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Patches deliver medicine; why not personalities or peace?

Byline: WRITE ON By Patricia Mees Armstrong For The Register-Guard

Consider "the patch," an operative term these days - charged-up, definitely exciting, positively "in." In a recent news release: a "pot patch," smokeless marijuana to ease the awfulness of cancer. Researchers in diabetes also have a patch that may sideline conventional insulin shots for human pin cushions like me.

The patch is ubiquitous. Witness its use to fight vertigo, motion sickness, menopause, smoking.

We use it to check out tuberculosis, an almost-forgotten curse that is reportedly on the rise again. Younger women may use the patch for birth control; older ladies wear estrogen patches.

The patch has come a long, long way from its word-birth in 16th century Italy when its derivative "paccio" meant a fool or a dolt. The device evolved into the term for pieces of material used to camouflage, to cover a hole or weak spot or wound (actually, to fool). Women in Europe wore one to hide a blemish; ladies in India still wear them to heighten their cultural concepts of beauty.

Current fadists are gaga for the tattoo patch. No binding commitments needed to those permanent pen-and-ink skin decorations. "Patch me, up, Rocky. Stick Annie's name there on my biceps. That is, until I have to yank it off to start romancing Susie." "Hey, see my new necklace, anklet bracelet, this ring?" Fooled you! Patches, every one.

Nevertheless, we're not talking mere beauty patches and Band-Aids here. We should pay serious attention to these small incipient panaceas, many on the drawing boards, many still not conceived.

Of course, we all use the patch in daily parlance and application. We patch our bicycle tires, our jacket elbows, our blue jeans. Folks with an injured or missing eye often wear a therapeutic patch, and some would-be sophisticates don one for ostensible glamour (remember the Hathaway Man shirt ads?).

Some duffer once advised my husband that he'd improve his golf swing if he wore a patch on his right eye. He looked like a pirate beached on the greens. Sadly, he needed a more effective aid to lower his score!

In the Depression, my father, an Irish immigrant, patched my holey shoe soles to last until pay day, when I gloried in a shiny new pair of Buster Browns. In Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes," his impoverished father patches his sons' pitiful shoes with chunks of rubber from discarded tires, remnants of his pride opting for patching instead of begging for his brood at the Limerick rectories.

We patch in telephone hookups and use them to fix faulty computer programs. Outer soles and inner souls are patched. We patch up spats and quarrels, even marriages.

So, are we on a roll? Does the patch have tomorrows not yet dreamed of?

How about behavior modification to the max? Got a bratty kid? Stick a be-good-be-nice patch on his freckled brow. Ditto, a pesky in-law. How about a wife not in the mood or a grumpy neighbor or an irascible guy behind you at the movies who narrates the film aloud, scene by scene?

While we patch away smoking, let's tackle further bad habits - nail biting, thumbsucking, boozing. Toss the pills, lick the allergies, raise the serotonin and libido, lower compulsive eating, ditch the migraines. Soak patches in truth serum, in creativity, in kindness, in generosity of spirit, in brotherhood.

How about this scenario? You're the caterer at a hard-driving summit of world leaders. First course: Pass out peace patches with the initial round of tasting libations. Second course: Serve voices-of-reason patches with the plat du jour and just watch as peace breaks out.

Ultimately, we could each have our bank of patches stamped at birth with our Social Security IDs (at least until the Social Security Administration goes belly up). Designer patches in all rainbow colors. Wow, patches as fashion statement, as actual medicine, as therapy, as admirable traits, all tested and packaged, ready to ship online or off.

The promise of the precocious patch in our future resonates almost as a given from many a doc in the ER: "Say, Mom, don't worry, we'll have your kid patched up in no time!"

Patricia Mees Armstrong is nationally published in short fiction, poetry and essays. She is a former journalist, educator and the author of six books of poetry. She has received two poetry awards from the Oregon State Poetry Association this year and also won first prize in adult poetry in the Willamette Writers' Kay Snow writing contest.

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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 12, 2006
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