Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hooked on the Oxycondoms



One day I’ll set a novel in the waiting room of a rural Southern hospital. That way I can use the language I grew up hearing whenever illness was the subject.

Two dominant traits emerge when my people speak about being sick:

1. Extreme exaggeration of one’s actual condition (gruesome details   are a plus) and
2. Mispronunciation of words related to health.

So here’s what my characters in the waiting room might well say…

Couple 1

“Lord, I can’t believe Buddy’s back in the hospital. Just last week they drained 6 quarts of fluid off of his neck.”

“I know. Hospitals will kill you fast. Remember when that foreign doctor took a knife to Jolene Sugg’s back? When they saw what was inside, all they could do was just sew her back up. She was eat up with the cancer. And you know once that air got to it she was dead within a week.”

Couple 2

“Me-Maw, when did you start having so much trouble with your eyes?”

“Oh, I’ve had Cadillacs on my eyes for ten years now. I can’t get ‘em fix-did ‘cause you know Crazy Aint Carrie will steal my pain pills. She’s already been banned from the pain clinics in a three-county area. I caint let her get me in trouble. Bless her heart—I think she got hooked on the Oxycondoms after they gave her that croat-a-zone for her bron-i-cal tubes.”

Couple 3

“I just hope Scooter don’t have another tumor. That last one was the size of a grapefruit.”

“I know it. I still can’t get over the trouble LaDonna went through. I mean, they said her uterine fibroid was the size of a broiler chicken.”

And so it goes. My own Me-Maw relished poor health more than anyone. She embellished her angioplasty to become open-heart surgery. But when asked about the “surgery,” she gave the most succinct description of angioplasty that I’ve heard: “They went in down here by my right grind (groin)—down here by my privates—and undid that clog in my heart.”

She also had a sinister explanation for her robust appetite. “Now you can believe this or not, but there’s something inside of me that’s eating my food besides me.”

I still have family members whose first-aid kits overflow with the ingenuity of poor folks. WD-40 is relied upon to ease stiff joints, and our time-honored solution to all dental problems and deep cuts is Super Glue.

Healthcare professionals in these rural areas also engage in the melodrama. They have told my then-fifty-eight-year-old mother that she had the bones of a ninety-five-year-old. That if she risked having a colonoscopy she’d leave the hospital…feet first, through the back door, and in a body bag. They actually said “feet first” and “body bag.” (The colonoscopy proceeded without incident.)

It does please me that a few old superstitions and home remedies still exist. The most bizarre comes from the late Lily George of Centenary, South Carolina. She swore that if you’re bitten by a snake, it causes a real snake to “hang off your liver.” The cure is to cook a mess of greens and stand over the boiling pot with your mouth open—that will draw the snake out. Dr. Freud would’ve had a field day with that one.

I think I’ll go ahead and work the waiting room scene into my current novel. I can’t resist it. But I have to go now. I feel a little peaked and need to see what I have in the medicine cabinet. After all, it takes 1,000 milligrams of anything to work on me. 

Lauretta Hannon is the author of The Cracker Queen--A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life. Her book was recently named one of the Top 25 Books All Georgians Should Read. Later this year she'll be offering her popular writing seminars through her Down Home Writing School. You may learn more at thecrackerqueen.com.

21 comments:

Darla M. McCorkle said...

Too damn funny! I have a neighbor that also believes that if they cut you open and find cancer that can't be cut out right then--well the air getting to the cancer makes it spread like wildfire! Where did the belief that air to cancer equals faster death originate?

jennamom said...

Hilarious! My grandmother often complained about her "bronical" tubes.

lauretta said...

I have made fun of "bronical" tubes for so long that I sometimes say it unintentionally!

Bexterrific said...

I love it! And you are SO RIGHT! There's nothing my family likes more than being the first to call up each other with bad medical news. "Did you hear about Stanley Wayne? His cancer is back!" :)

cracker king said...

My Aunt Martha has been dying of cancer for 10 years now. The doctors won't confirm it with her cause they don't want the news to kill her. Her 6 valium a day help her deal with it, that and the good Lord. My Aunt Lena (proper pronunciation: Lener) swears that everyone that goes into a hospital dies: so people, please, reconsider this option. Lena says an onion a day cures everything: that and the good Lord.

cracker king said...

Now, my Aunt Mable lived in fear of comin down with oldtimer's disease. If she forgot a phone number, or forgot to pick up buttermilk at Red and White, this was a sure sign it had set in on her."Don't put me in a home!" she'd say in fear, but then add "course I guess I won't know, will I?"

Kristi said...

Love it! It is nice to read about things I can relate to so well. The cancer-air connection is such a prevalent myth in the South! I've seen the Super Glue trick, too. One I'd never heard of until I lived in the deep woods of West Georgia was the cure-all powers of kerosene. I once saw a 'snakebit' dog saved by kerosene, so I believe it a little now, too!

lauretta said...

Another one I love is the expression "up and died." Someone could be languishing for years with something terminal yet the survivors will say he "up & died" as if it was completely unexpected.

Karen Beard said...

My dear, Lauretta, the CQs I grew up with were a hearty band - the expression I heard most was something like "Aunt Minnie was so sick she ALMOST had to go to the doctor." In fact Aunt Minnie had 7 of her 10 kids at home and never made a noise as she "didn't want to scare" her husband. You only went to the hospital to be pronounced dead. (I also ... See Morelike the expression that someone "woke up dead") There were many home remedies like chewing tobacco on bee stings, rub bacon grease on a baby's knees if they were late walking, etc. And as you well know if a child was not feeling well the first question their mama asked was "have you been to the bathroom today?" as she was reaching for the Fletchers Castoria. I work with a lot of doctors and ask them to be careful with telephone recordings of "if you have an emergency call 911" without explaining to people in this region that you don't have to wait for body parts to fall off to have an emergency. Karen Beard

Cherie K. Miller said...

Lauretta, a wonderful look at a the quirky relationship we all have with our bodies. My son, Andrew, spent weeks going to the hospital for antibiotic treatments after a dangerous bout with MRSA. While waiting for the hour long IV treatment, he ran into a little guy that was there with his grandpa. The little guy was trying to impress Andrew with his mad skills. His claim to fame was that he could "swim faster than a goat." Wonder where (and HOW) he tried that one out. I just couldn't picture it. Do you take the goat out in a boat, throw him in the water and then jump in after him and swim for shore? Just wondering....

Ms. Marsha said...

My mom proudly told me after her cataract surgery that she now has "220 vision". I asked if she meant 20/20 and she said "whatever the good one is", she always calls alzheimers "all-timers", and I can't even spell what she comes out with for colonoscopy, but it's something like "colostoptmy". Oh, and she's been really sick this last week and told me that the doctor put her on antibiotics and Metamucil. I was like ??Metamucil? for a virus? I kept asking her and she kept confirming it until 2 days later when my dad told me it was actually Mucinex. Good Lordy.

Stephanie Snowe said...

I love Lauretta SO BAD.

Peggy Webb said...

These are hilarious! So very quirky and Southern. A cousin who is a doctor said it is often hard to interpret what her patients tell her. One of them had fireballs in the useless (fibroids in the uterus). Naturally, I grabbed that term for one of my characters in the Southdern Cousins Mysteries!

Karin Gillespie said...

Welcome to the blog, Lauretta. What a wonderful post.

cracker king said...

My Aunts on my Dad's side of the family all had "the nerves". I thought it was hereditary, but the inlaw women had it as well. Like, Julia can't go to church anymore, the crowd gives her the nerves, or Martha had to quit driving, she came down with "the nerves".

Kristi said...

My granddaddy was the 7th son of a 7th son & never met his father. Therefore, people came to him from far and wide to be cured of the 'thrash' (or 'thrush', depending). He probably cured thousands over the years. It was forbidden for him to share his healing knowledge, but of course we tried to sneak a peek every time he had a visitor.

Caroline Hopkinson said...

LOL! Thanks and then there are those who get several dread diseases and don't have the decency to die from them. Such was the case with one of my Uncles by marriage, my Mom doesn't even ask after him anymore, but every once and awhile, wonders. May he outlive us all!

River Jordan said...

Lauretta,

Everyone knows you can't expose cancer to pure air or that's the end for sure. And WD40 does work for most stiff joints I have found. Now on those things inside - isn't that where you are supposed to starve someone 3 days and then put a drop of sugar on their tongue and then that big old worm will poke their head up their throat to get the sugar and you grab them and yank them out. I will come watch this operation being performed!

River

Theresa Shadrix said...

You done gone and gave us a case of the giggles!

Ad Hudler said...

You are too damned funny, Lauretta. I have a neighbor who talks about the condom she and her husband bought in Panama City Beach.

christina said...

I am tooling thru blogs while convalescing from a head cold that I believe I got from breathing the night air. This is too funny and I can't wait to read the new book.