Breakfasts of My Youth

I recently received a gift of several grapefruit, a fruit I rarely eat and one I associate with my childhood. It was the staple of my family’s breakfasts, along with orange juice and seemingly unlimited amounts of milk. Several decades ago, I stopped drinking OJ when a doctor told me it had too much sugar. And I stopped eating grapefruit when I found out it interfered with a medication I was taking.

Is nothing sacred? Although we grew up being told that we needed milk for strong bones, now we’re told that milk and other dairy products are the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Studies have also linked dairy to an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

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Aging Alone

When my mother was in the final years of her life and suffering from dementia, she forgot the names of food and couldn’t tell us what she wanted to eat. But I remembered the meals she served us when I was growing up, so I prepared grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna salad, and sliced and salted avocado for her. But for those who don’t have children, who will remember their favorite foods when they’ve lost their memories?

After my father had a stroke and couldn’t read, talk coherently or play any of the three musical instruments he excelled at (harmonica, accordion, piano), I played for him, via Spotify, all the old familiar songs he and my mother sang when we were young, like “You Are My Sunshine” or “Red River Valley,” plus German polka music, his favorite. The music pierced through the foggy layers of his brain and got him to sing and tap his feet. Without children, who would remember the music that made him happiest?

Twelve million people over 65 in this country live alone (according to the Pew Research Center), and many in that group also are childless.  Unlike previous generations, many baby boomers did not have children, for various reasons, or are estranged from their children. My generation also had higher divorce rates than previous generations. All of this means a lot of seniors will have to navigate the hazards of getting older by themselves.

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Canceling Parents

In these times of polarization, it should be no surprise that it extends to families, even parents and children.  Especially as teenagers and young adults, parents and children can have fractious relationships, but apparently the situation has gotten worse.

An article on the BBC website recently cited the case of a man in his 30s who ended his relationship with his parents because he discovered they espoused white supremacy. He belongs to a support group of other young adults who find their parents’ political views abhorrent.

The article also cited a psychologist, author of a book about parent-child estrangement, who views this as a new phenomenon, a result of people “pursuing happiness and personal growth, and less on emphasizing duty, obligation or responsibility.”

It was a surprising twist to my own coming of age, when a whole generation of Baby Boomers alienated our parents with our political and cultural views. They didn’t understand our opposition to the Vietnam War or our support of black and women’s rights. They were upset at our street protests, the flag being burned, men’s long hair and our embrace of drugs and “free” sex.

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