January 15, 2009
“90/59.” I tell him.
“Oh, pisssssssssssssshhhhhhhh!” he spits back at me. “Ain’t nobody got a blood pressure that low unless they’re takin’ Lotrel. You takin’ Lotrel?”
“No. What’s Lotrel?”
“It’s my blood pressure meds. Got mine down 17 points on the top and 7 on the bottom. That and oatmeal. Oh, wait. The oatmeal was for my cholesterol. Or was it my diabetes? I get all my numbers mixed up.” He shakes his head at his failing memory. I see his wrinkled hand, discolored by sunspots and odd bruising, grip his cane. He slowly lifts himself from his chair and shuffles over to the counter to pick up his prescription. The leg on his elastic waist khaki pants bunches up. His diabetic socks are visible. His oversized acrylic sweater is covered in piles and gives me the impression that he is a widow.
I look around to find I am surrounded by older people waiting for their prescriptions from the pharmacy at the back of the grocery store. I am there because I am obsessed with my blood pressure. I check it at the do-it-yourself machine whenever I can. My aunt, who is a nurse, once told me that athletes can sometimes get their lower number into the low 50’s. I’ve always secretly wanted to achieve that. The people around me at the pharmacy are old. They check their blood pressure because their doctor told them to.
I catch snippets of conversation and it is apparent to me that most of those waiting have health issues. I am quietly smug. I feel young. Their deep wrinkles announce the many decades they’ve lived through. I will go for a run when I get home. They will struggle out of the store with their walkers. I have hard-to-eat corn on the cob in my cart. They have denture cleaner. I am smiling. They seem a tad crotchety.
With a subtle haughtiness only the truly ignorant can possess, I steer my cart down the frozen food aisle. There are three teenage boys repeating the word “dude” over and over quite loudly. Their oversized Rocawear jeans sit very low on their hips. Their plaid boxers are visible. Their Live Mechanics wildly printed hoodies give me the impression that they are highly irresponsible.
They can’t decide between pizza rolls or mini bagel pizzas. One of the boys accidentally knocks into my cart and his friends laugh. They are egging him on to “ask the lady”. Finally one of them turns to me and asks which product is better-the pizza rolls or the Bagel Bites.
“Well, the pizza rolls are higher in saturated fat and the Bagel Bites have a little more fiber. I’d go with the Bagel Bites.” I say with authority.
“Um……yeah. Thanks.” one of the boys mutters back. “We kinda just wanted to know which one tastes better.” They then grab a few boxes of the pizza rolls and take off. As they leave I hear one of the boys ask his friends. “What is it with old people and fiber?”
I am quietly offended. I feel old. I turn to leave and catch my reflection in the freezer doors. My stretch Levi’s are stretched a little too tight. My fat roll is visible over the waistband. My plain, mundane t-shirt gives the impression that I didn’t try very hard when I got dressed that morning. I look a bit dumpy. I look like someone’s tired mother.
I have to face the fact that the person staring back at me is no longer young. I’m nowhere near being old yet, but the aging process has begun. I don’t yet have the more serious health issues of the people at the pharmacy. However, my peers and I now speak about trans fats, carpal tunnel syndrome and which sleep aid medicine works the best. We buy anti-aging products, lite beer and reduced fat ice cream. I have friends with pre-diabetes, knee and back problems and high cholesterol levels. Some of us can’t make it through the night without getting up to pee. Crowns and root canals are common place. We like listening to the oldies radio stations. Most of us could lose a few pounds and tone up a bit. The times we do attempt to exercise we either can’t walk the next day because we’re so sore or we get some sort of weekend warrior “sports” related injury. We’re starting to fall apart. We’re starting to get old. I didn’t think it would happen so soon.
With a subtle humbleness only the aged can possess, I leave my wrinkled reflection and head to the checkout at the front of the grocery store. Waiting in line I find myself passing over the headlines on Cosmopolitan and Glamour and focusing on the covers of Good Housekeeping and Newsweek. The elderly gentleman from the pharmacy is in line in front of me. He turns to speak to me. He motions with his hands toward the teenage boys one line over who are paying for their pizza rolls and Red Bull energy drinks. “For the life of me, I’ll never understand why they don’t pull their pants up.”
I completely agree with the old man. “What is up with young kids these days?” I ask him. And with that question, I officially arrive at the inevitable age of being somewhere between young and old.
Read more from the author here.