Vaccines and Antibiotics
If you've ever done any family history or genealogy research, it is clear that until 2-3 generations ago, nearly every family buried at least one child - most before their first birthday. (My grandmother gave birth to 9 children between 1923 and 1941 and only 7 survived infancy.) Infectious disease was a major threat, and there was very little that a mother or father could do to protect their children. We didn't completely understand how diseases were spread, and there were no effective treatments once someone became ill. When the first antibiotics were discovered and put into use in the 1930s and 1940s, it was nothing short of a miracle.
I have two daughters (the two on the right, actually) who I am certain would not have survived infancy without life saving antibiotics. I'm so grateful I was spared the heartache our grandmothers suffered over and over before these wonder drugs came into use!
In 1950 in the United States, there were 4238 deaths due to Vaccine Preventable Diseases (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio and Measles). Prior to the advent of these life saving vaccines in the late 1950's, every parent dreaded these horrible diseases.
In 1981, when I gave birth to my first child, there were 40 recorded deaths due to these five diseases. In 2006, when my first grandchild was born, there were zero VPD reported deaths in the US.
I know that many people are confused about vaccines. Especially today, with so many new vaccines for diseases that most people have ever worried about (Chicken Pox? Really??) or even heard of (HPV). But in my mind, the early vaccines are blessings from heaven.
Women's Rights and Opportunities
In 1969, my parents were divorced, and my mother spent the next 10 years as a single parent... except, no one had really heard that term at that time. She was a "divorcee" and there was nothing noble or admired about a woman without a husband in those days. Going through her things once, I found a letter from a bank, rejecting her for a car loan. The reason for refusal? It was against the bank's policy to loan money to single women. Mom was very intelligent, but had only a high school education and she worked very hard as a waitress to provide for me and my two siblings.
Thirty years later, I too, was divorced, with dependent children to support. I'm so grateful that I had educational and job opportunities that my mother (and my grandmother, who was also divorced in the 1940s) was denied. I never had to work in a menial jobs like they did (as you can see, I'm not a waitress).
I was able to provide a comfortable, if not luxuriant life for my children.
You'll never see me demonstrate for any cause, but I'm very grateful for the women who came before me who fought for the rights I and my daughters enjoy today.
When my oldest daughter was born in 1981, I was a Navy wife living in Orlando, FL. My mother lived in Northern California. Mom was poor most of her life, and even if she could have afforded to come to see us, it probably never would have occurred to her to come all the way to Florida for a visit. I had a small 110 camera that I'd gotten some years before as a graduation gift from my brother, and we took a few pictures of the baby. And then, of course, we had to get the film developed... which was not that difficult, but we didn't have a lot of extra money, so we had to budget for it. By the time my mother even saw pictures of her first grandchild, she was a couple of months old.
When my first grandchild was born in Idaho in 2006, I was living on the island of Maui. My son in law called my cell phone just as my daughter was giving birth. I was able to hear my grandson's first cries. Before he was 12 hours old, I had pictures on my cell phone, in my email and prints made from Costco 1-hour photo.
We have web cameras and email and skype and facebook and blogs and I'm able to see my grandchildren (I have 3 now!) grow up from across the ocean.
No Long Distance
As a child, I loved to watch cartoons. One of my favorites was the Jetsons. I remember wishing I had the cool things that George and Judy enjoyed. We still don't have flying cars that fold into briefcases, or robot maids (although the Roomba is a good start!). But we do have Video phones. Here's a recent screen shot from one of my weekly Skype sessions.
As a young Navy couple living far away from either of our families, one of our biggest budgeting issues was long distance phone charges. Does ANYONE pay for long distance today? I'm able to call any of my children (in California, Utah, Missouri and Idaho) and talk as long as I like and not ever worry about the cost. With an internet connection and a $30 web camera, I can video chat with my children and grandchildren all the time, as often and for as long as we like!
That to me is a miracle!
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as I do!