There are approximately 46 million smokers in America, according to CBS news. My mother in law is one of them.
Like many smokers, my mother in law has tried to quit before. She has set milestones, aka, the birth of the first grandchild, then the second, then the third. After a couple of tragic, sudden deaths in the family, she recently vowed to quit smoking at the birth of her fourth grandchild, born at the end of July. She didn't.
It has become a part of her daily life in a way that is probably just as powerful as the nicotine addiction. When she wakes up, she has a cigarette. When she talks on the phone, she has a cigarette (and she talks on the phone a lot). Driving, before bed, walking the dog, etc.
I've never really broached the topic with her, because really, it's none of my business. I always thought that if the family wanted to pressure her to quit, that it should be at my husband's initiative, not mine. But things have changed. Two things in fact:
My kids can't yet speak up regarding their Grandma's smoking habit. Casey doesn't have a clue, and Braden is just starting to glean the fact that Grandma disappears onto our balcony a lot to take a "break." But I can tell you what they would say.
They would say that they love and adore their Grandma, and that they don't like it when she takes frequent breaks outside and comes back smelling like something funny. They would say that they don't understand why she would do something that could potentially harm her. They would say that they want her to be around to see them graduate from college and dance at their wedding. They would say that they will be really pissed if this smoking thing somehow doesn't allow her to do that. They would say that there is just no reason she should take that chance.
My Grandma died when I was 24. I was very close with her, and I have such fond memories of her. She was the quintessential, perfect Grandma. She cooked the best meat pastries. She knitted us blankets. She worried. She begged me to stand on my head so I would stop growing. She rode bikes and went down slides and endured frigid cold pool water to be with us. She found such joy in just our presence.
I was so fortunate to know my Grandma both as a child, and as an adult. As a child, I loved her and enjoyed being with her, but I don't think I fully appreciated the relationship. There were more important things - toys and friends and then boys and cars. But as an adult, not only did I love her, but I found such a strong respect for her. I realized how fortunate I was to have her there, to be able to spend time with her, and to make her happy just by being there. When the cancer started to win the battle and she moved to hospice care, I drove up to Binghamton, NY, to see her one last time. She was a bit hazy, but she knew I was there. That gives me a lot of peace. And despite the fact that I was sad and grieving, I felt lucky. I got to watch my Grandma grow old. I even got to watch her die.
My Grandma led a very healthy life, but cancer still got her in the end. And that sucks. I can tell you one thing though. If she didn't lead a healthy life - if she smoked - and then she got cancer, I wouldn't have just been sad. I would have been pissed.
My Grandma missed my wedding. She missed the birth of my kids. I know that lots of grandparents don't live to see these moments, but I don't think it's wrong to expect them to. I know it's what my boys will hope for.
It's just not worth it.
So how about today?