A spoon full a day keeps the doctor away. Our parents took a preventative approach to child health care, which included a daily dose of cod liver oil for Deloris and Donald. “It’s good for you,” Dad maintained as he expectantly held out the spoon. They opened their mouths and swallowed the gross, disgusting, smelly, oily liquid. Too bad Mary Poppins had not been created then. A spoonful of sugar definitely would have helped the medicine go down!
One advantage of being farther down in the birth order—the folks lightened up a bit on the health regimen. The last four kids only had to take cod liver oil when we didn’t feel well, which was bad enough.
Researching the benefits of the fish oil, I discovered that scientists believe it can help support eye health, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve digestion, ward off anxiety and fight inflammation. Mom and Dad didn’t have Google. They did not spend a lot of time conferring with health professionals, but as was often the case, people in their generation were ahead of their time in their life philosophies.
As my siblings and I searched back into the nooks and crannies of our minds, every one of us started with the same statement. “We didn’t get sick very often.” Possibly it was all the fresh clean South Dakota air we enjoyed during the many hours we played outside. Or the homegrown vegetables and fruits we helped raise and preserve. Mom made a salad with the first lettuce using a vinegar and cream dressing. Green beans, carrots (they’re good for your eyes) and cabbage appeared on our table all winter long. Whether we liked them or not, we were expected to try a few bites. “Eat it; it’s good for you.”
The latest foodie fad: fermentation. Mother did not know that her sauerkraut, beet pickles, bean pickles and dill pickles provided probiotics that strengthened her family’s immune systems. She just figured pickling provided a fast, easy method to preserve food.
No, we were not sick very often as we grew up. Delmer remembers spending a few days in a dark bedroom when he caught measles and chicken pox.
A “stomach bug” kept someone home from a day of school on rare occasions. When we finally felt well enough to venture out of bed, Mom would cautiously guide us as to when and how much liquid we should take.
Once in a while one of us got off the school bus not feeling well. Mom seriously studied our eyes and told us to go lie down on the davenport. Later, after chores, Dad would kneel down next to us and gently rest his big work-worn hand on our forehead. (He and Mom possessed built-in thermometers.) Then he quietly told us to feel better, and we always did.
Sometimes a bad cold settled in, and Mom administered her time-worn remedy. She applied a generous coating of Vicks VapoRub to our neck and chest and back. Then she draped a length of heavy wool around our neck and pinned it at the shoulder. The Vicks and wool warmed us and cleared congestion. The itchy fabric rubbing on the neck with every move speedily stifled sniffles.
Later, to hasten healing, we sat down to a supper of chicken soup with homemade noodles or with fluffy dumplings floating on top. Sometimes Mother made her special comfort food, custard. The baked dessert of milk and eggs, sprinkled with nutmeg was the ultimate easy-on-the-tummy food.
We always felt loved and cared-for, but it seemed to me the folks tried pretty hard not to give us too much attention when we were sick. No sense encouraging it after all. Delmer remembers waking up one spring morning with the brilliant idea that he might get out of going to school for a day if he pleaded sick. Mom felt his forehead. Dad felt his forehead. Dad told Delmer to get up and come to the kitchen. Dad poured some cod liver oil into a spoon. “Here, take this; it will help you feel better.” Delmer got a whiff of the disgusting smell and wrinkled his nose. Dad persisted, “Eat it; it’s good for you.”
Delmer never tried playing sick again. How’s that for preventative medicine?
DeAnn Kruempel grew up on a farm near De Smet, SD, the sixth child of Harrison and Mabel Wolkow. She attended school at Erwin and De Smet. Married Vicar Robert Kruempel and lived in Benedict, ND, Toeterville, Akron, and Missouri Valley, IA. The author now resides on an acreage near Logan, IA and is employed as Children's Librarian at Missouri Valley Public Library. DeAnn has written a series of five books, "Promises to Keep," which are available at Amazon.com.