Me and My Cigarettes. Part Three: No right to be here.

So it’s been about four months off the cigs.  I stopped back in November, the same month I turned 55.  It wasn’t a conscious thought or motivation, but it is a fact that I had been living for quite sometime with a worry that I would not live to 55.  My father died of a heart attack when he was 54. Likewise, his father died of a heart attack at age 54. Both of them smoked cigarettes.  (Actually, my father quit cigarettes at age 49 when he had his first heart attack which he barely survived).  This idea of sons dying at the same age as their fathers was reinforced when my wife’s father died at 79 …which was the same age as when HIS father died.  I didn’t think about this too much…as I had some things going in my favor that my dad did not. First, he was a diabetic. He took a massive shot of insulin every day of his life right at breakfast time. Nowadays, the docs know that’s not how you do it. Much better to take smaller doses periodically during the day to more closely replicate how the pancreas actually functions.  But, hell, it was better than no insulin at all!   Second, I had started getting anxiety attacks back when I was 48 and approaching my 49 birthday.  These took the form of a ‘clenching’ feeling in the chest and a lightheadness…… a feeling of being ‘away from it’.  That felt like a damned heart attack. This panicked me and a couple times my heart began to race and I went to the ER.  This resulted in a thorough cardiac ‘work up’ and it turned out my heart was just fine.  However I did have high cholestrol and blood pressure.  So the doc put me on crestor and a bp medication.  So in theory I might have avoided the pre-conditions to what killed my pa and grandpa.

No more anxiety attacks.  Since I know what it is, it doesn’t happen. Weird? Here’s something weirder.  When I had an anxiety and ‘lived through it” the first thing I wanted was a smoke.  I knew that I could improve my chances of outliving my father and grandfather if I would quit…. and I tried a couple times.  But, each time I failed in the end.

So here I am now.  55 and how does it feel?  One thing is weird is knowing that you are older than your own father ever was.  Another thing is that emotionally, it feels, somehow more than it ever has that each day is a gift.   There is also the recognition of mortality…and beauty and the joys of life.  Some part of which was captured in this film:

Presently,  my mother is 78 and a half.  My siblings and I are involved in adjusting to her stubborn aging.  She smokes like a chimney.  She is past convincing or caring now.

I took a walk today.  It was a beautiful day.  I considered my circumstances.  How great is my love for my daughter, wife… my family.  I can still do all the things I most treasure. (I couldn’t run like I once could but I don’t mind.)  I have aches….conditions that come with aging …I am fatter and my hair is both thinner and grayer.  My eyes are weaker but I can still read and I have much better books.  I have lived to an age of discernment…to know what is and isn’t of value.  I am still mystified and amazed by women and their ways.

I went into a familiar coffee shop.  I ordered an espresso … as I learned to love many years ago in Italy.   I took it outside in the sunlight.  I saw a young man in animated conversation with a young woman.   He lit a cigarette.   I stifled an urge I had to go tell him how silly he looked, so young and hip and healthy …smoking a cigarette.  I sipped my coffee and thought about how good it was to be 55 and alive on this glorious March day after so long a winter. 


7 comments for “Me and My Cigarettes. Part Three: No right to be here.

  1. hoosiertaxpayer
    March 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Good post old man, though cigarettes where never an issue with me. I can understand and share your reflective mood from aging and the knowledge that comes with it. I also have outlived the age my father passed away at. I also had a certain trepidation from reaching that milestone (the age he died) and also went through the feeling of mortality when I also had some issues with chest pains a couple years back. Nothing scarier then being given nitro glycerin in the back of an ambulance.

    The next thing you’ll reflect on (as I’m a couple years older) is retirement and with that the realization that is the final stage of life. Scary in one sense but it makes you much more appreciative of life and enjoying every day of it. And the wisdom and joy of family we have far outshines any monetary success we may have attained. It makes up for the aches and pains and loss of stamina of our youth as well….

    • March 9, 2014 at 12:02 am

      Thanks HT. It feels funny to say to yourself, “Dad was never as old as this. He wasn’t 55 and 4 months old….didn’t have the length of experience as this. He was gone by this time in his life.” Long life to you my friend.

  2. The 'BikerDude'
    March 10, 2014 at 8:20 am

    long life ta ya both……need ta quit da*n things , m’self…….

  3. Patrick
    March 12, 2014 at 5:12 am

    Hey Dave…no need to post this.
    I’ve enjoyed your cigarette reflections. A couple years back I posted some thoughts on the smokes and possibly how I, through my parents, grew to depend on them so much.

    I quit for the last time in 1999, but had a brush with recreational smoking back in the fall—an occasional cig with my girlfriend after some drinks. It was amazing how quickly the “monkey on my back” began to materialize. All the thought patterns and coping strategies that I fabricated around smoking came right back. I didn’t relapse, but it’s clear I can’t pretend that I wasn’t once a committed, and obsessive, smoker.

    One thing that did help counter my slippage was the stark realization that, for me, smoking is uniquely self-destructive, and that any attempt I made to rationalize restarting was grounded by my own mortality (and my mother’s). She died of lung cancer at 59—I’ll be 56 next month.

    Hang in there pal…hope all is well with the family. Tell Gwen I said hi.

  4. Lono, Curse of
    March 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    More stress until the bridges are finished…….
    Rush hour traffic could increase risk of heart disease
    Mar 11, 2014
    Could rush hour be putting you at greater risk for heart disease?

    New research from the University of Washington in Seattle finds that high amounts of pollution from cars is associated with changes in the heart’s right ventricle.

    That could increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

    The danger comes from the exposure to nitrogen dioxide from car fumes.
    Could rush hour be putting you at greater risk for heart disease?

  5. Lono, Curse of
    March 14, 2014 at 10:26 am

    …new smoking will be required by the guv-mint
    to relieve stress on the dern sitting in traffic
    with the dang bridges thing….

    ” In Indiana,
    traffic will be affected
    on both the Kennedy and Clark Memorial bridges, in downtown Jeffersonville and along Interstate 65″…….

    ……”the Clark Memorial Bridge”…. “closing the bridge completely
    for six weeks”……

    ……” I-65 in either direction”…

    …..” the highway will be reduced
    to two lanes in either direction”……
    ……”The lane restrictions will remain in place until mid-2015″……

    G, it took River Fields 52 years of obstruction
    but they got your ***”…..

    Smoke ’em if ya got em:

  6. Lono, Curse of
    March 14, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Don’t forget the Coliseum Forum!
    Nineteen (19) pages now of most excellent journalism!×480.jpg

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