Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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My Father May Ask You for a Cigarette

Six unsmoked cigarettes. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.comYup, my father was smoke-free for six days, lighting up on the seventh.

The difference is that he is smoking only one cigarette a day. For him, this is big. Huge, even.

As for me, I'm supportive. I’m not nagging. I’m not controlling his cigarette count.

So far he is keeping his word. He said he wouldn't buy cigarette cartons after finishing his packs and he hasn't. However, he handles his craving by "asking" for cigarettes. As soon as my parents leave home, my father is ready to stock up.

The other day the three of us headed out. I had a medical appointment and my parents had a community commitment. At each stop, my father would momentarily "disappear." At first I worried something might have happened but sure enough, there he was wobbling toward me, leaning on his cane and grunting for air. I asked, "Where were you?" As he proceeded to tell, I figured it out but didn't say a word. He answered, "I went to ask for a cigarette." I asked, "So how many did you get?" "One," he said.” Given this economy, good thinking, dad. After all, he’s already spent a good amount of money over his 72-year-smoking-career.

His hunting and gathering technique took me back to his drinking days. It reminded me of the fights that ensued at home where mom would question how many drinks or beers he had. My father's eternal answer was "I've only had two." Controlling his drinking and his habits during active alcoholism took a great toll on my mother, and on me as well. My self-help teachings keep me grounded today. While I ask, I also let it go. I don’t snoop in the plants to see if he has hidden cigarettes. I haven’t even checked under the bed where the mysterious pack “appeared.” I won't allow myself to go back to that insanity, and neither will my mother.

As we were done with our appointments, it was time for lunch. I mentioned that I had been craving fried chicken. I know, not the best choice, but to my surprise, my dad said, "Me, too." As we bonded over our lunch, my father confessed that quitting drinking proved easier than this. I nodded and said, “But you’re doing great. Do you want some coleslaw?”

So, if you happen to run into my father, he may just ask you for a cigarette.


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About the Author

Elizabeth cares for her mother, a diabetic, and for her father, who suffers from COPD.