Arthur’s the least popular of the Itis brothers

When Grandpa Andy would get up from the dinner table and inch his way to his chair, he’d moan and groan. The old joints, he said, just didn’t work right anymore. His hands were twisted with arthritis; his fingers looked different than they did when he was a younger man.

That’s when my mom would say, “Oh, Grandpa, it’s true, huh? Arthur is the least popular of the Itis brothers.”

“Well, I don’t like him much,” Grandpa would grin, referring to his permanent friend, arthritis — or as my little sisters said, “Arthur Itis.”

I always assumed that “Arthur” — which we termed as a not-so-much-a-friend of the family — only came to visit “the old people.” Well, it appears that Arthur has come to visit me and I’m not really that old yet. The first indication he was in the house? Everything aches as soon as moisture’s in the air.

I should have known he was coming, he’s been visiting my family for generations. We Muellers have a long history of arthritis and some strange heirlooms to prove it. There was an odd collection of petrified potatoes on a shelf — legend has it were used as a cure for my Great-Grandpa August.

It’s clear that these rocks were actually once potatoes — you can see the eyes and the bumps and everything. Grandma Onie used to tell us kids that August would put a potato in his pocket, when he was suffering from arthritis. Some sort of chemical miracle would take place — in which he’d alleviate his arthritis while the potato literally turned to stone.

I have no idea if any of that is true or even why it would work. But I have seen the petrified potatoes with my own eyes and remember when my dad tried the potato trick himself. They say it draws something out of the body, making the person feel better and changing the literal composition of the vegetable.

I haven’t seen the potato rocks in a long time — I assume they’re in a box somewhere. I also remember how Grandpa Andy didn’t try the potato trick — that’s only because Onie sewed all his pockets shut to keep him from carrying cigarettes and spare cash (but that’s another story).

The potato trick wasn’t the only one in the arsenal of remedies my family tried over the years, in trying to ease Arthur out of their lives.

My mother used to put special metal coins out on the bathroom counter for my dad, when he was being visited by Arthur. She ordered them from an ad in “Capper’s Weekly,” where the words proclaimed the special metal configuration would suck Arthur right out of the body. Sometimes he remembered to put them in his pocket, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he said it worked, sometimes he said it didn’t.

I remember Grandpa Andy would over-indulge in sardines — those disgusting little fish swimming in oil in a flat tin can. He’d sit at the table and eat them right out of the container. He said they made him feel better, but only if they were the kind without the mustard sauce.

And my mom would bake gingersnaps when Dad was ailing — maybe that was just to cheer him up when his knees would ache. When I looked up natural remedies on the internet, ginger was listed. But I don’t think they meant cookies.

There was also the presence of bananas . . . my Great-Aunt Hilda (also a Mueller and an unfortunate friend of Arthur) always said that “Chiquitas are the cure all for all that ails ya.’”

I guess I watched those people learn to live with Arthur and I suppose now it’s my turn, too.

With the irritating presence of Arthur comes a unique and very special talent — the ability to predict the weather without ever listening to a meteorologist. The sun can be shining, but now I know that snow or rain or serious humidity is on its way. All I have to do is wake up in the middle of the night and if one knee aches, just a sprinkling of rain is coming. If both knees ache and there’s a twinge in my back — it’s going to be a down-pour. Now Arthur might be in my hands as I long to cut off my right thumb and I’m developing an addiction to Icy Hot.

My brother, Steve, got to be so talented using his “Arthur powers” that all he had to do was stick his leg out the milk barn door. He’d wait for the indication . . . a few seconds would pass and he’d proclaim, “We’re going to get four inches of snow.” Granted, he also had a six-inch metal plate and eight screws in his appendage, which made the arthritis even more prevalent. (Again, that’s another story).

My family’s weather predicting powers and ability to turn a potato to stone — those are the riches I’ve inherited. I also have Mom’s words of wisdom in that “Arthur is the least popular of the Itis brothers.”

Oh, the aching started again. Arthur must be at the door. There will sure to be rain or snow in the forecast.


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