Lum: By the skin of my teeth |

Lum: By the skin of my teeth

Su Lum

When I’m out of oxygen, I never figure it out until the last minute, when I’m just about ready to dial 911. And when I was recently testing into the stratosphere for blood sugars, I didn’t dream that it might be a failure of my equipment, so it was no wonder that when I started waking up around noon and taking two naps before supper and then thrashing fitfully through the night, it never even occurred to me to blame this new manifestation of symptoms on my pills.

One of the worst things about getting old is dealing with the pills: sorting them, reordering them and remembering to take them when and under what circumstances — thyroid pill on an empty stomach, others with meals, eye and bone pills (four each) spread out across the day. I should have a chart to keep them all straight.

Just to keep the game interesting, the pill manufacturers randomly change the names, colors and shapes of the pills so that what used to be an easily identifiable green pill suddenly turns into a generic-looking white pill. One can’t help but wonder why the Pfizer and Merck people can’t take advantage of the rainbow of colors available from eggplant to sage, giving us pill-poppers a fighting chance of getting it right.

My troubles began the Saturday before last (what my grandmothers would call “Saturday week”). I slept through that day as if I had been roundly coshed on the head and ditto the following day, making me worry that I was “letting myself go” because I didn’t feel sick, didn’t have a fever (Ebola!), ate well enough when I was conscious and didn’t feel particularly depressed but just wanted to crank up the electric mattress pad and curl up under the covers.

My chronic back was hurting a lot more than usual, but that and exhaustion were my only symptoms.

“I’ll come out in April,” I joked to my friends, but I wasn’t really kidding. “I must have been bitten by a tsetse fly,” I teased my friends when, on Wednesday, I could still barely lash myself out of bed to go to the john and hadn’t gotten past disc one of my book on CD.

Tsetses, as you no doubt know, are African flies that carry a nasty sleeping sickness.

On Thanksgiving, I was attempting to do my part for a communal dinner, and I not only had to remake the cranberry sauce and almost absentmindedly boiled away the peas; I made a complete hash of the buttery rolls I was baking as a special request.

One thing that keeps me going is that I can still cook, so it was more than slightly discouraging to be screwing up such a simple task. Why was this batter for the rolls so thick? Maybe because I forgot to add that cup of warm milk? While I was warming the milk, I noticed that I had knocked over an entire cup of melted butter that was streaming across the counter and onto the floor, and in dealing with that, the milk boiled up and over, and I had to wait so long for it to cool that the rolls ended up a sodden mess.

I was pretty sure that was that — time for the home for sure.

On Friday, I looked at the dirty dishes and the congealed butter on the counter, thought “Screw it” and went back to bed.

On Friday evening it was time to refill my pillbox. I dutifully got out my bag of pills and started putting them into their daily compartments. Rum tum doodle tra la and suddenly — oh my Lord — I realized that instead of the pain pills I take every four hours for the chronic back, I had been taking a soporific that didn’t do squat for pain but had everything to do with a week as a couch potato.

Su Lum is a longtime local who was glad to have the mystery cleared up and especially to learn that she isn’t (completely) nuts (yet). Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at