There were two kinds of American families when I was growing up. Those who, according to my exasperated mother, were “ALWAYS RUNNING TO THE DOCTOR.” And those who fought disease the right way: with fresh air, hot tea and Vicks.
The Doughertys were decidedly in the second camp. Sure, we went to our family doctor, a guy I saw so seldom I couldn’t have recognized him on the street. But only in a pinch, like the time my brother put his arm through the storm door and appeared to have arterial bleeding. Other than that, we treated our ailments in the privacy of our little brick rancher.
I learned early on that there wasn’t much that whiskey, oil of clove, a heating pad or mercurochrome couldn’t fix.
Also, you didn’t dare mention the word “pediatrician” around my mother. Once, when I asked why my brother and I didn’t have a special kids’ doctor like some of the other children in the neighborhood, my mom said theirs were putting on airs.
“A doctor’s a doctor,” replied the know-it-all bank teller with a disgusted shake of her head. “Honestly, these housewives.”
If you whined to either of my parents that you felt a cold coming on and that maybe you ought to see the mysterious family doctor, they’d chorus: “A cold that’s left alone lasts one week. A cold that’s treated by a doctor lasts only seven days.”
In other words, sniffles and a sore throat were best left to hot tea with a shot of whiskey, and lemon. Once we were recovering, my mom handed us one of those tubular Vicks inhalers that made the inside of your nostrils freeze. I loved those aqua-colored plastic nose clearers.
That sort of doctor-eschewing philosophy lasts a lifetime.
That brings us to my present condition. A sinus infection, or, as WebMD calls it, “sinusitis,“ which is more fun to say than to experience.
It started with a head cold that struck while I was in Utah a couple of weeks ago.
While most of the symptoms have disappeared, my face hurts. (I know, insert joke here.) Worse, I’ve been been dogged by dull headaches clustered in my forehead.
I know what I should do, what most normal people would do: Head to an urgent care center, endure the humiliation of a hallway weigh-in at the height of the holidays and get a prescription for antibiotics.
Twenty four hours later, I’d be cured.
But every time I come close to actually going, I hear my mother’s voice: What, you’re RUNNING TO A DOCTOR for a stuffy nose?
And she’s right. Even my online doc concedes that while antibiotics can help a sinus infection, it’ll eventually go away on its own. Only in very rare instances does sinusitis lead to complications. Like brain abscesses.
So Mom would be proud of me. I’ve been sleeping a lot, sipping spiked tea, sniffing Vicks, watching “The Godfather” marathon on AMC and NOT RUNNING TO A DOCTOR.
Guess what? I woke up today feeling great. No urgent care bill. No sign of a brain abscess. Just running low on teabags and booze.