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The power of pills

DSC_0153Math quiz:

Q: What do you get when you cross a laid-back man with a slightly neurotic, obsessive woman?

A: A match made in heaven.

Q: If the two are deeply in love, and the laid-back man goes to said heaven, what is left?

A: A woman who cannot get rid of the slightest trace of the man without feeling anxious, overly sentimental, and remorseful.

Ted has been gone for just over six months. In grief terms, that’s not long, so I expect the tears, the why and what ifs, the difficult first markers of the calendar…the necessary task of choosing a headstone that couldn’t possibly say everything I need the world to hear about a man whom I loved and admired so much. But I just didn’t see this one coming.

Last night, on the local news, it was announced that today is “take-back-medicine” day at the local TV station. Anyone who has outdated or unused medicines sitting around is urged to bring them in, whereupon everyone gets their pick of what they like – no, of COURSE that doesn’t happen. Uh huh. Anyway – it’s a chance to turn in old medicine that will go to the police department where they will take whatever – oh, totally kidding again – the medicines will all be incinerated. And all this is free. What’s the big deal, you may wonder. And you might also be wondering other things, like what to make for supper or whether or not someone is taking, at this very moment, your most personal financial information and possibly your tax return.

But back to the medication hoedown.

In the last couple of years, our state has charged a nominal fee for the return of medicine. Pharmacies can no longer take the stuff back and dispose of it for you. Everything is more regulated, we are told NOT to flush – a good idea since no one wants to eat the ocean fish that just ate Aunt Tillie’s foot fungus pills. So when I heard about the take-back, I was delighted, because cancer requires a lot of drugs, and then more medication for the side effects of those drugs, and then there are all the person’s regular drugs, and friends, I do not mean the fun kind.

This morning I began the gathering process of Ted’s pills. Drugs in pill caddies, bottle after bottle, bag after bag, clear bags, paper bags, more pills than I remembered. I’d put every one of them, for years, into his pill caddy. I meticulously did this because as his brain cancer progressed, he sometimes had trouble with processing some things, but more than that, his right hand and arm didn’t work well, and it’s hard to break up pills that way. And being the more neurotic and obsessive (see above quiz) of the two of us, I knew that if I put up his meds, checking them three times, they would be correct. Truth be told, in his healthy, pre-cancer days, sometimes he’d skip some of his regular medicine. He’d tell me he’d run out of his blood pressure pills the week before and he guessed he’d go refill them. I had trouble understanding that, because isn’t there someone who is watching you take them when you’re supposed to, and also, the pamphlet always said not to stop your medicine without consulting your doctor first. Yes, I read it every time.

This is what I remembered this morning as I put each batch of leftover pills into a bigger bag to turn in: I remembered the huge pill caddy, the trips to the specialty pharmacy, hoping and praying each time that with every pill, the damned cancer would be obliterated. Finding a sense of security in seeing him take the right medicines in hopes of keeping things stable. Pouring his orange juice every morning and setting it down at the table, while he took his pills and keeping half an eye on him to see if he needed help, while I made glorious breakfasts for the two of us, morning after morning, berry pancakes and eggs and bacon – the kind without nitrites- and yogurt and fresh fruit. And sometimes, cinnamon rolls. We’d sit at the table each morning, loving each other, loving the food, pretending we were doing a Morning Show to our imagined audience on the front lawn. Those days, filled with love and food and yes, accurately prepared medication for the laid-back man I loved so much and for whom I would do anything to get him well.

They’re only pills. But it’s hard to let them go.

Published inThoughts from ME


  1. Such a beautiful way to express your love and sadness. Sometimes it’s the little things that affect us the most. Being able to write about it will help you find your new normal. More hugs to add to Suzette’s.

  2. Lynn Centa Lynn Centa

    Pills, your right, pills are on that table in the morning. I remember all the pills my parents took sitting on the table in that plastic weekly container. So far I have no pills, and Bob only one. But that will change as the years go by. My first thought when I stated reading this was, please don’t let Ted know how much you are still hurting, but it was a stupid thought, he knows.

    • Kathy Kathy

      Endless pills and small things that remind us of our loved ones passed…thank you for your thoughtful comment, Lynn!

  3. Rick Horowitz Rick Horowitz

    Kathy: The things that trigger memories can be so small — and yet so powerful. A lovely remembrance. Thanks!

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