AUGUST 13, 2019

My father died of COPD and emphysema. His father died of emphysema. I suspect that smoking played a role in the deaths of all four of my grandparents as they all smoked freely. No one thought anything about it; it’s what adults did.

Daddy started smoking as a teenager. His father told him it would be good for him, it would help his asthma. He smoked until he was in his late 60s or thereabouts when a car accident shattered his lower left leg while on a trip to California from Washington State. He was flown home where my husband and I met him and arranged an ambulance to pick him up at the airport and transport him to his house, where I stayed to care for him until my Mom and Brother brought the truck and camper home.

He was then moved to a hospital in Seattle and Mom moved in with us; we all visited frequently, Mom visited daily. The doctors put his leg back together using bone grafts, skin grafts and muscle grafts and told him if he continued to smoke he’d lose his leg. He stopped cold turkey but his leg never completely healed; an open wound that wouldn’t close required daily tending and Mom did the tending.

By the time he passed away at the age of 89, he was on oxygen full-time and could barely walk from his chair to the dining room table or the kitchen. He dragged that oxygen tube with him. He developed macular degeneration, making him almost blind. For the last six months of his life my brother and I took turns taking care of our parents, flying from our respective homes. By this time our mother was confined to a wheelchair due to an injury; after Dad’s passing she went home with my brother, where she lived until her death two years later.

I’m not writing this for any sympathy or any comments about how good my brother and I were to our parents. I’m writing this as a warning against smoking. I watched Daddy shuffling around the Assisted Living home and remembered camping trips, vacations, moving from Kansas to Washington. Building a dog house. Building a bird house for me as a gift. Most of all loving us and providing for us.

I have never smoked but now I have asthma, probably because of all the smoking I was around as a child and young adult. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me but when I get respiratory illnesses it’s a factor in my recovery. It was also triggered by blowing dust in Arizona this summer.

And so I make my point. If you smoke, please stop. If you don’t, please don’t start. For it’s not just you who is affected but those around you as well. Just think about it.

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