By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

The lists we have to have

Since I was a little kid, I’ve never left home to go somewhere without the reminder: “Now, Elaine, don’t’ leave home without this, or without that , or whatever.

At first, my mother told me what it was I should not leave the house without.

As I grew up, I assumed that responsibility.

Likewise, what it was that I should not leave home without changed over the years. Such as today. I head out on an errand, put on jacket, slip purse strap over shoulder — and remind myself of all that I should not leave home without.

Money. It’s in my billfold — and so are my credit cards. Do I have my billfold? It’s in this purse. House key. My front door doesn’t lock without it. Do I have directions? I do. Important, since I don’t know the street address of where I’m going. Shopping list, since I am a once-a-week shopper. It’s in my purse. Purse hangs on my shoulder.

I’ve done the check list. I’m good to go.

Oh, no, wait. You forgot the most important thing: your medications list.

These days, it’s our medications list that we do not dare leave home without. Have it in hand whenever you leave home.

I run back in to the kitchen, grab my medications list from the cupboard. Now I am indeed ready to leave home.

I’ve learned this the hard way.

I recently went to see my ophthalmologist. Said the attendant as she took me to the little cubicle where I occupy myself memorizing the lettering on the chart, “By the way, did you bring with you your list of medications?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said apologetically. “I didn’t know I was supposed to.”

“It’s helpful for the doctor if he has that,” she said.

I reminded myself to be sure not to leave home without it the next time I visited him.

On a recent routine visit to my dental hygienist for the customary cleaning, we exchanged pleasantries and I was firmly snugged under my cape, ready for the “plaque attack,” when she asked, “Did you happen to bring your medications list?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t,” I said, “but I think I remember them.” I barely started on the list when I came to those I can neither spell or even pronounce. Next time, I shall bring the list.

But oh, how those lists have changed with regard to what it is we cannot leave home without.

As a little girl, my mother’s admonitions started early Sunday morning. “Now, Elaine, be sure not to leave home without your Sunday school money and your clean handkerchief.” Despite admonitions, Mother didn’t totally trust her daughter’s memory and instead resourcefully made a little pouch of my handkerchief, tied a knot in it with the money inside, and pinned it to my Sunday school dress. All was fine, unless I had to blow my nose before the collection was taken.

At college, where I did my own remembering as to what I was not to leave my room without, it pertained to themes, assignments, extra pens, notebooks, lipstick.

Then came the shopping list era. As a bride, I made up complete weekly menus, noting ingredients needed. I hoped to do only once-a-week shopping. If, when I started down the grocery aisles and my list was at home, I was upset.

Today, the list has changed again. The all-important thing most of us cannot leave home without is our list of medications.

In the days of the “country doctor,” that list would not have been needed. But with the growth of medical learning and of increased complexity, I now go to several doctors.

The nurse’s greeting on most such visits is, “Did you bring your list of medications with you?”

And then my imagination begins to take over and I wonder how far this complexity and increase in medical learning will go and what must we expect?

When I go to a shoe store in the future, choose a pair I want to try on, sit down and kick off a shoe, will the attendant approach with my size, crouch in front of me, and say, “By the way, did you bring with you your list of medications?”

“Why on earth would I want to do that?” I will blurt out.

“We’re discovering,” the shoeman says, “that your medications can affect your feet. May cause them to swell. May irritate them. May even cause feet to lose flexibility. Cause and effects we hadn’t previously realized. We try to fit you with shoes with this knowledge in mind, and perhaps avoid future problems.”

So, fast-forward again. I go to a dress shop to buy a dress. I bring several to the fitting room, and the saleslady sticks in her head and asks, “By the way, did you happen to bring your medications list with you?”

My mouth drops open. I’ve never heard of such a thing. “Why would I need to bring my medications list to a dress shop?”

“Well,” she explains, “medications can now be so far-reaching, we’ve discovered that by checking your medications, we sometimes are able to be alert to possible future problems, with suggestions for more suitable future choices.”

Fast-forward. A group of us friends are having a gala dinner at a new restaurant. The attendant places my white dinner napkin, properly unfolded, in my lap. He beams pleasantly as I start to order, and then he says, “By the way, ma’am, did you bring with you your medications list?”

I cannot believe it. “No,” I answer, annoyed, and start to order the citrus salad. “Oh, ma’am,” says the order taker, “the grapefruit in this salad may affect many medications people your age take.” I order a different salad and special dressing. “Oh, my,” he says, “this dressing has considerable sodium. I might suggest instead this lower sodium dressing.” Then it’s time for dessert. I order chocolate mousse. The attendant, reminds, “Er, ma’am, perhaps your blood sugar level ... .”

But that is my imagination playing wild games. And tonight — tonight it is a lovely June evening in 2013. And some of us are, indeed, heading for an interesting new restaurant. But as I dress for dinner, and am then about to head out the door as friends arrive to pick me up, my conscience reminds me of what I dare not leave home without.

And then I smile to myself. I smile to myself and say, “Have at it, old girl, and don’t worry about a thing.”

At this sumptuous 2013 dinner, one thing I assuredly won’t need is a medications list.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at

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