Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Smoke monster

My mother always told me that she quit smoking while she was pregnant with me. I was going through some photos in a trunk, and found some very strong evidence to the contrary!

In most of the adult photos of my mother, she is holding a cigarette. Not sure what made her start, just the usual reasons probably - trying to fit in with the other 'kids' or wanting to rebel. It wasn't really known to be dangerous when she started, probably in the 1930s or 1940s, but by the 1950s (this is taken in 1953) people were becoming aware of some of the hazards.

The others in the photo are her parents, who were visiting her in Phoenix from southern Illinois, so she is openly showing rebellion in doing it. She would tell me some stories about her father, who was a strict Southern Baptist and on many occasions unleashed fiery righteous indignation and abuse upon those within his dominion, especially the females. She told about the time, and this was as an adult after she had moved out, where she spent a very long day working in their house... sanding, wallpapering, scrubbing and painting... and when she was finished she took out a cigarette and lit it. Her dad grabbed her arm, twisted it around to her back (nearly breaking it), put his foot on her behind and shoved her out the front door. He told her that she would never light another cigarette under his roof.

She didn't quit though. She smoked for the rest of her life right up until she was in her early 70s and had been bedridden with emphysema for some time - she had the oxygen tank with her, and was pretty addled from morphine (and just lack of oxygen in the brain) so that she somehow thought it was OK to continue smoking. She started a fire in her apartment (and luckily her home nurse was there to take action) but ended up being burned in the face and all the way into her poor old already-shredded lungs. She didn't die from that, but, boy was she angry. Her burned lungs wouldn't let her smoke anymore. She had been calling smoking "her only pleasure" for years. She lived for maybe another year, and we lost her just 2 weeks apart from MrB's father who had lung cancer. They were both almost militant smokers... take the cigarettes out of my cold dead hands... that sort of attitude. (I've told some of this tale before a few years back.)

I don't think the pregnant smoking stunted my growth or anything. I was a big 9 lb. baby. As a toddler I was playing with the butts in an ashtray, and she made me eat a bite of the ashes. It worked. I never, ever, wanted to smoke a cigarette in my life, so as bizarre as it sounds, she did me a favor. Don't know if all those long car trips with both parents filling the car with smoke hurt me either. Something with surely get me someday, but I don't think it will be nicotine.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Your Mom's story sounds very much like my Mom's story -- smoked all her life, including through pregnancies, in total denial about the harm of smoking and addiction to herself and others. But, miracle of miracles, my Mom did finally manage to quit when she was 80. It didn't stop her from developing COPD though -- too late, the damage was done.

Blueberry said...

Addiction is the real monster. It tells lies to its host, lies and delusions.

Unknown said...

This was an amazing post...

My mother apparently had a couple drinks and a couple smokes while she was pregnant with me.

Every time I got so much as a sniffle, she wold worry that it was because of what she did at the start of her pregnancy...

It wasn't.

When I think about what tobacco companies did to the American people for centuries - killing as much as 1/5 of our population! - I'm just bowled over. It's a telling insight into what we allow corporations to get away with.

yellowdoggranny said...

my mother only smoked when she drank, and drinking made her sick when she was pregnant with me so I lucked out..