Monday, October 05, 2009

My mother and father never had Health Care. There was no protection for them or their 12 children. When I had strep throat, I had to go to the County Hospital, where I received the medical care that cured my ailment and I was able to go back home. Since I was backward and shy and had never been off the farm and away from my parents and brothers and sisters, it was a horrifying experience.

I remember Bud and Connie came down to see me, but because they thought I had diptheria, they were not allowed to enter the room I was in. So they found a window that looked into my room and talked to me in sign language and words that Connie wrote on a piece of paper she found in her purse. Fortunately, it was decided that I had a Strep Throat instead of Diptheria. Since there were no antibiotics, curing horrible sore throats was a matter of gargling foul tasting liquids and waiting it out.

I have thought about all this and wondered what would have happened if one of those twelve children had had a debilitating illness or a serious injury. It was luck that kept us from such a shattering condition, and perhaps God smiled down on us, but it was something else that helped keep us from harm.

We had organic food and didn't even know enough to call it that. Our milk came straight from the cows and our chickens were roaming our farm. The vegetables we ate came straight from the garden, the salads were mixed from the lettuce, tomatoes and celery Mom grew. In the winter, the cellar was loaded with cans of those same vegetables. Oh, how I despised that cellar, with its cobwebs, it's dark, damp, dingy atmosphere, it's pile of potatoes growing ghostly white arms in the corner. Still, it was that cellar that kept us in "organic" vegetables until summer rolled around again.

There were no chemicals in the food that we ate, nor did we have the preservatives that are prevalent in the food we eat today. I can remember the meals that consisted of very little meat. I remember Hubert chowing down about twelve ears of corn at one sitting, and Bud enjoying a breakfast of five eggs. Both were gangling and youthful then, with the huge appetites of the very young.

I remember reading about a seige during World War II, when the German City of Leningrad was surrounded by enemy troops. The citizens had nothing at alll to eat. They boiled their shoe leather and licked the paste off wallpaper. There wasn't a bird, a dog or a cat to be seen, and eventually, they even began eating each other. One of the things I remember about the book that I read about all this is that the first to die were the male teens and young men, who need so many calories to survive.

I am looking at this moment at a loaf of "wheat" bread that I bought in the store. It's ingredients are what flour, water, whole grain what flour, sugar, yeast, wheat gluten, bran, soybean oil, salt oatmeal, rye, molasses, butter, yeast, calcium sulfate, monocalcrum phosphate, ammonium sulfate, barley flavor, calcium proponate, mocolyceroes, honey, vinegar, sodium stearoyl, lactlate ethokylated mono-=-diolycerides, natural flavor, malted barley flour, enrichment ferrous sulfate (iron), thiamine hydchloride (Vitamin B1) Riboflavor (Vitamin B2) Niocin (Vitamin B3) and Folic Acid.

These are the ingredients "Aunt Millie" needs to make a single loaf of bread.

Every Friday, Mom made her bread. It contained the usual ingredients, flour, yeast, a little salt, a little sugar, milk........I am sure she didn't have any calcium proponate or sodium stearoyl or any of the other items mentioned above. She always included a big pan of buns and we would come home from school and devour those delicacies with dollops of butter melted on them to add to their flavor. The bread had no preservatives. They were not needed, as the bread was eaten before it could mold. No mold deterrent was needed.

The truth is, we live in such a hysterical world that we don't even know what we are eating. We don't know what is in our food. We don't know where our food is coming from, and we don't know the effects of our food on our bodies. The directions on nutrition given to us are conflicting and confusing, with items like coffee being scorned one day, then lauded the next. We are told to avoid large quantities of certain fish and seafood because of mercury, and now they are saying the good effects outweigh the bad.

Our cupboards didn't contain much "storebought" stuff, although Mom did like her milk and crackers at bedtime. When Deed came home from the Philippines with malaria, he lay on the couch with skin the color of a lemon and a burning hot fever, and Mom plied him with soup. He was served bean soup, potato soup, chicken noodle soup and every kind of soup Mom could create. Along with doses of Atabrin, which was the only medication used for malaria back then, Deed was soon back on his feet.

There were few appliances meant to make housework easier and, if there were, we didn't have them. Mom cooked on the old woodstove that belched and bellowed, but turned out tasty biscuits. She did our laundry in a galvanized tub, using Fels Naptha soap as the garment was placed on the scrub board, then she would rinse in another galvanized tub and squeeze the water from the clothes. Mom's wringing ability was like the Jaws of Life. She could wring with a strength of a bodybuilder. That same wringing ability was used on our hair when it was given its once-weekly washing and rinsing, and when she would wring our hair, it was time for howls of pain.

Bud used to complain that he perpetually smelled like Fels Naptha soap, which drove his potential girlfriends away. Mom used it for everything, from scrubbing down kids to washing our clothes to curing a case of poison ivy. It might have been easier if it had looked a little more attractive, but it was a putrid shade of yellow, like solidified vomit, and it stung when it met your flesh.

Mom believed in cooking the Hell out of vegetables. I remember Deed proclaiming that his cabbage looked and tasted like green mush. There was no chance of bacteria or a virus getting anywhere near the food we ate. Mom boiled and boiled anything on her stove until it was as pure and germ-free. No bugs would loiter in her home-canned vegetables, she claimed, and if they tried it, she either boiled them away or fried them in grease that bubbled and spattered around the kitchen.

Those days are gone. We live in a world far more complicated that it was back then. We have lurking viruses and bacterial horrors awaiting around every corner. We have cars capable of reaching more than 100 miles an hour with mangled bodies to prove it. We have lost our sense of brotherly love and each day, one of us injures another. Perhaps there have always been problems like this, but we seem to have more and more of them. A simple life for a huge family on a little farm in a rural paradise is an endangered species these days.

So, it had to have been a miracle and a sign of the times we lived in that we didn't need Health Care and couldn't have afforded it in any form. That Mom and Pop could raise twelve children with no catastrophic illnesses or injuries was not only because of good fortune, but because of the food we ate, the clean air we breathed, and the exercise we got on the farm.

There's no going back in time. We have a different world now and we need Health Care for everyone, Health Care to combat the chemical dangers in the food we eat, the dirt and debris in the air we breathe, and our lifestyles that do not lead to good health. Above all, we need to look after each other. We are brothers and sisters. We are all God's children. We must give each citizen the gift of good health! This is our world. We are the world. Let's look after each other and make Health Care for everyone a Number One priority right now.