I retain pretty detailed memories of my grandparents’ home in Stamford. Even the bathrooms.
There was a half-bath off the first-floor kitchen, with scarcely room enough for a head and a tiny sink, and a window that would have looked out over the driveway if anyone had wanted to part the curtain. A rubber mat on the linoleum floor provided traction. And there was a big plastic bottle of orange-flavored Metamucil powder from which I would occasionally sneak a pinch; I must have liked how it tasted.
Upstairs, wedged between my grandparents’ and great-grandmother’s rooms, was a full bath. I remember my grandpa often had Barbasol Irish Spring shaving cream, and sometimes they stocked the shower with Irish Spring soap.
I also associate the bathrooms of 1107 Hope Street with Ivory soap, a product whose simplicity and plainness is still kind of emblematic to me of that house and those days.
There were other things in those bathrooms too, things I wouldn’t have noticed in my youth — or wouldn’t have been able to reach on the high shelves.
Instead, I’m learning about them years later, thanks to my grandfather’s calendars:
Googling “Novahistine” brings up all manner of conflicting information. But — as the “hist” would suggest — it appears to be an antihistamine and treatment for the common cold. The interwebs also indicate that the drug went from over-the-counter to prescription status in the ’60s or early ’70s, which might explain why it had to be ordered rather than simply bought.
(What “No. 15 green DOW J.” means is completely beyond me. Those wild drug users and their crazy lingo.)
Moving forward three-and-a-half years, we dig around a little on the bathroom shelf and discover a bottle of …
Atromid-S is another prescription drug, used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
Or at least it was. Again, I can’t get a clear read from the documents I find; but a federal government website indicates that use of Atromid-S (known formally as clofibrate) was restricted in 1979 by the Food and Drug Administration to high-risk patients who had failed to control cholesterol through dietary means.
The site also says: “The clinical evidence for the efficacy of clofibrate in preventing deaths from coronary artery disease is not encouraging. A number of clinical trials have been completed, and none has shown a clear-cut beneficial effect.“
Wonder whether my grandpa had any doubts about Atromid-S on Nov. 4, 1975, or whether he added it to his medical regimen without a second thought.
I think we tend to put our faith in medicine, since it’s been exhaustively researched and tested before it reaches us. Still, there’s always a chance that the full effects of what we’re taking have yet to be found out.
On the day my grandpa started using the drug, he had a quarter-century to live, plus a couple of months. So whatever issues Atromid-S might have had in other settings, it most likely didn’t hurt him.
The Hope Street Medical Mystery Tour ends with a stop in February 1970:
Whatever the “stomach pills” mentioned here were, they didn’t seem to be working — because a full series of gastrointestinal X-rays were on the menu for Feb. 26. And that meant no food, no breakfast, nothing to eat or drink. Nil by mouth, as our friends across the pond say.
(The calendar also makes reference to a “blood pressure pill.” I add another bottle to the shelf of meds in my mind.)
Not sure which resident in the house was having all this trouble. Thankfully, it couldn’t have been more than a bump in the road for any of the three of them, given how long they lived.
I wonder whether I will last as long as my grandparents and great-grandmother did. (I do have the genes. But I’m also convinced there’s one person in every long-living family who keels over at 41, just to keep everyone else from getting too cocky.)
And I wonder if I’ll end up on the same regimen of meds, or something similar. This is one of the few times I’ve looked at these calendar entries and really thought I might be seeing a preview of my later life.
I have told myself in the past that I’d hate to be locked into a regular schedule of medication, a day-by-day box of pills to take. But when the time comes I’ll probably go along like everyone else does.
Maybe I can look forward to washing down my bevy of pills with a nice cold glass of fresh-stirred orange Metamucil.