Friday, July 23, 2010

I have become the Cockroach

I was having a conversation with my sister last night reminiscing about our childhood, our parents, our trials and tribulations.  We, laughingly, came to the conclusion that we are like cockroaches in that we have (so far) managed to survive all the environmental hazards we experienced growing during the 50's and 60's. 
Those were the days when you never questioned what was in a product or if it would have any negative affects.  We used products with reckless abandon, secure in our ignorance.  If it was made for our must be okay.   Uh huh, sure.....
My parents were always encouraging me to develop a hobby.  One of my ventures was butterfly collecting. Please remember, this was before we even KNEW the words  "environment", "biosphere", "environmental impact",  "BIO HAZARDS", etc.,
... nor was there even the thought of being reincarnated.   I hang my head in shame as I digress....
All I cared about was collecting those pretty winged beasties and mounting them on my wall on cotton batted and framed mounting boards. It was akin to the fate of those hapless fur brethren of ours that have succumbed to becoming taxonomic heads sticking "out" of a wall or full-bodied "action" figures frozen in the act of doing something when they were alive and breathing....and happy.   I had my butterfly book and my "killing jar" and I would trek through our two plus acres of land seeking the choicest, rarest of butterflies that could possibly exist in Mansfield, Ohio....okay, so I got a lot of monarchs, cabbage and swallowtails.  Yes, at the ripe ol' age of 6 I was given the responsibility of carrying a jar with a sponge soaked in carbon tetrachloride.  "Just don't breathe it!"...I can still hear my father as he handed me my newly assembled handheld gas chamber...and of course...I would catch a wisp of it every time I opened that jar to place my poor winged sacrifice.   I still cringe when I think of my actions.  I will probably come back as a Swallowtail butterfly...or a Luna moth.  YES, I killed a damn Luna moth.
So this was ONE of my environmental bio hazards I was exposed to.
Then there were those INglorious chemicals my mothered enshrouded her garden in annually.  Oh my! How we loved our herbicides, pesticides, inoculates and fertilizers.  The dusting for cabbage worms, cut worms, cabbage butterflies, tomato worms, flea beetles.  The spraying for corn "smut", black spot, brown spot, wilt, powdery mildew.... and the stuff that "makes gardens green and lush"- the chemical fertilizers - all in pretty blues, aquas and greens.  My mother sprayed and dusted with reckless abandon to get that perfect, untainted, unchewed amazon-lush garden.  And we chomped and chewed those perfect vegetables thinking they were the best thing in the world, so perfect, so "pure".  And while she demonstrated her prowess and green-thumbed savvy, our mother felt blessed that she could provide such healthy, fresh and gorgeous vegetables for her family.      cough*
Then there are those "medical" treatments that we endured that our parents sought to try and make our bodies gorgeous and our skin pure.  After all, my mission was to marry affluence.... My parents were determined that I was NOT going to have acne...genetics be damned! Despite that fact,  my face oozed and pussed throughout my post-pubescence into my thirties.  While in my parents' care I endured ingestion of antibiotics and hormones, I sat under UV treatments which gave me a perpetual "ruddiness" on top of the pustules, I did everything but go to a witch doctor.   I would be taken to the dermatologist and would sit through sessions wearing little heavy black goggles to protect my eyes as he would circumnavigate my face with  ultraviolet light.  Later, I had the luxury of having my OWN sunlamp and giving myself my own skin cancer-causing treatments.  (age 57 and nothing yet, knock on wood)  I also was put through the torture of subcutaneous injections in my inner forearms of some retinoid substance that was definitely worse than "water boarding" a terrorist.  The painfulness of the substance as it sat in a huge blip under my skin was extreme.  My father, the pharmacist, would do the injection at our home...and I would be sobbing before, during and after the treatment.  My mother finally could not bear the emotional stress of watching me go through this and, to my exhausted relief, put her foot down and said "NO MORE!"  \0/!  So, I have lived with the pitted scars anyway. Was it worth all the pain?  Was it worth all the teeth extractions? The ugly grey teeth that do remain?  I mean, I STILL have the acne scars?  I would like to still have my teeth.

I remember the call on a labor day weekend.  My mother, relaying the news that she just found out she had lymphoma.  She had complained of a painful lump on the back of her neck and I had told her to have a doctor check it out.  I almost felt like it was my fault that she got the diagnosis.  After all, I told her to have it looked at.  But, reflecting  back on our consumption/use of chemicals, my sister and I  are quite sure that all her gardening ventures, her arts and crafts and other exposures to chemical products led her to the cancer.  The year before she got the lymphoma she was on oxygen due to suffering hearing loss caused by exposure to the sealant she used on the basement walls. 
She died within a year of her diagnosis.  After 25 years, it still angers me.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda's....
But, my sister and I are not out of the woods yet.  We have our own health issues to contend with.  And, I do believe some of them are party to the chemical "bathing" we did as we grew up.  It's a lesson that I hope we can impress upon others.  We both have become much more cognizant of our actions.  We are more organic in our food selections and in what we put on our bodies, as well.  I just ask that everyone take heed.  Pay attention to what you do and what you use.  There is a price to pay.

No comments:

Post a Comment