Thursday, November 09, 2006


In Which I Smell the Smoke...

Dear Dad,

You and Mom are heading back to New Hampshire today, and we didn't have a chance to talk about this while you were here--mostly because Mom was never out of earshot. But if you're reading this, you know that I accidentally discovered the pack of cigarettes you hid in the garage while you were here. I knew you wouldn't leave without them, so the pack seemed the best place to hide this letter.

First, I want you to know this isn't going to be a harangue. You already live with Mom so you get plenty of harangue in the line of duty. Also, after some consideration, I decided not to share my discovery with Mom either. For one thing, I have no doubt that she already knows you've started smoking again. For another, it would just get in the way of what I want to say to you. Which is simply this: Please stop before it kills you.

You know this isn't me being melodramatic. You know the statistics. You know that eventually smoking will kill you all by itself. But to top it off, you have asbestosis. Have had it for over a decade. This year it got so bad the doctor finally prescribed oxygen therapy for you. I can't imagine how hard it is to have to lug that little oxygen backpack around, breathing through those tubes and making the Darth Vader noises for six hours a day, but I know it's hard to watch. And I know you're canceling out its effects with every cigarette you smoke.

I know it must be a struggle, especially when you go to AA meetings and everyone is puffing away (and the nearest smoke-free meeting is an hour's drive from the house). And I've always said I'd rather have you smoking than drinking, although as time has gone on I see how stupid that sentiment is. With alcohol, you were an ogre while you were imbibing and calmer when you weren't. But smoking's no better; it just has the same effect in reverse.

When I discovered the pack last week, I wasn't really surprised, although I wish you hadn't lied when you first got here and told me how much better you felt now that you'd given up cigarettes. That really stung. Lying is what you did when you were a drunk. And you've beaten alcohol for over two decades now. I know you can beat this. In fact, I know you have. For six months before your shoulder surgery, you were smoke-free. I don't know what made you go back, and it's really none of my business.

What is my business is this: I selfishly want you around for as long as possible.

But if you keep smoking, I have a terrible foreboding that you're going to be dead before you get the chance to see Thomas become a great man like you. Before you get the chance to dance with the Brownie at your 50th wedding anniversary party. Before you even get to know your new grandchild. And that would be a fucking tragedy.

Because if you want to know the truth, they need you. Almost every quality I like about myself (except perhaps for my smart ass and my big mouth) I owe to you. My work ethic. My sense of integrity and honor. My inability to accept failure or defeat. My knowledge and appreciation of nature. My unyielding devotion to fairness and justice. My ability, however meager, to spin a good yarn. I can teach these to my kids, but I can't do it the same way you can.

You're the best grandfather my kids could ever have. Thomas reveres you, not just because you've taken the time to show him how to garden, how to identify trees and birds, how to bait a fishing line, but because you've taken the time to know him, and to show a genuine interest in the things he likes to do. It's the same with the Brownie, who is in absolute awe of you. But they are eight and five years old. I was almost Thomas's age when your father died, and I can count my memories of him on the fingers of one hand. How much do you think they'll remember of you if you're gone in a few years? Probably about as much as I do of your dad. And this new one, our little Jumping Bean? It kills me to say it, but I don't think she's going to remember you at all.

Unless you stop.

I don't know what I can do to help, but I want you to know I will do anything.

That's all I wanted to say, except to add that you are not just the best grandfather my kids could hope for. You also happen to be the best man I know. And I still need you too.

Please think about this and let me know what I can do. Call me when you get home and let's talk about it.

And, um, sorry I left you only one cigarette in this pack. I needed room for the letter.

Your Son

cc: the masthead

magazine man, we had an eerily similar prob with my dad. i hope your dad takes your words to heart. mine didn't listen to me (or anyone else, really) and now he's no longer here. perhaps MY words weren't loud enough. shout your words at him if you need to...
My Mom has always smoked--well, okay, probably just since her teens, but that's still 40 years or so. Nothing I have said has made any bit of difference. The samples of smoking cessation aids my dad has brought back from the doctor for her (because she's not been to see him in decades) haven't been met with any kind of interest. My niece has taken to flushing her cigarettes down the toilet, but I have told her that doesn't work, either, except to get a lecture about wasting money (which strikes me now as kind of ironic).

What you said might work, and then, it might not. Given the history you have written in the letter, I'm optimistic enough to believe your Dad will quit again. I'm dead certain my mother will never quit and then SHE will be the one dead, certain.
Wow...that is a really tough thing to discover...I admire your bravery in writing him that letter. I hope he takes it to heart. *crosses fingers*
hm. i'm sure this post is going to inspire your readers to share their personal stories, and i'm no exception. my father has suffered and put us through years of heart attacks/disease caused by smoking and drinking. in recent years we got him to reduce his drinking but couldn't get him to stop, and couldn't get him to stop smoking either. All teh guilt and hope and pleading in the world was not getting through to him.. Then he had a stroke 6 months ago. Actually, 4 strokes. He hasn't had a drink or cigarette since, but maybe only because of lack of opportunity. We're worried that when we go out to an event or something with him, or when he gets his full independence back, that he will go get a drink or a smoke. Because anytime we've asked him if he'll stop, and pointed out that he's made it 6 months already without it, he kind of laughs. he does not say what we want to hear, which is, "yes, i'm done with it."

i hope your father listens to your pleading and hope before something actually happens and the whole family's lives become defined by that moment, like my family's lives are defined by Life Before and Life After the stroke.
MM, I hope your Dad reads your letter and takes it to heart. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for you.
Got me balling in my coffee again.

Yes, MM's Dad, I beg you - stop. You do not want to go through what my Dad (who stopped smoking 14 years ago) is going through now. It sucks.

Be around to see your grandkids grow up, graduate highschool and get married.

My cat Rudy lived in a home with three heavy smokers for his first 6 months. Then he moved into my smokefree home.

He died of lung cancer when he was only eight years old(in cats, lung cancer is usually untreatable). If six months of secondhand smoke can do that to an otherwise healthy middleaged cat, how much worse is it for an actively smoking human?

I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but that one data point still shocks me.
Shit. Excellent letter. I sincerely hope he takes what you've said and what he surely knows and really quits. Smoking is a nasty habit, one of the worst, and it has taken too many mothers and fathers, sons and daughters already.
It is so hard to watch someone you love struggle with such a crazy addiction. My father used to smoke, and I'm happy to say quit many years ago. However, my FIL still smokes, despite heart disease and now bladder cancer. He smokes like a chimmney and it is frustrating because we know HE knows it's killing him, but even his grandchildren can't seem to sway him. Good luck with your Dad MM. I pray he is a stronger man than my FIL.
Oh man, made me cry too. I hope your Dad quits. I hope he can do it to be around for the grandbabies.

My Dad was also a heavy drinker and never quit. He died before walking me down the aisle let alone meeting any of his grandchildren. All my kids know of grandpa is his picture on my wall. He smoked like a chimney too, but the drinking took him first. I was only 26 at the time.

Here's hoping that your Dad, who could defeat, or at least keep in check, the beast that is alcoholism can do the same for smoking.
Good for you for having the courage to write the letter.

My Daied died of cancer (melenoma) three years ago and it kills me his grandchildren will never know him.
MM - My dad was a wonderful person. A folk singer (we performed together), my playmate (I'm an only child), a great cook (taught me how to make whole wheat bread and deviled eggs), a kind soul and my best friend. He was morbidly obese most of his life, smoked and drank a fine imported beer a bit too often. He refused to treat his diabetes, asthma and weight related issues. He went on a crash diet, like so many other times, 4 weeks before I got married when I was 17 b/c he wanted to somehow not be morbidly obese when he walked me down the aisle. He got a bowel obstruction, but they were afraid to operate b/c of his health and weight, so he just kept getting worse in the hospital until they had no choice. He went into surgery 3 days before my wedding, and they found his entire large intestines and 75% of his small intestines were destroyed. He was in a coma on my wedding day and died 2 days later. I had to make the decision at 17 to let him go because they couldn't keep him on all the medications any longer. I hope your father listens to you and does what he should to give the greatest gift in the world to the people he loves - his presence.
wow...that is one powerful letter. i hope it sinks in...
MM, that was hard to read. That could have been a letter from my nephews to their mom, my sister.

I sincerely hope your father takes your words to heart, MM.


Good luck, MM. Your letter drew a tear or three out of my eyes—here's hoping it does the same thing with your dad.

My grandfather died of asbestosis when I was seven, and I, too, have only a handful of memories of him. Your father, by all accounts in this blog, is one special man and deserves to be remembered as such.

I quit smoking the day my aunt died of lung cancer and I haven't touch a cigarette since. That was two years ago. Sometimes you just need a wake-up call, and I hope that for your father, this letter will be it.
Dear Dad of MM:

I know, it seems like half the Internet is ragging on your ass now... all because MM found that pack you thought you squirreled away in his garage.

You know you should quit. You know you can, too, although it won't be easy. Obviously you can, because you've quit before. It's not easy to quit - I know from personal experience because I quit myself when I became pregnant with Twinks Haven't fired one up in over 13 years.

You know how much those grandbabies love you... and how much you love them. You adore Her Lovely Self, and the ground that The Brownie trods upon is sacred to you. Art Lad is your little guy, and you have only just begun to teach him the things you want him to learn. And let's not forget The Little Cupcake who is on the way. She doesn't know it yet, but she has the Bestest Papa ever. If she gets a chance to know him, that is.

Feel ready to quit yet? Nope? Then let me tell you one more thing: MM and BB still need you. Oh, I know - a tough old bird like you thinks that those boys are grown, and they don't need you any more. Well, maybe they don't *need* you, but they damn sure *want* you in their lives. So, stop already yet.

My dad died 4 years before Twinks was born. She never got to hear his great, booming laughter. Never knew the joy of being swept up in his strong arms, and riding high on his shoulders. Never got to hear his stories, never will see the goofy faces he used to make that left us all gasping with laughter.

Lung cancer. Brought on by countless years of smoking.

Daddy was diagnosed on July 13, and his funeral was October 13.

90 days. We had 90 days to say goodbye, to celebrate a lifetime of Christmases and birthdays, 90 days to say "I love you", and it wasn't enough. Just 90 days from the day he was diagnosed, we held his funeral. 90 days.

Quit. Quit now. Before all of the people you love have to endure those same terrible 90 days that I did.

Stopping smoking has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. Few people knew, and fewer suspected, because I "don't seem like the type." It is really, really hard. One of the hardest aspects is the sneaking and lying, because you don't want to disappoint the loved ones that are so PROUD of you.

It is a horrible, nasty, stupid, life-threatening problem, I knew that, but at the same time it was a compulsion that I have to decide every day I am not going to give in to.
Amazing letter, amazing father(s). All the best to your dad. Mine has been smoking since he was 15 (he's now 58). Marlboro reds. Scary.
OK I'm crying now... What a great son your dad has in you.
Wow, that must have been very hard to write. Both your post and Thimbelle's comment brought tears to my eyes.

I had my grandfather in my life until I was 22. Was lucky enough to make many happy memories with him, which I'll always be thankful for. I hope MM's Dad is reading everybody's words with an open mind, and hopefully the desire to quit this habit once and for all.
I'm not one to usually bring up the past and its melancholy but, this is important. I can sympathize with you, MM. Except I am the grandchild who never got to know her grandfather. He died 4 years before I was born from complications of congested heart and lung failure that stemmed from his decades of smoking since he was a boy of 11 or 12. My Mom was only 17 when she lost her father. I lament the fact that I never got to know this man my Mom loved so much.

Dad of MM, if you read this please listen to him. Speaking as someone else's grandchild, we need you grandparents to stay with us as long as possible. I realize how hard habits are hard to break but, my parents have been smoke free for over 15 years now. You have the support from a loving family too.
Oh, I hope he took the letter out and didn't just toss it after retreiving tha last butt.

Smoking is a tough one. I've been yanked around by it, myself. Years would go by without even a hint of s desire for a cigarette, and then, all of a sudden, without explanation, I would just HAVE to have one. I've had 2 'relapses' like that; they each ended up being a month or a few long.

I hope I'm done with it for good. I mean, I'm not going to do it again. I just really hope that crushing desire doesn't set in again. It's torture. No worries, i'll confine myself to the house or something and ride it out, if it does.

I hope your dad can find his way out of it.

Big Red chewing gum, many, many, many packs of it always helped me whenever I decided to quit...
That sucks. Smoking is awful - I know the people have the right to do what they want with their bodies, but like you said, what about those of us left behind.

My father quit when his heart failed and he needed a transplant. Two years ago I caught him smoking again, and I have never felt more betrayed in my life. The sheer selfishness of that act was beyond belief. I wasn't nearly as nice as you when I let him know what I thought, though.
This is the sweetest letter ever. I think I actually feel a little sorry for your dad for having to discover something so heartfelt just as he's about to light up!
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