My Normal Life

A Smokier Path In Life

I joined my high school’s theater club freshman year, just as all the clubs were beginning, in the fall. I feel like I was following in my dad’s footsteps. He did theater when he was in high school, and me being a loud, center of attention needing child, I knew that was the group I needed to join.

We did “Peter Pan” my freshman year, I remember grandma and aunt Nancy coming to see me put on a standing ovation performance as Nana, the dog. I was so marvelous. I knew I made them proud, the way I pounced around the stage during that first act, just as I had rehearsed. I could see them both smiling at me, a few rows back. I knew how difficult it was for grandma to leave her house, needing to bring her oxygen with her. But, I realized she would give her tubes to anyone of us if we needed them. I look through old pictures and see grandma Norma when I was really young. She always looked so content. She was always the happiest. I don’t remember exactly when she started needing her ventilator to help her with her breathing, but I do know that’s mostly what I recall her having as I grew up. She always had a big smile on her face, though

Emphysema is a long term, progressive lung disease that causes shortness of breath. It destroys that spongy tissue, which I didn’t even realize our lungs had until I started researching this, and it severely affects those small blood vessels plus the airways that run through the lungs. The air and blood flow are both affected. It can have a very dramatic impact on the ability for either lung to empty air-sacs, but also for blood to flow through the lungs to receive any oxygen. This all explained to me why grandma needed those air tubes just to help her get out of bed every day. She needed those to help her walk, talk, just to even give me a hug. With those tubes in her nose, though, she got out of bed every day in a better mood than any other person in the family.

My sophomore year, I don’t recall what play we were doing, but the second night, I walked into my director’s office, not really knowing how to tell him what was on my mind. This was a really exciting show for me, since I had an important role. I felt this just being my second year and knowing how dismal my last character was, I believed I had to glow like glitter in order to obtain the best future anything that I could. Yet, now I had to tell my director that grandma had died yet I still had to get out on stage like life was perfect. And I did. I made her proud. She stayed strong until her last day, these days now, I try to be as strong for her. When I know mom’s not having a good day, even though I’m 2000 miles away, I send as many messages as I can. I call her, no matter the time difference, just to be sure she’s okay. I bug my sister the same way, too. I’m sure they both would change their numbers if they could.

When moving onto Junior year, I was thinking that I really only needed to worry about those ACT’s that everyone all of a sudden kept talking about. That huge test that was, apparently, the only thing that could get me into any college. Good grades, money or names wouldn’t help you at all. I didn’t like tests. I never really did well on them, and now all of a sudden if I wanted to continue down my road in life, I needed to take a major, nationwide exam. I required a piece of paper to tell me how “smart” I was. That pointless paper left my mind that year, though.

Mom went over to aunt Nancy, her sister’s house, having not heard from her for a few days. She had been living with grandma. This is one point I never really like to talk about. I can talk about when grandpa Bud passed, when we had to drive to Tennessee to see Grandma Millie, to be there with her. Then when it was grandma Norma’s time, who I was just speaking about. I can talk about when all of the grandparents have passed, since I still love them all. I find it the hardest to talk about how she left me. She wasn’t supposed to. It wasn’t her time. She was supposed to be with me when I graduated high school. I had hoped she would be around if I had ever found that one person I was supposed wander upon one day, not knowing that I would. She would have been there when I was having my first home owners party. She would have been there for my sister’s baby shower. She would have been there, to give me a big hug at my moving to Las Vegas party. But no; she had to commit suicide and her own sister, had to be the one to find her.

There are some days I don’t even want to be here anymore. I know we can all like that. What makes us just go through with it, though? Do we really think that people don’t care about us that much? I tell my boyfriend everyday that I love him. I send him messages while he’s at work; I jump up and hug him, trying to beat our cat to him when he walks through the door. I do all of this because I still worry that there might be one day when he feels like just not being here. I know that he’s not always as chipper as I can be. He gets so discouraged about the least fundamental things that he just wants to be left alone, but I don’t know if I’m really not supposed to bother him. So, I continue to shove all of the love that I can into his face.

Suicide is in the top ten for death rates in the United States. As is cancer and emphysema, two more that have taken three of the grandparents and dad. These are the main reasons I don’t smoke. I remember back in high school when I tried to smoke and hated it. Plus, I already thought I was cool enough so I didn’t need a cigarette to impress anyone else. None of my friends smoked, so why did I need to?  I remember mom had quit, when I was younger, multiple times dad tried to, but once he couldn’t, he would just continue, never really around us. I don’t know why my sister started. I never really know why anyone person finds it so relaxing. My form of relaxation is to get up on a stage at a bar while singing one of my favorite songs as I’m dancing like a fool.

Esophageal cancer seems to occur more frequently in men and more commonly in those that smoke. Since dad had smoked almost my entire life, this was not a big surprise. It was either that, or he would get what his dad had had. Of course, any symptoms don’t usually occur until their more advanced stages, those mostly being difficulty swallowing. Others can be weight loss, chest pain, vomiting and chronic coughing. I’ve read that people with a family history of cancer also have a higher risk of this one. So now, having been on both sides and happening with more than, I believe four members, I am starting to worry for me and my sister more. I know that these cancers including anything else my elders have had in my family have mostly been smoking related, I don’t really panic that much. My worry just builds up when I walk up to a counter, ask for a pack of cigarettes, take it home then hand it to my guy. I feel like I’m handing him a little box of death.

As one that I love goes out onto the balcony to have I don’t even know what number cigarette that is, I continue to worry about him and that always brings my sister to mind. I care about those two the most after I’ve looked back all that has happened on this health path in life. Trying to change my mind is hard enough, so just by accidentally emailing an article about lung cancer or possibly mentioning a humorous memory about one of my grandpas because of something I came across on my Facebook, could maybe push them further towards the Yellow Brick Road of Health, but I doubt it. They’re both too stubborn.

Grandpa Bud and Randy are my only two who I don’t recall what smoking lung related path they had chosen in life. As grumpy the old men that they were, I still love them. I love all of my family, here or not, whether they decided they just didn’t want to be around anymore or if they wanted to, but to continue yet on a rougher ride in their life. Looking back at all of this, viewing over to the right side of the room, I can see a little bit of dad is sitting upon my book shelf. I get to tell him I love him every day.



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