Just The Point: My medicine cabinet shows I am getting old

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A Winters Express opinion column

By Richard Kleeberg
Special to the Express

When I opened the medicine cabinet in the bathroom this morning, to clean it up a bit, I took a step back and realized that I was looking at the proof that I’m really getting older. The cabinet was so full — just stuffed, with, well, stuff. Do I need all these items? Do I use most of these items? Do I even remember buying this stuff?

I stepped back, closed my eyes, and recalled the way my medicine cabinet looked in my very first apartment. It was back in late 1975, when I entered law school. My very first apartment was a small one bedroom, with a tiny metal medicine cabinet in the wall above the bathroom sink.

It has been nearly 50 years, but I still remember exactly what I had in that medicine cabinet. There was a small package of band-aids. There was a bottle of Bufferin, a brand name for regular aspirin, which I always bought because my mom always had it at home. And, there was a small tube of Neosporin, an antibiotic ointment, another item I had because my mom used it.

On the countertop I had my toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste. I never placed them in the medicine cabinet, as I had always been required to do as a child, because it seemed so inefficient to do that twice a day. (I still keep them out on the counter.) And the last item on the counter was a plastic container, shaped like an orange, filled with chewable vitamin C tablets.

I was chewing up a handful of those vitamin C’s every day — two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling had said they would stop just about any common cold from happening. (He was wrong, but those sugar-filled tablets sure tasted good.)

Opening my eyes again, I see that so much has changed in my medicine cabinet, as I have aged. The first thing I notice is an old bottle of prescription cough syrup. And I mean old. The expiration date on the bottle is 2014. But hey, why toss it now? Let’s see how old it can get.

I still have band-aides, but not just one small box. Now I have three boxes, filled with nearly a dozen shapes and sizes. There is no longer any Bufferin, because it hasn’t been made since the 90s. But, boy, am I ever prepared for headaches and muscle aches: there is Excedrin, Bayer aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (generic Tylenol). Why do I have four types of pain killers? I really don’t know; it must be another sign of old age.

Some of the items in the cabinet seem to make sense; there is some Day-Quill and Ny-Quill, a can of shaving cream, and a small bottle of antacid. Ah, antacid. Nothing could be a clearer indicator that an old person lives here.

But a few of the visible items in the cabinet just confuse me. I’m surprised to see a package of Preparation-H, which I am completely certain I never purchased. And there is a large bottle of Calamine lotion, which I don’t use. But just glancing at it makes me sing out that fine lyric from “Poison Ivy,” the great 60s song by the Coasters: “You’re gonna need an ocean, of Calamine lotion ….”

On the very top shelf, untouched for years, there is a nearly empty can of Desenex foot spray. It was always my favorite brand, going back to high school. But it hasn’t been available for years. Why do I hold on to a useless can of Desenex? I guess my yearning for the brands I once used is another sign of old age.

Next to the Desenex, there is a bottle of Goddard’s Liquid Jewelry Cleaner. I can’t remember the last time I used it. I can’t even remember why I bought it. Yes, indeed, I am getting old.

As I close the door to the cabinet, I feel myself smile again. I hope to have quite a few years left, and I look forward to seeing what mysterious items have found their way into the medicine cabinet, 10 or 15 years from now, when I decide to clean it up again.

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