My brother showed up in New York with an immense Ziploc bag stuffed with individual vitamin packets.
"I'm supposed to eat one of these six-pill thingies per day?"
"One morning, one evening, and this bottle of... pro-fla-va-nol."
"That's 16 pills. Per day. What... how much did this cost?"
"We probably don't want to know."
A decent portion of my family's generation-above-me is crossing, will soon cross, or have just crossed the 50-year mark. Consequently, the' kitchen Pill Basket has gone from containing a cheap multivitamin (for the grown-ups, never eaten) and dinosaur-shaped chewables (for us kids, eaten only when forced to) to an overflowing collection of fish oil and calcium and
individual-letters-of-the-alphabet jars and a bunch of things labeled in Chinese that makes no sense to me. (I can parse the individual words, but figuring out that "Capital City In Memory Of My Mother Loquat Syrup" is for cough reduction is another story entirely.)
Little cups of aloe vera, pomegranate, and acai juice are being sipped from bottles in the fridge. And if it's good for your parents, it must be good for you - and so I now take vitamins that probably cost more than what I spend on groceries. (If Mom keeps giving it to me, I will keep eating it. I am a good child.) For the record: pomegranate and acai are delicious, aloe vera tastes like hydrogen peroxide smells, and glucosamine reminds me of fermented Gatorade (that's not a good thing).
This didn't start happening at any particular clear time. Godparents, uncles, aunts, parents, etc. turned 50. We had the usual birthday hullabaloo, both remote (cards from my grandmother, phone calls from my parents' siblings, emails from the kids - generational communications differences nicely exemplified) and local (red clothing, noodles for dinner). Life seemingly proceeded as usual.
Then you start to notice that words like "free radicals" and "omega 3 fatty acids" come up a lot more often in conversation than they did a few years back. And that their morning routine has changed from running out the door to work sans breakfast to sitting down with oatmeal with a prominent "may lower your cholesterol!" label on the package. And that when they offer foods to you (we're a Chinese family, so we offer each other food a lot) they inevitably end their description with "...and it's full of antioxidants!"
Someday, I'm told, I will appreciate the taste of bittermelon (when more of my taste buds die). Someday I will appreciate the quiet of the (boring) suburbs, the (agonizingly) slow pace of a casual park stroll, the benefits of a (time-wasting) long nap. Someday I'll grow tired of (WOOOO!) travel and no longer be able to work (WOOOO!) 20-hour stretches on a nearly-daily basis followed by downing two double cheeseburgers and a 12-scoop milkshake without blinking. It's interesting to see how my parents' generation navigates getting older compared to what my grandparents did; more Western medications and treatments, less sheer masochism; more "research proves..." emails forwarded without checking snopes.com first, thinking of winding down (in the next 10-20 years) a long, stable career path for a retirement that's full of relaxation and Not Work.
I doubt my path will be the same. Retirement? Working for joy instead of joy and money, maybe. I'll save up. But I'll check Snopes first before freaking out about microwaved water causing cancer, though I'm sure my generations' kids will find something to groan about in turn. Something to think about someday. Meanwhile, my grandparents and parents sail through seniorhood above me, and my cousins (I'm the oldest of 14) sprint through childhood below me, and I set up computers and serve as online shopping proxy and teach bike-riding and help edit college essays and enjoy the beta release of my adulthood. (You ship your alpha at 18 and spend the next 5 years bug-squashing so things run with a semblance of stability.)
Time to find that packet of the morning's vitamins.