... Re-examining our childhoods
As much as I love and enjoy my fellow Senior Citizens, I must confess to sometimes feeling downright annoyed. That occurs when they sit around and moan and groan about “the good old days.” They claim that when we were young, there were no problems with drugs and alcohol and sex, as there are today.
I wonder. I imagine there were plenty of those problems. But I think many of us tend to look back on our youth with rose-colored glasses, or even to suppress certain memories.
What I want to stress in this article is the many positive facets of life today. Take transportation, for example, which is now so much faster and more efficient. In the “old days,” if we had a beloved relative who lived two or three hundred miles away, we either never visited or we drove there, a nerve-wracking task. Or perhaps we took some form of public transportation, such as a smelly, sooty train. Nowadays we can just climb into a car and presto, changeo, we are at the doorstep of our cherished relative after a comfortable trip.
How about communication? I have dear friends in Utah, Switzerland, Missouri, Washington State, North Carolina and Florida, to mention just a few. I can keep in touch with them through e-mail or telephone calls. That was impossible in our youth.
I well remember my childhood in the White Mountains of New Hampshire during the Depression and World War II years. My parents each had one sibling, one in Massachusetts and the other in Vermont. After we got our first telephone in 1942 they made rare phone calls to their relatives. They always looked scared while they were talking because long distance calls were so expensive.
Before we had a home phone, one had to go to the nearest drugstore to make a call. If there were an emergency in our relatives' families, we would get a notice from the local pharmacy that we should call the home of the relative. Scary times, indeed.
How about medical care? We can really count our blessings on that score! When I was very young my uncle died of pneumonia at age 30, leaving 3 pre-school age children. How much happier their lives would have been had penicillin been available.
When I was 15 I developed a strep throat. Nowadays, penicillin banishes it in no time. Penicillin had been discovered when I was 15, but it was limited to use by the Armed Forces. At that time, the only drug available for civilian use was sulfanilamid, which knocked out the strep but also knocked me out for three weeks. I remember watching my mother come in to change the sheets on my bed. I thought she was extremely energetic, the way she flapped those bedclothes around! The only positive aspect of that sickness was that while I was recuperating, my high school boyfriend taught me to play cribbage, which I still enjoy.
Then there is eye care. There are thousands of cataract surgeries done every year, partly because people are living longer and partly because cataract surgery is becoming more and more skillful and almost routine.
Dental care has also greatly improved during our lifetime. A visit to the dentist used to be a painful, dreaded process. No more. With the advent of new techniques, it is almost a pleasant experience which adds to our longevity, our attractiveness and our pleasure in living.
When my father was a young man in the early 1900's his mother made sure to remove her Vermont family to a “safer” place in a small town so that the children would not contract polio, a dreaded disease in those days. Thanks to Jonas Salk, polio has been virtually eradicated.
Think about household chores. Women back then spent most of their time cooking, doing laundry, sewing and canning produce from a garden they had tended themselves. And let's thank progress for the invention of dishwashers, washing machines and dryers. Who irons these days?
Some people may yearn for the good old days when families gathered around a piano and sang together. Yes, that was nice, but think of the variety of entertainment we have available now: television, movies on TV and from Netflix, and other modern electronic sources of music and drama.
Remember those hot and humid days with no air conditioners? That atmosphere was pretty successful in sapping our strength and will to work.
Other factors to remember: there were no seat belts. Head-on collisions were almost always fatal.
If you were an older person before 1935, there would be no Social Security.
Before World War II, a teacher could not continue teaching if she got married (but her husband could). In many school districts, teachers had to quit if they got pregnant (even if they were married). In 1930, life expectancy was 59. Take a look at the Senior Center of any town and thank your lucky stars that that statistic about life expectancy has changed!
In the good old days there was no recourse for women or children who were beaten at home.
If you are living life as a handicapped person, before the end of the last century there were no facilities to help you, such as The Ride or accessible restaurants, restrooms, and so forth.
Next time you may feel like pining for the old days, take a moment to reflect on the positive parts of our life now.
I hope I've made my point. Instead of longing for the “good old days,” we should really count our blessings and appreciate them.
April 1, 2011