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The Mineral Spirits Incident

This entry reminded me, in some ways, of my childhood.  In that, having brothers who were so much older than me, it was kind of like I was an only child.  She refers to her brothers as her “safety net”, which prompted this memory…

I had to be at least 10, because Brother #2 had already moved out of the house, married.  I know it was summer time, and considering I spent most of the summer before I turned 10 with my grandparents, I’m going to guess it was the summer I turned 11.

Anyway.  I get bronchitis nearly every year, and I think this may have been the first time I had it.  I had this horrible dry cough.  All I did was cough.  Cough medicine didn’t really help.  It had gone on for weeks.  It was admittedly annoying, especially to my father.

We had recently adopted a long hair cat, named Jodie.  Being a long hair cat, she occasionally had fur balls.  She slept with me at night, and my dad decided that maybe I had inhaled too much cat fur.  Essentially, he diagnosed me with fur balls.  (This is a 100% true story, I swear.)

So he looked on the package of the fur ball medicine to see what the main ingredient was.  The main ingredient of fur ball medicine is mineral oil.

We were home alone.  My mom was at work.  I don’ think this would have happened if she’d been home…

He took me to Wal-Mart and he bought mineral oil.

Now this part I don’t know how it really happened – I don’t know if he was saying “mineral oil” and I heard “mineral spirits”, or if, possibly he was saying “mineral spirits” when he meant “mineral oil”?  I’ve thought about this a lot, because I kinda doubt at that age I knew what mineral spirits was?  However it happened, in my mind, I got “mineral spirits” twisted up with “mineral oil”.  I do know, however, that I didn’t know what either of these things really was.

We got home, and he administered to me two tablespoons of mineral oil.  It was awful.  Like drinking baby oil.  In fact, I bet baby oil is made of mineral oil. It was really, really awful.

He made me drink two tablespoons of mineral oil, and then he went out to cut the grass.   The phone rang.  It was my brother.

“Dad made me drink mineral spirits!”  I told him.

“Dad did not make you drink mineral spirits.”

“Yes!  Yes he did!”

“Ginger.  Dad did not make you drink mineral spirits.”

“He did.  He said it would help my cough.”

“Ginger.  If Dad made you drink mineral spirits, you’d be dead.”

Even before he said that, I was pretty sure I was dying.  Now I knew I was dying!

I heard a deep sigh on the other end of the phone.  Like he was pretty sure he didn’t want to know the answer to the question he was about to ask, like he was pretty sure he could just hang up the phone and never think about it again, but in the off chance… 

“Why would Dad make you drink mineral spirits?”

“Because he thinks I have fur balls.”

I could almost hear his eyes roll through the phone.

“Why… would…  Dad… think… you have…  fur balls?”

“Because he says my cough sounds like Jodie’s cough when she has fur balls.  So he looked on the fur ball medicine and the main ingredient is mineral spirits!”

“Not mineral spirits, Ginger.  Mineral OIL.  Two different things.  You’ll be fine.”

I was not convinced.

“Mineral spirits is like alcohol.  It would have burned a hole in your throat.  You can’t drink mineral spirits.”

Then, I heard laughter through the phone, when he put it together and realized, yes, it was very likely that Dad did make me drink mineral oil, “He really made you drink mineral oil?  You won’t die, but I bet that was pretty nasty!”

That may be the closest he’s ever come to feeling sorry for me…

 

 

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