Archive for March, 2013
Mom loved smoking. She loved cigarettes with the power of loving a mate. When I was little, I thought I was brilliant when I hid her cigarettes in a loosely veiled location in the kitchen cabinet. She responded as a lioness protecting her cub; the shock of the fierceness in her face made it clear to me to never attempt trickery with her cigarettes again. I felt suffocated with the smoke. On car rides, I would creep the window down by millimeters, pushing my lips out the top in a frantic attempt to rescue fresh air for my squeezed lungs, knowing that I was tempting the wrath of my father who was concerned about maximizing air conditioning.
There was a brief time my mom remembered me as her partner with her and the cigarette. I remember pulling the clear plastic handles on the large cigarette machines. There were pictures of waterfalls, men on horses, aqua blue colors, words on packages I was just beginning to read. Sometimes she would let me pick my favorite picture. With importance and thrill, the handle pulled, the tidy box fell into the slot, and I passed it over to my mother, me smiling, our moment together, me feeling proud. Afterwards, we would get grilled cheese sandwiches, sitting on the turquoise swivel stools. I would get to open the package, pulling out a clean white squishy stick for mom to light up and enjoy over our sandwiches.
Mom smoking. Her quiet time away from everyone, everything, her time to be at One. Her fingers circling bits of hair, thin silky sections of hair, all through the years: from her hair color of black, to “salt and pepper,” to colored brunette, to a glorious sheen of white, twisting and twisting around two fingers, a cigarette balanced between two fingers of the other hand, and her eyes level, calm, away. Away from us, away from dad, away from and away from and away from
She smoked for 70 years.
She stopped once, well, twice. The first time was for three hours. I was with her. Her friend Pat had just died of lung cancer, and Mom had seen her all puffed up in the hospital, and then saw her dead. She stopped smoking, but all at once, as we were walking into the Rexall store in San Clemente, and I was telling her how proud I was that she was stopping, she started. Just like that. I said no, no, no…and then that face again…and she didn’t stop until
Her foot was black, and she was falling, and she was in pain, and doctors were wanting to cut off her foot, or at least her toes, and they all told me what bad health she was in: Peripheral Vascular Disease, the culprit of smoking. I made her stop, I forced her to stop, and she fell and she was in pain, and she lay crying in my lap.
70 years of a relationship with an abuser who lured my mother with the hook of contentment, the relief of pain, the comfort of going away from
Days before she died, my mother wrote in my journal, barely decipherable: “I love you, I love you Debbikins, with all my heart and soul. Thank you for my last cigarette—famous last words—I am so happy that we can really adore each other. I love your joy, brave woman.”