My daddy smokes. He has smoked as long as I can remember. Occasionally, a pipe, but mostly cigarettes. He is almost seventy-five and has had three strokes over the last few years. And, yet, he still smokes. And you wonder where I get my hard headedness.
It was in the 1970’s, while I was in junior high, when I first learned that smoking was bad for you. We had an assembly where printed materials were handed out showing the effects of cigarette smoking on your lungs. I took everything I could gather home and taped that stuff all over the walls of our house, hoping to convince daddy to quit smoking. It didn’t work.
My brother tried smoking. But only once. He said that was enough. Tommy had stayed home one afternoon while the rest of our family went to a girl scout event for me. When we returned home, the whole house reeked of Lysol. Not a good sign. Turned out, Tommy had tried smoking one of daddy’s cigarettes while we were gone and got really sick.
I wish I had been so lucky. I was seventeen when I smoked my first cigarette, and I can still remember it like it was yesterday. My best friend and I were making the drag in town. Making the drag in this small town was driving from the Dairy Queen on one end of town, down the main street, around the other Dairy Queen and back again. A great way to meet boys when you live in a college town. My friend smoked those long 120 cigarettes that looked really cool. I tried one and was immediately hooked.
Back in those days, you could smoke almost everywhere. Grocery stores, movie theatres, hospitals, offices and airplanes. In fact, when I was in the hospital in labor with Joey, I remember my doctor smoking a cigar as he came into the labor room to check on me. He even let me have a couple of puffs. How crazy is that?
It started getting a little harder to smoke in public as the mid-1980’s came around. They really geared up the stop smoking campaigns and included cigarettes as a drug in the Just Say No war on drugs. I went to pick Joey up from a cub scout meeting one evening. I waited in the back of the room while a policeman finished speaking to the boys about drugs. Joey noticed me standing there and stood up, pointed at me and said “my mom does drugs”. After an extremely long pause, while all the boys and parents turned to look at me, he went on to say “my mom smokes cigarettes and that’s a drug”. I could have killed him.
I liked smoking. It fit my rebellious nature. But my children hated it, and who could blame them. A few years ago, Joey offered to give me a lot of money if I would simply quit smoking. Right then and there. Just lay down the cigarettes and quit. But I wasn’t ready. I didn’t even want to try. It took turning fifty-one and realizing that I likely wouldn’t live to see my younger children grow up to be adults. That’s when I knew that I would have to quit.
I am happy to say that after all these years, I have finally quit smoking cigarettes. I still carry around an electronic cigarette, but haven’t had a real one in over a year. And I’m not going back. That makes my children very happy. It makes me happy.
Guess I’m just going to have to find other ways to be rebellious. It will be worth it.