The story of Fiveblessings

Discussion created by fiveblessings on Jun 4, 2008
Latest reply on Feb 10, 2009 by raymond_clark
My parents smoked my entire childhood. In fact, most of the adults in my life smoked. I don't remember feeling one way or another about it, in my head it was just what grown-ups did. But I was never going to do that. It smelled bad and made you cough.....

I didn't have my first cigarette until I was 23 years old. Oh, God, I know. 23. What the......?! I was certainly old enough to know better and by then my parents had been quit for several years (only to start again). I was newly divorced and my brother and I were sharing a house along with my two small sons. My brother (who I am very close to) and all of his friends smoked. One day I was hanging out with a bunch of people and lit a cigarette. My brother laughed and said, "You are wasting my cigarettes. You don't even inhale!" Which was true. To save my pride I started inhaling. And an addiction was born.
I smoked for years with no guilt. It was the only "bad" thing I did. I didn't go out, didn't party, didn't drink. I was working full time, raising two young boys on my own, and squeesing in night classes at out local college to head towards a nursing degree. So I smoked. And I liked it.
The first time I quit was when I got remarried, and became pregnant with my first daughter in 2000. Quitting was easy. Truly. Because my morning sickness was over the top and smoking made me feel as green as I looked. Two weeks after she was born, I lit up again. I quit two more times for two morebabies. The day I came home from the hospital with my youngest, I lit up and never quit for any length of time again.
The year that my first daughter was born in August, in fact, the day before she was born, my father,my hero, my cheerleader, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I remember this: I wasn't worried. He was my dad, he was strong, and he would get well. My parents came to visit me from their home in Key West when my baby was a month old. Dad looked good, but I remember this, too. We all took alot of pictures of him holding his first granddaughter...just in case...without making it seem that way.
They are the only pictures of the two of them we have.

I was busy, caring for my new little girl, working as a nurse at last, still relatively newlywed (a year and a half). My dad called everyday, or I called him, and he sounded ok dtermined, himself. In early December something changed. He was so tired. Chemo was taking its toll. But he remained upbeat. I asked him what he would do if the treatments didn't work. Would he go thru this again. "Well, " he said, "what's my option?"
I was hosting Christmas that year and my parents couldn't make it. My dad had just had a morphine pump implanted. My mother didn't tell me how bad he had gotten. Didn't want to burden me.
For God's sake.
A couple of days after Christmas she called and I finally said, "I think I should come. Do you think I should come?" She took a quivering breath and said yes.
The man I saw when I arrived with my youngest son and 5 month old was a shell of my dad. I was speechless. He was thin, bald, a strange mix of gray and yellow, hooked to oxygen and mildly confused. I reember shooting my mom an accusatory look (why didn't you TELL me? I would have been there in 5 hours!) but the grief on her face was enough. She had tried to spare me, to do it hersef and she was losing him. I tried to behave normally but while my dad sat in his chair in a doze my mom and I would go outside and chain smoke. It was awful. But still I thought...somehow he'll make it. My mother told me during one of our smoking sessions that my dad, just days earlier, had looked at her beseechingly and asked "Am I going to die?" and she had quickly reassured him that no one had said that. That hadn't been discussed.
But, he knew. Of course he knew.
The next morning after a sleepless night where my dad couldn't sleep or breathe well, my mom and I helped him to the bathroom to get cleaned up. I left them alone (He was still modest) and was on the phone with my aunt who was asking me, "Do you think he needs Hospice...?" when my mom called me urgently. I walked in to find my dad drooling, eyes open, barely breathing, nonresponsive. 911 was called. He was pronounced dead at 10:28 on January 4 2001. A victim of a massive stroke- a complication of his inability to move much due to his cancer. He waited to see me, I believe, knowing thatmy mom would not be alone. But he died in front of my then 9 year old son and I will never truly know what that did to him. My younger brother was distraught, blamed God, wanted to know what good was praying when prayers never get answered anyway?! My mom, dry eyed and wise, touched his hand and said, "Maybe it just wasn't YOUR prayer that was answered." And with that even my own faith returned. For my dad would have hated the dependent person he had become. He would not want to be remembered that way. He was a good man, a proud man, a kind man. That is what we all remember.

One of the last things he said to me: "I love you." And another: "Don't smoke."

But I did. I did for years. I did until now inspite ofhim and all of that heartache. I tempted fate for years. I would not bow down to fear, dammit.

It has been a long road to this day, two weeks without a smoke and a true desire to never look back. I don't want my kids to lose me too soon. My dad was only 59. I want to see them grow up to become who they aspire to be. I don't want to see my mom go through any more loss. She still smokes, I imagine it will take her too, in time. And I do not say that or take that lightly. I just know a person won't quit unless they're ready. My brother was ready 9 months ago. I am ready now.

I am ready.

Dad would be so proud.