The national baby formula shortage prompts me to tell a fun story of my own problem with mother’s milk — and fake mother’s milk — when I was starting out in life more than 72 years ago.
Pretty soon after I was born, I started rejecting my mother’s milk. This caused some strain in the relationship, naturally: Mom didn’t appreciate being physically rejected. But I was throwing up, and no one likes throw-up and cleaning up after throw-up, so an effort was made to accommodate me by switching me to some kind of formula.
Which also made me throw up.
Now, my parents were not very conscientious and rarely took me to the doctor unless they were somehow inconvenienced by my symptoms. In this case, cleaning up after puke met the threshold. By the time they got around to taking me to a doctor, the army had sent us to the middle of Oahu, Hawaii, and the doctor they pulled at the clinic was Hawai‘ian. He listened to their story of woe and told them that Hawai‘ians have dealt with such problems by feeding such babies warm papaya juice.
My parents told me about how stunned they were to hear about this. Knowing their attitudes toward other cultures, I’m sure that the thought on both of their minds at the time was, “Oh no, we’re getting advice from the Hawai‘ian equivalent of a witch doctor.”
But they tried it anyway, and it worked. I took to it and stopped throwing up. It became a family legend. They’d tell any new friends: “Our son was weaned on papaya juice.” It portended things to come, including my attachment to wearing Hawai‘ian print shirts and that my preferred pronoun is ‘ia.
Speaking of health problems, now I have to be afraid of coming down with monkeypox.
I learned about this from my co-workers, Ainsley “Bearer of Bad Tidings” Meyer and Caroline “Ditto That” St. Clair, two people who always seem to know whatever is going to scare me next. “Hey, Wes! Now you can get monkeypox! You’ve had chickenpox, you could have had cowpox, now watch out! Here comes monkeypox!”
I have a number of column ideas I keep in reserve. One of them is to write an entire column just listing ideas for how I might die, hopefully sometime no sooner than age 110. Just a long list of ideas, like “hit by a dump truck while walking home from buying my daily wine.” There could be a lot of ways to die of bodily explosions. I could get monkeypox, and my insides could burst. Of course, I could also recycle ideas about being flattened in a pancaked building during The Big One. Those fears are always a hoot to embellish upon and share.
I’ll save all that for some other week. It’s something to look forward to
By the way, a friend of mine reminded me this week of the theory that a dark sense of humor is a sign of impending dementia. I reminded him back that it is well known that it doesn’t work if you’ve had a dark sense of humor all your life. In that case it means nothing. To be meaningful, it has to be a late turn toward dark humor. I don’t have that problem.
Another idea for a column I’m holding back until it is ready to be put on display — in chains on a stage, like King Kong — is an entire column about some absurdly useless philosophical conundrum.
Many of you may recall that I trotted out the problem of The Ship of Theseus a while back, in which I gave the definitive answer that there is no definitive answer. As the ship’s parts are replaced over time, there is no definitive answer to when it stops being The Ship of Theseus versus when it becomes some other ship. It’s up to you to choose where to draw that line.
This is related to the concept of cleavage. If there is no cleavage, there is only the one breast. I believe Sir Francis Bacon first enunciated this principle while speaking to a young man about beetles. I could be mistaken. My memory of that class is fuzzy.
Anyway, it won’t be The Ship of Theseus next time. It will be a conundrum you aren’t expecting.
Read more of the May 25-31, 2022 issue.