I was involved in a long EXchange, with someone Dear to me, today when a question arose about my formative years! It took me on a winding trip down memory lane! Back to the years B.S. (before smoking).
My sister and I were raised by my father’s parents until my grandfather passed away. After that my grandmother carried the responsibility without him! Every summer we would spend about two weeks with Aunt Lucy and Uncle Harpel on their farm! For a young boy that was as close to heaven as it could get! There were chickens to feed and eggs to gather! This was done with a careful eye toward the mean old rooster! There were hogs to feed, and hay for the mules, that worked the tobacco fields! There were cousins down the road a little ways, but I had to have an adult come and watch before I could cross the road!
Tobacco was a huge part of this rural life! All of the adults smoked! I guess I always knew that I would too! But in these days there was no thought of that! The long summer days were filled with all manner of EXploring and playing! When I was not helping tend to the animals, I was free to roam. There were no rules to limit where I could go, EXcept down to the pond! It was big and deep with no shallow edges, and Uncle Harpel had no confidence in the swimming ability of children! Plus there were some water moccasins down there! But there were woods to search and trees to climb! In the woods was a very old graveyard! The markers that could still be read were from the 1800's! There was one old grave there that had a big holly tree growing out of it! Now while adults may not give that much thought, to us kids there was a vampire buried there, with a stake of holly through his heart!
I remember fondly these days when I never walked anywhere! I ran! There was so much to do and see! And the only time that had meaning was bedtime! There was no air conditioning and the thunderstorms came on often on those hot summer nights! But I remember lying in bed and counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to figure how far away it struck! The sound of the rain beating on the tin roof was a symphony that is yet to be matched by mere mortals!
By the age of 11 I was smoking here and there! By 13, I was a pack a day kind of guy! The innocence of childhood faded fast! The central figure in my life became smoking! I worked hard, and played harder for the next 44 years! The constant through it all was the cigarette! I learned how to use them! The pause to light one before making an important announcement! Or, hiding behind lighting one when I needed time to think my way out of a jam! They were as much a part of me as my laugh, and the glint in my eye! I turned a blind eye to the damage they had done, and were continuing to do! I did not run anymore! I said I did not need to run from anything, or to anything! Truth of the matter was I could not run if I had to!
Yes the days of running, and climbing trees, are behind me! The old farm is probably a sub-division! But, just as surely, the days of smoking are behind me as well! Tomorrow I will awaken to a whole world of possibilities! For as sure as the sun comes up there is new life to EXplore, there are treasures to uncover, and belly laughs galore! I am Free of the nicotine addiction that held me back so long! I am ready to EXplore the future with the wide eyed innocence of that child long ago! The world is my playground and there are no chains to hold me back! For 44 long years I was a slave to tobacco! But the child that ran, and EXplored long ago lives on! He will just be walking now!
My friends, I beg each of you to hang on to your quit! Reclaim your Freedom! And I invite you to come and walk through the future with me! A future that is not clouded by Smoke! A future that is limited only by your imagination! Come, take my hand, and walk to your happiness with me! Tommy