Vicks
(Tokoni 06/05/2009)


When I was a kid and would get a cold my mom would apply Vick’s Vapo-Rub on my chest, plus a little dab under my nose to help ease the congestion. I’d been born (and nearly died) of bronchitis, so I guess it would get pretty bad sometimes. And I – I loved the smell of menthol; how it would clear my nose and warm my chest at night when I’d get all stuffed up and couldn’t breath worth a darn.

One night I was having an exceptionally hard time, and couldn’t hardly breath at all. The flu, a cold – I don’t know which, but as a child I knew what to do. Call mom, who’d come in bearing that little blue bottle, rub some on my chest, put that dab under my nose, tuck me in and and I’d be better – or at least for awhile.

This particular night was different, though. Instead of my mom, my dad came in, the little blue bottle in his hand. And instead of pulling the blanket down and my pajama top up, he took one hand and squeezed my face like you would a dog, forcing my jaws wide open. Then taking a big old double fingered dip from the jar, he forced a huge wad of Vick’s down my throat; smeared it all inside of my mouth – shoving another dab and another dab, forcing his fingers down my throat, choking me with the now thick stench of menthol and the foul taste of petroleum jelly. He kept saying something; not growling so much as snarling, packing that damned stuff in, holding me down and pinning me with the covers so that I could not escape. I remember thrashing my head – and the taste! Burnt like fire, greasy, thick – have you ever ate petroleum jelly? Try a sample. Its sorta tasteless, sorta not – and coats your mouth like cold bacon grease, only worse. Now try a bit of Vicks. Burns like fire, you can’t swallow it – it sticks to your tongue and teeth and gums – and . . . well, trust me. You’d have to try it to know. Just a dab. Now imagine a couple huge wads – a half jar full – crammed down your throat. Not good, huh?

After that – when I’d get congested – I’d still have my mom put some of that stuff on my chest; that little dab under my nose. But once I got to bed, I’d be quiet – real quiet – no matter how bad it got. I’d learned my lesson.

I still love the smell of menthol; it’s ‘good stuff’ for congestion. But petroleum jelly – to this day I can’t see a jar without remembering what he did, and to this day I still don’t know why. Maybe he was ignorant, didn’t know the stuff wasn’t meant to be eaten. Maybe I’d just whined one time too many. Maybe this, maybe that – I will never know. But I know I’ll never forget the sensation of him jabbing his fingers down my throat, choking me with that stuff, or how careful I was to be quiet after that night.

And yet – when he calls and invites me to lunch – and I turn him down (always, it seems) – I feel guilty.

Why is that?

Child abuse.

It really sucks.

Its the gift that just keeps giving (sigh).

But hope!  For we have healed and are healing . . . more in each and every day. 8^)

Me and Little Mikie in His New Home: An Island paradise

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