My years in the coal mine gave me very sensitive lungs. Ok not really. It’s because I spent my childhood inside an Iron Lung. Ok that’s not true either. I just have bad lungs. Where other people get the sniffles, I get pneumonia –that’s just how I roll. I like the dramatic life. And now with this whole aging thing, I have to be a bit more careful as 3 million geriatrics die of pneumonia each year. Ok, I just made that up too but I’m sure it’s close. Anywhoo, once again I’m dealing with a bout of Black Lung. I’m not sure if it’s the drugs or the fever, but somehow, last night the details of my last Black Lung episode five years ago, came flooding back in a vivid dream involving Archie Bunker, a purple turnip and my late father-in-law.
Not long after our nuptials, we moved to Turkey and initially lived with my in-laws. My in-laws were unequivocally the Turkish version of Archie and Edith Bunker. Even though neither of them has ever spoken a word of English, it took only moments for any visiting American with a solid knowledge of 70’s television to come to this same deduction. My dear husband, The Turk, did not offer even the slightest warning about his father’s cheerful disposition prior to us jetting across the globe and taking up residency in Archie and Edith’s spare bedroom. Within the blink of an eye, we were Meathead and Gloria, and the Turkish Archie shared about as much love for me as the real Archie did toward Meathead. Like Archie and Edith, my in-laws had matching chairs that sat directly in front of the television and cursed be the Meathead that sat in one of those chairs. My Archie, a retired middle-manager, spent hours in his chair under the caring stewardship of a high-voiced, chatty Edith, yet he was still surly. Though he stood a mere 5’4”, his demeanor and giant mustache made him a formidable little Turk who would much rather watch an old John Wayne Western dubbed over in Turkish than hold a conversation in broken Turkish with his American daughter-in-law.
A few months into our cohabitation, I picked-up a case of Black Lung from my snot-nosed first graders. My job routinely thrust me, a fearless English teacher, into a room full of unruly 6 year olds who spoke not even the slightest bit of English-bad for classroom management, great for any necessary fits of English profanity –Me: “Mehmet, stop picking your nose, sit your little ass down and shut your damn mouth!” Mehmet: Ne? (huh?) Ideal. Seven months pregnant at the time, my Black Lung landed me in the ER and that was the first time I’d seen Archie shrouded in concern. He feared that as a laissez-faire American with substandard childhood immunizations, I had succumbed to TB and worried how this might affect the unborn male heir I was carrying. After a few days of modern medicine and still my cough persisted, Archie decided to take matters into his own hands and cure me Ottoman style.
Unfortunately, this is where my Turkish failed me. I was up early due to an uncontrollable, hacking cough. I tried to lay low and watch the Turkish gossip shows but somehow I woke Archie. I heard him speaking in a quiet but hostile tone (that was his specialty) with Edith behind the closed kitchen door. From what I could translate, I understood that he was tired of my coughing, he was going to fix it and he was about to give me a black ball, then he stormed out of the apartment. Black balled. Isn’t that what Archie dreamed of doing to Meathead? I was about to get black balled from my new Turkish family for coughing! I ran in to wake Gloria, I mean The Turk, and tell him that his father wanted me dead. He reacted as he has throughout most of our marriage, “Ok Honey,” then rolled over and went back to sleep. I began to panic, Archie would be back soon and he wanted me dead. I was too pregnant to escape on the Midnight Express and my husband didn’t care to save me. I was doomed.
A few minutes later Archie returned with a bag full of dark purple turnips – siyah türp as opposed to siyah töp, I missed the subtle difference between black turnip and black ball. He wasn't about to black ball me, he was about to black turnip me - whatever that was. He didn’t even bother to take off his coat before slicing the turnips in half thus allowing their pungent scent to permeate the tiny apartment - a fragrant combination of high fiber fart and dead skunk. He was going to gas me to death! Archie proceeded to dig out a small bowl in the center, fill it with honey and wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap. He then informed me that for the rest of the day, it would be releasing juice. I was to drink the fart/skunk juice at least every two hours and my cough would go away. Not certain if he meant my cough would go away permanently because I would be dead, or not, I looked to Edith, whom I hoped would not let him kill me on her watch. She was fighting back the laughter. Edith always laughed when Archie pulled out one of his old skool village remedies, so I assumed I was safe. As any good Meathead hoping to please Archie would do, I drank the fart/skunk juice every two hours and by night, my cough was totally gone. TB cured.
Sadly, Archie is no longer with us, so this time around I am forced to turn to medical science. The male heir got his mother’s American lungs as well and he too is depending on modern medicine for a cure. While our synthetic drugs are slowly kicking in, they don't have the same power as being black turniped. I think right about now both of us would happily accept a nice dose of fart/skunk juice and offer a big "Cheers" to Grandpa Archie.