A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
I am counting out my son’s pills for him as I hand them to him. I do this because we are in a hurry. I do this because, if I don’t, he will stare at the seven whole pills and two half-pills for an hour or more. Most days this dilly-dallying irks me. But, not at the moment. Seven whole pills and two half-pills are a lot to take in.
I marvel at his order, his grimaces for some, his non-watered-down consumption of others, his knowledge of names, doses, side effects, and functions. He knows all this, but still struggles with the answer to 7 minus 2. Maybe it’s those two half-pills that together don’t make a whole.
He takes them all, and then it’s off to the shower. I sit at my desk and feign reading. I am praying we will have enough time to get to our appointment an hour away, that we will have enough hot water at the end of the day. I cling to his words as he ascended the stairs, “I did a good job getting up today.”
Coming across Proverbs 17:22 in my reading, the words sound so easy. It is just the first part of the verse I am seeing. I am reminded of my grandmother whose merry heart never left her as her memory did. When I was having a bad day, she told me to look her in the eye, flashed her ever-present smile, and told me to be happy. Honestly, I wanted to stomp my foot harder. I swallowed dry those bitter pills anyway.
What parent or grandparent doesn’t want to protect their children from the second half of the verse? The problem is good medicine often tastes bad. I might joke that the jar in my kitchen is filled with colorful, sugar-coated, melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hands “happy pills” labeled with an “M” for “merry.” I can ignore the devastating side effect to my hips. But, the nightmares and day-mares occurring if I forget to take my real happy pill? Or worse, if my son misses his daily doses? For me, it is like taking only half the recommended amount of Proverbs 17:22 and dilly-dallying over the other half left sitting on the table.
One of the pills my son takes–the first and newest one–is Vitamin D. We find out at the appointment he can double his dose in the summer and triple it in the fall. In our non-agrarian society and temperate climate, we need as much virtual sunlight as we can get. Turns out, it will help him sleep better as well as strengthen his bones.
I do believe in the truth of the first half of Proverbs 17:22. My husband recently asked me why we have remained stable through everything we’ve endured. We laugh. We have developed our own form of homegrown silliness. If only it could be bottled and FDA approved!
The truth is, I am a Scrooge some days. Until I wake up and come face-to-face with other Scrooges. Until like Tiny Tim, like Rainer Maria Rilke, like Anne Lamott, like King Solomon, like my grandmother, I can count my son’s pills with him and see wholeness even in the broken ones.