By Betty Mills

Looking at myself in the mirror is hard enough on many mornings (when did all those wrinkles arrive?) without considering that my life actually spans five generations. It reaches from my mother to my great-grandchildren, and the changes that encompass that timeline are pretty amazing.

Consider childbirth, for example. Mother was 24 years old when her first child, my brother, was born in a hospital. She was strictly confined to bed there for two weeks, and went home weak and unsteady on her feet. Surprise, surprise.

Her doctor also refused to administer pain medication because “The Bible says, ‘You shall bring forth your children in pain.’” She never forgave him, but Mother Nature rescued her from further unkind encounters. I nearly arrived on the way to the hospital, and my sister was born unexpectedly at home.

My great-granddaughter, on the other hand, arrived on Christmas Eve. Her mother, not noticeably unsteady on her feet, brought her home the next day proclaiming firmly, “We’re not spending Christmas in a hospital.”

Over the years, it has been a chore to keep track of the late-breaking news on health. A painkiller originally pronounced as a breakthrough may soon be considered a potential path to dangerous addiction. Eggs waltz on and off the acceptable diet lists, and once fatal conditions are now manageable, if not curable.

Then, when you surprise yourself and survive into your 90s, like me, they no longer consider you a good risk for surgery, so you’re told to watch your diet, do your exercises, and express a little gratitude that you must have been granted the luck of the genetic health draw. Or maybe increasingly knowledgeable and good healthcare had a role to play?

It can ge a good deal more complicated to wend your way through the multiple-choice-land on today’s medical menu (presuming, of course, that you have adequate health insurance or a bottomless bank account). Advice may not grow on the proverbial tree, but it shows up in a bounty of articles in magazines, newspapers, and television specials, along with the first-hand accounts of your friends and relatives and sometimes strangers on the bus with their accumulated and occasionally garbled accounts of real life experiences.

We are better at life than my memories of those good old days would ascribe to our understanding of what was happening to us physically. What I recall is mostly sudden silence, as if the inconvenient appearance of a menstrual period or a prolonged bout with diarrhea were up there on the list with infidelity as far as public discussion was concerned.

Actually, I’m sorry that I didn’t catch on to the most useful factors in good healthcare while I still could participate. I would have put down the book and gone for a brisk hike with regular consistency or replaced the cookies with raw carrots, the coffee break with a short nap. But, then, along with all the other health hazards of those good old days, we were also missing the public conveniences of modern times like hiking trails and public gymnasiums.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of women’s life is that, increasingly, the choice is ours. Whether we take advantage of that choice is also ours to decide. It is no longer written in some societal code that has long reached its expiration date.

Here’s to your good health in a more rational world.

Betty Mills is the granddaughter of Morton county homesteaders. An avid reader, Betty’s home is filled with books, and she belongs to three book clubs. She was a political columnist for the Bismarck Tribune for 25 years and active on numerous boards and councils. At the age of 92, Betty still finds joy in writing.