (At four years old, I didn’t know about, “Oh, HELL, no,” so I had that spooned into me.)

Grandpa suggested Milk of Magnesia. (Grandpa needed his butt kicked.)

My Mom decided on whatever the flavor of the day children’s cold tablets were popular that year, and they weren’t chewables. That’s where I decided to draw my four-year-old line in the sand.

“No more! No more!” I screamed, covering my mouth and running down the hall to the room I shared with Mom. I slammed the bedroom door and opened the top to my toy chest, threw all my toys on the floor, and climbed in. Didn’t occur to me that Mom might notice the toys and figure out where I was hiding.

She opened the toy chest, grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me kicking and screaming to the bathroom. Good thing. The cod liver oil and MoM had reacted with all the excitement. Let’s just say tiled walls and floors made clean-up easier.

Ah, but eventually the unpleasantness was cleaned up, and my energy (and resistance) wore down.

Mom grabbed the cold pills and placed one in the middle of my mouth. She gave me a glass of water. She told me to “Drink,” and “Swallow the goddamned pill.”

I almost had her fooled. I’d perfected a little trick when we were staying with her sister, who made some god-awful meals. I had a round little face and chubby little cheeks, so I learned to hide the food like a chipmunk (I liked chipmunks) and spit it out on my way to bed.

So, just before I took a BIG drink of water, I stashed that pill inside my cheek and opened my mouth so Mom could see it was gone. I was so relieved! I was so sure I’d gotten over that I didn’t look around before spitting the pill into my hand and heading for the kitchen to throw it away. Just as I lifted my hand over the kitchen can, WHOOSH!

Mom grabbed my fist, pried my little fingers open, saw the mushy pill in my palm, and dragged me back to the bathroom. (Yes, yes. We lived violent lives back in the day. Get over it.)

This time, she wasn’t taking any chances. She locked the bathroom door and leaned against it. She opened the pill bottle and took out ANOTHER pill. She caught me trying to climb the tile wall and wedged me between her knees, then squished my face in her hand.

And as my mouth opened with the pressure (picture a fish face), she stuck that pill on the end of her index finger and PUSHED IT DOWN MY THROAT.

I gagged! I sputtered! I screamed, “Dying! Mom, I’m dying!”

“Drink,” she said, handing me a glass of water. “No! I can’t! I won’t!” I was willing to risk death, rather than swallow that lousy pill.

It went down anyway. Scratchy, dry, icky-tasting. I could feel the lump of it in my throat for hours.

And now, I’m pushin’ sixty and terrified of making a doctor’s appointment because I know I’m gonna be told, “Drink. Swallow.” Because I’m at “that age.”

Oh, HELL, no. I’ll just stay healthy and not need the pills, thank you!

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About Billie Noakes

The writer you want for crisp, clean copy.
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2 Responses to UBC DAY 17: Bitter Pill

  1. I’ve always wanted to own a cat but the thought of having to give one a pill….well, how do you make such grim situations so funny?

  2. Alana, for most of my life experiences, it’s been “laugh, or die trying.” I know it wasn’t fun at the time, but all those years in between … And you should get the cat! One of the quick ‘n’ dirty ways of giving the cat a pill is to just crush it and mix it in with whatever you know the cat will eat (tuna is good … anything with gravy; don’t try it with dry food because the cat will eat around it). Before I learned that, I’d just wrap the cat in half a dozen towels, wear a long-sleeved shirt, and flip the cat on her back before making her make a “fish face.” You’ve got to be sure you do get the pill down the throat, though–they’re really good at hacking ’em up!

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