Prodigal Dad coughs up a lung

By Davison Cheney, Contributor | Posted - Jan 11th, 2013 @ 7:49pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Halloween … Thanksgiving … Christmas … News Year's … everyone gets sick … Valentines and then St Patrick’s; That is the natural order of the universe listed in pretty much its natural order.

But life is increasingly out of order these days, and it seems that I am going to have to add a little cough medicine to the mix and deal with it.

I have been sick since Thanksgiving. I am being worn down to the little tonsil nubs I thought had been removed as my family sat at home enjoying a nice fondue.

When my wife is sick, life is a different plate of pills entirely. We put her right to bed, (or right to the tub) and help her back into health through happy home hospice.

It’s not that she demands preferential treatment. It’s that she is the one who writes the checks. We can't/she can’t have the main breadwinner not winning bread, or burning the bacon she has brought home for us to fry.

She is a trooper and won’t call in sick when she is really ill — hasn’t called in absent for 15 years. Sometimes she needs literal support, and by that I mean we prop her up. We stack the furniture around her desk at work so folks don’t get too close and have a few sayings recorded on a trip wire.

“I’m on that,” “That will have to be handled in the meeting” and “Someone will be right with you,” usually gets her through a short day. We reposition her every so often so people don’t become suspicious, and still she gets more done than her office mates.

In comparison, my day job has always been (euphemism alert) of a flexible variety, so I can officially get sick without risking the farm and stay in bed for a day, or a week.

"What's my lung doing in the sink, you ask? Just resting. I had it in the living room yesterday, but it drew focus from all the discarded tissue paper. I can decorate because I have such a flexible schedule."

When I let it slip that I am sick (like my pajama top has them fooled,) everyone reaches for the gallon pump of Skin-Be-Gone hand sanitizer and tells me to use the automated website.

After a two-month residency in Sickville, I find it’s better not to volunteer any information to anyone.

“No, no. I am fine — my hair always looks like furniture.”

“What’s my lung doing in the sink, you ask? Just resting. I had it in the living room yesterday, but it drew focus from all the discarded tissue paper. I can decorate because I have such a flexible schedule.”

The doctor

Yesterday was my third trip to the doctor since the first of December. Being on antibiotics of one spectrum or another is starting to have an effect on me.

Quick tangent: Let me just say that there is a world flu map available to those who wish to commiserate on a global scale. The color for those in the United States affected this season by flu is brown.

I will not dwell on this anymore than I normally dwell on the absurdly obvious. End of tangent.

The doctor said I was sick and gave me more stuff to take. My pharmaceutical cache, after chest X-rays, now includes steroids, three kinds of antibiotics, happy pills, more happy pills, an inhaler and a pretty good moisturizer.

The doctor also re-prescribed for me a cough syrup whose duty is to keep me from hacking up my other lung.

However, (and from here on the story gets a little fuzzy) my pharmacist yelled through the glass something about ethics and wouldn’t give me the syrup because of an error in the writing of the prescription, and the doctor's office denied having caused the error, and no one wanted to use my phone to talk to each other, and so I tried some of the moisturizer and swore at a few people and then my daughter drove me home after apologizing for me to the entire drug section of the food and drug store.

The happy ending

Now my kids are having me answer a few questions before I leave the house when I am sick. A sample:

Q: What do you do when the rude guy cuts into your line at the pharmacy?

A: Knock his cane out from under him and tell him him he needs less time between dye jobs. This is not the correct answer. This answer does not gain me quick access to the car keys.

Q: When someone takes the last cough syrup that was clearly on my side of the isle, I …?

A: I would open the bottle, take a swig, and let her have the rest. Still no keys for me.

Last Q: What do I say to the pharmacist when she informs me it will be an hour wait to fill my order.

A: I compliment her on her dangley earrings, go get a bucket of chicken and share it with the sickie sitting next to me who is also hacking up a lung. We will have two lungs and several pieces of extra crunchy between uswhile I wait patiently.

The moral of this story, if I had to pick three, is to phone in your prescriptions ahead of time, have little apology cards printed up in packs of one hundred, and get a better job.

Honestly, I think most people like me — regardless of what my pharmacist may say.


Main image: Cough syrup can also be used to clean bathtubs (Photo: Shutterstock).

About the Author: Davison Cheney

Davison Cheney writes "The Prodigal Dad" series every week on See his other musings at

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