I have told you before that my Granny was the eldest daughter of a very large family. There were the boys, Marvin, Ed, and Beau–the rest were girls Rubye (Granny), Bea, Erma, Bobby, Dot, MaryFrancis and two that didn’t live long enough to name. Growing up we would beg Granny to tell us stories.
There was one about Aunt Bea and the blue runner snake. And one about Uncle Beau falling out of the barn loft onto the hay wagon. And there were lots and lots of stories about chopping cotton and sneaking watermelons and Aunt Bea hiding her Christmas orange to make everyone jealous until it rotted. And then there was the one about Aunt Erma.
Most of my great aunts lived nearby in southern Arkansas, and I saw a lot of them. But I didn’t meet Aunt Erma until I was about 10 years old. I will never forget walking into my Granny’s house and seeing this woman who could have been her twin. I looked at my mother and said, “Who is that woman that looks just like Granny?”
It was Aunt Erma.
And Aunt Erma was deaf.
When she was a little girl, she contracted spinal meningitis, and the days and days of high fever and near death took her hearing. My Granny, who was about 7 or 8 at the time, often told how the doctor gave MaMaw medicine for Aunt Erma, but she got sicker and sicker. Until one day a “peddler” came to the house and told MaMaw she needed to buy some “Pal” medicine for her baby if she wanted her to live. Well, MaMaw DID want Aunt Erma to live, so she bought that “Pal” medicine and started to give it to her. To this day I don’t know what “Pal” medicine is–but according to Williamson legend, it cured Aunt Erma. MaMaw threw the other medicine to the pigs, and shortly after taking the “Pal” medicine, Aunt Erma, who was 2 1/2 or 3 at the time called for Rubye to come and get her. She was hungry and my Granny, Rubye Mae, made her hot biscuits in the middle of the night. Granny said Erma ate the middle out of three of those biscuits, then fell fast asleep. Between the biscuits and the “Pal” medicine, she was on her way to recovery. But her hearing was gone for good. That was about 1918.
When Victoria was 5 she got strep and scarlet fever for the first time. I learned that scarlet fever is just the rash that comes with strep, but the name “scarlet fever” is enough to strike fear in the heart of anyone who’s read The Velveteen Rabbit. We have visions of needing to burn all the toys and bed clothes in a big bon fire in the back yard. Most kids don’t get scarlet fever today, because we begin antibiotics so quickly. I was never more shocked than to learn my daughter had it–and she would have it at least five more times.
During the three years that Victoria had strep over 14 times, resulting in the untimely demise of her tonsils about a year and a half ago, she suffered some high fevers. And every time I heard her cry out in the night and I went in and felt her head–so hot–her lips swollen and red from fever, I thought about Aunt Erma, and MaMaw, and all the mothers who sat up nights with babies in ice baths and alcohol baths with poultices and no medicines praying for the doctor to come–praying for the fever to break–praying for the light of day to chase away the dark and the fear.
On those nights with Victoria, after the fever began to go down and after she had drifted back to sleep, as I climbed into my own bed, I thanked God for Motrin. It sounds funny, I know. It’s relatively inexpensive and readily available, and if I run out, well I can run to the nearest 24 hour Wal-Mart or Walgreens and get some more. But I thanked God that I didn’t have to sit in the dark watches of the night fearing that a fever would steal my baby away. And it most certainly would have one of the fourteen times–I do not doubt that one bit.
So, I jokingly call it “the Miracle Drug,” but I am so grateful–so very, very grateful.
In these modern times when we look around at the excess and crime and jadedness that we see, we sometimes long for the good old days. We say were were born at the wrong time or in the wrong century. But when our children are sick in the night, we fill up the medicine spoon with the required dosage, then, once they have fallen asleep, once the danger we know not has passed, we crawl back into our own beds to rest knowing they are safe, and if not well, they will make it until we can get to the doctor the next day.
What a blessing.
What a blessing.
My MaMaw and Granny and Aunt Erma and the Peddler of Pal medicine would be amazed–and just as grateful as we are.