Sunday, March 14, 2010

The "Flexible" Pharmacy

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).


  1. It worries me if my mother goes before my father; I just can't see him functioning, similar to the man you describe.

  2. I found your post very interesting and well written. Thank you ! Have lovely week

  3. I've seen that happen to many couples. Men are not as strong as women in times of loss.

  4. I share the views by Janie B. Have a great new week ahead! Hugs.

  5. A sad story, except the ending. Glad you and your friend were reunited. The same thing has happened with quinine. It helps with cramping and now the old folks can't get it.

  6. How very sad about the pharmacists. Obviously as you mentioned they were together all the time, at work as well as in the home. I believe that one becomes a part of the other...

  7. I, too have known of couples who died within a short time of each other. I do not remember whether gender had anything to do in these cases. Excellent post.

  8. A very interesting post as always. That happens a lot with couples, especially if they are inseperable. It always amazes me when people have used a product forever and it has been available forever, then all of a sudden it is not available and a health risk.
    until next time... nel

  9. Sadly it's a case where two truly become one. I've seen this time and time again with happy couples, especially when the wife goes first.

    Again you bring a very interesting story behind the story with the 'flexible pharmacy.' Thank you so much Duta.

    God bless and have a marvelous Monday!!!

  10. Nancy C,

    I can fully understand your fears, but don't start worrying about that now; it won't do any good to you or to them.


    I'm glad and flattered. Thanks a lot.

    Janie B.,

    Indeed, men seem to be the weaker gender in times of loss.

    Phivos Nicolides,

    Thank you. Have a great week you too!

    Ronda Laveen,

    There's also the example of Optalgin; it once dissapeared , and it was reintroduced after a while again as a pain killer.


    It seems ideal when two people who love each other are inseparable. However, when one of them passes away, it could lead to the remaining one's tragic disfunction.


    It appears gender is significant. Men are more vulnerable in many of the cases.


    Yes, it's both surprising and frustrating finding out that a helpful product is all of a sudden considered a health risk.

  11. If husband & wife love & 'live' each other so much, wouldn't it be better for both to die at the same time, so none of them has to ache for the other who died first until they die, too?

  12. Interesting...we all have symbiotic relationships to one degree or another...I find it rather lovely that the pharmacist was so bereft of his other half. Imagine being loved/needed that much!

  13. I had never really thought about it (other than worrying that my mother would have trouble with financial stuff if my dad died first - she was a savvy cookie, but not really into investments & such). But when Mom died my father had met another woman within three months. He actually knew her long before that - they are in the same singing group. I was glad that he found someone that he could love - they've been married a few years now.

  14. A very sad story. I have cousins who have been married (he's my cousin actually) for nearly 40 years and he can't breathe without her. I worry for the inevitable.

    Well written story.

  15. I love the way you write. Very moving. (hugs)

  16. Nezzy,

    This case was rather extreme as they were not old people,
    not over 60, I think. He could have still find the strength to rebuild his life. His Fate thought otherwise.
    God bless you too, Nezzy!

    Pink Panthress,

    Your question is relevant, Panthress. However, I think life and death are not in our hands; we are mere 'players' in the hands of the Almighty, or call it Fate/Destiny.


    I'm envious of such a close relationship. Like you I find it lovely. All's well IF only it ends well.

    The Bug,

    Your father knew the woman long before your mother's death. That's an important fact; it saved him from loneliness and deterioration.


    "He can't breath without her" - that was probably the case with the pharmacist too. Don't worry! One can never know what the future will bring.

    Ms Hen,

    I'm glad of that. Hugs to you too . Have a happy Day!

  17. An interesting and thought provoking post as usual,Duta.My God parents were childless, after 40years together,my God mother died of cancer,her husband was so distraught and lonely he died exactly a week after her.This was many,many years ago,but I still remember them fondly as they showed me so much love.
    As for the medication,I do not entirely disagree with the pharmacist.If something has been banned,he could be liable by dispensing it,however I do have sympathy with your reasoning,if something works and you are aware of the warnings then why not have it !!
    Happy St Patricks day wishes to you from Ireland.

  18. Hello Duta, I hope my Hubs goes before me, so I can make sure he is looked after right up to the end. He has been a good partner to me, and I feel that this is something I would want to do for him. I couldn't bear him deteriorating like this man. Great post, and as always, made me think.

  19. Hi Duta
    Oh, a sad story but you told it wonderfully.
    Thank you for sharing, you always have the most interesting posts.

    Margie :)

  20. matron,

    The story of your beloved God parents is a sad one. The good thing is that you remember them fondly.
    As for the pharmacist I agree with your point of view. It's just that I was in distress and I expected a friend to take some risk for me.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!


    Your comment is very touching. I like your straightfordwardness on the topic of 'who goes first'. May you both live to be 120!


    Thanks a lot for the compliment. You've made my day.

  21. My grandparents passed away within a year of each couldn't live without the other. That is a sad story Duta. It's sad that he wasn't able to continue without her.

    What a mess with the medicine you needed. they will give us drugs that now give people cancer and make you so sick with side affects but you can't get something for an itchy ear?? so sill!

  22. Complete love is a difficult thing to understand, but I do know that people who purely love one another can die from the loss of the other. I've seen it happen many times in otherwise healthy people. My Mother used to say they 'died of a broken heart'. That's as good an answer as I need. Wonderful post, Duta. I do hope you were able to secure the ear treatment for you Mother from some other source. Isn't it contradictable that our governments seem to want to protect us from ourselves by limiting the use of medicinals (mostly natural ones) but feel no compunction at letting us die from neglect. Too many are suffering in the world today from all these 'good intentions'.

  23. A lovely although sad post Duta. I worked in a funeral home for about 9 years and I know first hand that when the wife died first then husbands were lost. Many of them came back to the funeral home just to sit or chat with me and I think thats because thats the last place they saw their loved one.

    When the husband died first I saw a majority of the women had problems with the finances as they had always let the husband handle them; but once they got the hang of it most of them blossomed and lost weight, colored their hair, went on cruises.

    Either way a sad situation all the way around.

  24. So sad. I am afraid I could feel the same as that man if my husband died. Something to think about.

  25. Kathy,

    Sad indeed what happened to your grandfather. May his soul rest in Peace!
    You're right about the medicine; it was indeed a silly mess but I managed somehow to get it.

    C Hummel Kornel a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    Thanks for your wonderful comment.
    Dying of a broken heart is one of the most tragic forms of death.

    As for the Health Authories' will to protect us, you know what they say: " Good intentions may lead to Hell".


    Wow! You must be something special if you could work at a funeral home for so long. I believe you're absolutely right about your observations on husbands and wives.

    Jennifer D,

    A sad case like that of the pharmacist , makes us indeed think about ourselves and the people around us and what could happen to us and to them.

  26. If we have "flexible" pharmacies here, I have never heard of them. Sad story about the couple and the mans demise after the lady's passing. I am sorry for your friend for the lost of your friendship. Do you really think it was fair of you to ask? I think there is really two sides to every story. I hope you can see his point now. I have always felt there are some things you do not ask of a friend if you are one. Maybe I am wrong but that is how I feel. Peace

  27. Lady Di Tn,

    I suppose you're right about not asking a friend for certain things. I cannot judge people by how I would have reacted in a similar situation. Anyway, he was more of a close acquaintance than friend. Thanks for your comment.

  28. I don't know what my dad will do if my mom goes first. They've been together for almost 60 years.

  29. First time here...! Happened to blog jump from Susan's blog.
    And about the post, What can I say about it?
    I long to see such love filled couples.
    Your thought process impressed me a lot. Moreover its a coincidence that even my last post was on similiar lines. I wish you read it once to know my feelings towards such relationships.

  30. Tracie,

    Hopefully it will all be OK. You shouldn't worry. Not two cases are identical.


    Welcome! and thanks for the 'follower'.
    On the one hand, we envy such loving couples as the two farmacists in my post, on the other hand we are stunned by the tragedy to which a too close relationship might lead to.
    I'm off to read your last post.


    Thanks for your comment.

  31. Hello, Duta. Well, I have to admit, if I was the friend pharmacist, I'd have mixed up the preparation without a second thought. Some rules are simply made to be broken, and if that was the only thing that gave your mother relief it would have been a case of, "Just give me your word you'll keep it away from children, and we're golden."

    That poor man, although you know, there is something very compelling about being that much a part of another person. My husband's grandparents on both sides come to mind: On the paternal side, they both died in their early eighties, and within two months of each other. She went first, and he followed quickly, never knowing the burden of having to carry on without her for long.

    On his maternal side, his grandmother lived for twenty years after her husband died and actually, in a twist of fate, lived to see her son-in-law buried and to be there for her daughter. I have noticed though that it seems women tend to bear up better in those circumstances. It's often men who are lost without their longtime spouse, and either quickly follow, or find another spouse.

    I find that interesting, and of course it isn't based on any scientific study, just what I've observed. A widow tends to carry on a bit better than a widower.

    Isn't that funny? We think of women as being the far more emotionally attached, and more emotional creatures overall...but in sitting here thinking about it, I only know one man who kept going after losing his wife, and has yet to remarry...but his children were still young when his wife died.

  32. Duta, I can relate to this man and his sorrow. My dad was a mess after losing my mom. He never did fully recover but married twice after and is now in the middle of another messy divorce at age 82. My mom was everything to him and he never could replace her and find the happiness he once had. We just try to keep loving him through it all.

  33. Land of Shimp,

    "Some rules are made to be broken" - I like that, and I think the banning of the boron preparation was one of those rules.

    I also agree with you that "women carry on better than men in those circumstances". It's based on observations of what we see around us, it's almost a scientific fact.


    Sorry for your Dad's sorrow and mess as a result of his unhappiness following the loss of his wife, your Mom.
    Your love and support is very important, as it's probably what keeps him going on .