This piece is part of The Pain Diaries series.
My earliest memory of pain is a headache. But not the pain of the headache. It’s the St. Joseph baby aspirin with the toy soldier on the box.
Mom said my headaches started in kindergarten. At the young age of five, school was punishment and I never wanted to go. I didn’t want to be away from my mom.
For a short time, I was allowed to stay home because of the headache pain. That was until my parents realized I’d likely miss enough school to warrant a call from the truant officer.
Every time I had a headache, mom dolled out two St. Joseph baby aspirin. The chalky orange-tasting tablets were like candy. But in my childhood home, candy was harmful and forbidden. Medicine, however, was allowed. I can still feel the sensation of the coral-colored tablets melting on my tongue. How could two tiny tablets taste so good?
Looking back now—some 42 years later—did I develop headaches as a way to stay home from school? Did my mind manifest pain to exchange for mom’s attention and two magic elixir pills?
Why did I hate school so much? Why did I feel so compelled to be at home with my mom? Why does a healthy 5-year-old get chronic headaches?
The treatment to the complicated answers was the sweet taste of St. Joseph baby aspirin.
Take the pills and make the pain disappear.