It was in a small building on a narrow lateral street. Inside, there were only two people serving the customers- a wife and her husband, both pharmacists.
I was directed to this pharmacy with the recommendation that it was " flexible" , meaning that one could get stuff unobtainable at other pharmacies. And it wasn't for money. The middle-aged couple were just kind people trying to help wherever and whenever possible.
My mother had been suffering for some time of a bad ear itching. Nothing helped relieve the problem except a certain solution prescribed by an experienced ear doctor. It was a cheap solution and easily prepared by any pharmacist. To my astonishment, I found myself one day in the position that nobody wanted to prepare it for me . It appeared that the active ingredient, 'boron', was found to be carcinogenic in children, and its use was forbidden by the Health Authorities. Well, my mother was no child and she insisted on having the solution at any cost. That's why and how I got to the 'flexible' pharmacy.
It was a good feeling to enter this place - an intimate, family establishment, with a nicely arranged interior and superb service. One day, I found the front door closed, and on it an obituary announcing the sudden death of the woman pharmacist. The shop reopened some two months later. The man was unrecognizable; he looked a human wreck. He told me he had made a great effort to return to work hoping it would give him a chance to go on living, as he felt he couldn't make it without his wife.
The next time I came to the place, I saw one corner full with shoe boxes. What was all that about? The man said he intended to turn his pharmacy into a shoe shop. Since his wife's death he had developed some health issues and was afraid to deal with preparation and selling of medications ; so he decided on something he was familiar with from childhood when he used to help his father in the family-owned shoe shop . The pharmacist sounded to me confused, so I left without asking for the solution.
I happened to be in that vicinity several more times. He was not there, the pharmacist, and I saw no shoe shop but a cosmetics shop, and next time there was a hairdresser's shop, and then a food shop. Flexible place indeed...
The entire episode gave me much food to thought. I've seen men deteriorate after their wife's death but not so quickly and not in such an abrupt manner. What happened in this particular case was perhaps the fact that they had no life at all without each other ; they were together all the time : at home and at work.
As for the difficulty in obtaining the solution - a friend pharmacist of mine was among those who refused to prepare it for me after the 'boron' element was put on the "black list". I reminded him of the saying "A friend in need is a friend indeed" and cut off any contact with him. I was confident that I would have taken the risk of ignoring the stupid health regulation to help a friend in distress ('stupid' was the word used by him later on when he tried to apologize for his behaviour).