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What doesn't kill you
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When Cole woke up feeling a bit puny, I begged him not to tell Mama.

She freaks out the second he tells her he doesn't feel good, even though it usually is the result of him eating a whole pizza by himself.

"Maybe you need to take him to the doctor," Mama will suggest, her voice dripping with worry.
"He's fine, Mama," I answer. "I can take care of him."

"I didn't realize you went to medical school," she replies, this time her voice dripping with something else.

I didn't have to go to medical school to know my child's tummy ache was probably due to over-eating. I could take care of it.

"I hope your methods are not like the ones Granny used on you," Mama commented.

Granny prided herself on being the daughter of what she described as a root doctor - her daddy had been half Native American and could make tinctures from herbs, bark, and other things to treat whatever ailments they encountered.

Her version was not exactly as scientific as her father's.

While I am sure his was a more polished method of herbal medicine, Granny's process was more aligned with the ideology of "if it didn't kill you, it'd cure you."

Like during flu season.

One was particularly treacherous.

Mama had already hauled me into the doctor who had said I was going to have to just ride it out.

I just knew I was going to die.

Everything in my tiny, pudgy body hurt.

My bones ached and the fever made me hallucinate. I am pretty sure my cat was tap-dancing while wearing a top hat and a tuxedo jacket.

Granny, thinking food was the cure-all for everything, made me a cake I was too sick to even eat.

"If that youngun' can't eat cake, she's sick," I heard Granny announce in the kitchen.

I drifted into a feverish sleep, hoping I would live to eat cake another day.

It was maybe a few hours later, maybe it was the next day, the fever made it hard to tell, but I was awakened by Granny slathering something on my chest.

It reeked to high heaven, too.

"What's going on?" I cried. "What are you doing to me?"

"I'm curing you!" she replied.

The combination of the smell and the fierceness with which she was rubbing it on me had made me fully awake.

"Why does this stink so bad?" I cried.

"It's gonna make you better - it's gotta get in your chest!"

It was obvious she was exorcising the flu from my body.

And it smelled bad enough to kill the undead.

"What is this?"

"It's a mustard plaster," she said, slapping a dishtowel on top of it. "Don't mess with that," she ordered before turning to my feet.

She yanked my socks off my feet and put something cold against them before putting my socks back on.

The smell was hard to miss, even over the skin-melting mustard inferno she had slathered across my chest.

"Did you just put onions on my feet?" I asked.

"Yes, I did. We gonna get this flu outta you one way or the other. Now, you get to sleep and let this stuff do its work."

Sleep? There was no way I could sleep with this stench. I felt like she had prepared me for some kind of Egyptian burial and the stench was to protect me in the great hereafter.

Somehow - probably overcome by fumes - I fell asleep.

The next morning, my fever was miraculously gone.

"See there," Granny said. "I told ya I was gonna cure you."

A couple of years later, Granny's doctoring cured me again before nearly killing me.
This time, the crud had turned into bronchitis which Granny said, based on her experience, sounded more like pneumonia.

Two rounds of antibiotics did nothing.

Every cough felt like it was ripping my lungs from my body, sometimes raging for several minutes.

I lay in a feverish haze, dozing in and out, seeing the heads of Mama, Granny, Pop, and Bobby floating above as they checked on me.

"This has gone on long enough," Granny declared to Mama. "I'm gonna get her something that will make her well."

Mama had roused me up long enough for Granny to tuck me into a recliner before she headed out.

She didn't say where she was going but when she returned, she had a brown paper sack with a Mason jar and a long stick of peppermint candy.

Granny smashed the candy until it was almost powder and poured the clear liquid over it into a glass.

"Drink this," she said handing it to me.

I gagged at the smell of it. "What is this?"

"Drink it," she ordered, pushing it closer.

It wasn't the burning mustard smell of the past but it had its own nostril flaring burn to it.

"I can't," I stammered.

"Drink it - it will make you better."

I pushed the glass to my lips and let a tiny bit of the liquid into my mouth.

"All of it," she said.

I am not sure what happened next, but when I came to about 3 days later, I was well.

"What did you give me?" I asked her.

"Don't you worry about it," she replied. "You're well and that's all that matters. And you just remember who cured you."

How could I forget?

What she did may not have killed me, and it didn't necessarily make me stronger, but it dang sure did get me well.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."