The real price of cigarettes
As I write this, on Monday, itís my dadís 72nd birthday. Or, more accurately, it would have been.
Dad died more than seven years ago, in July 2012, after surgery to remove a portion of his lung where doctors had discovered cancer.
Dad was a smoker for most of his life, and likely was exposed to harmful asbestos both during his service in the U.S. Navy (he was a Vietnam veteran) and his long career as a service technician with Sears Roebuck and Company.
Dad never talked much about his military service, although I do know he saw combat on at least one occasion. It was only after he died that we discovered a blue case with his medals and ribbons. A family photo album includes some Polaroid photos of his time in the service, posing with friends. In most of the photos, heís holding a cigarette.
Dad could be very stern and he wasnít always pleasant. But he worked hard, provided for his family and could always be counted on.
He retired early after injuring his back and spent several years taking care of Mom, who suffered from chronic kidney disease before dying of cancer (that wasnít discovered until a few hours before her death) at the age of 50.
Dad had stopped smoking for a couple of years before Momís death, but he picked the cigarettes up again afterward. We all knew that wasnít a good thing, but we certainly werenít going to ask him to stop.
Dad lived more than seven years after Momís death. His cancer was diagnosed in the spring of 2012, and the prognosis was fairly good. If he had a portion of his lung removed and put down the cigarettes, doctors expected him to survive.
He walked into the hospital on a bright, sunny day in June 2012. The surgery seemed to go well but shortly afterward, he was transferred to the intensive care unit because doctors were concerned about his oxygen levels. He never drew another breath outside the ICU.
Ultimately, I had to make the decision to disconnect him from the ventilator that was keeping him alive. The doctors advised me that he was suffering, and he wasnít going to get better.
I knew they were right. I will never forget looking at my dad, the strongest man Iíd ever known, unable to take a breath without the help of a machine. Or his bright blue eyes ó I look just like Mom, but I have Dadís eyes ó staring blankly into space, with no indication that he was actually seeing anything at all.
We didnít always get along, and there were times when we didnít speak for long stretches. But still, I miss him terribly.
I wonder what heíd be like today. He mellowed a lot as he grew older, just as I have. I wonder what heíd think of his great-grandchildren. I wonder what they would think of him.
Please donít smoke.