November 17, 2004

The Great Smokeout '04

Normally, this article might not have caught my eye, but two things set it apart. Earlier today I read a post by Angie and an article she linked to that involved smoking, and, being strongly anti-smoking, I responded to it.

Then tonight I came across that first article and I had to link to it out of nostalgia. The dear, dear Poughkeepsie Journal. Or, as we used to call it, the Poughkeepsie Urinal.

Yes, I used to live in the Hudson Valley and The Journal was the only local paper of any size in the Poughkeepsie area. (For those of you who are wondering, it's "Puh-kip-see," not "Pogue-keep-see," and it is an Algonquin word meaning approximately "a little reed lodge by a water place." It's on the Hudson River.)

I grew up outside Po-town proper (thankfully); I lived in a charming little nearby burg called Hopewell Junction. (Raise your hand if an immediate vision of "Petticoat Junction" sprang to mind. Trust me, it wasn't like that.) It is also known as East Fishkill and is very much an IBM town. As a matter of fact, I'm the only one in my immediate family, and the older generation of my extended family, who didn't work for IBM.

One of those people was my dad, who was a technical writer for them. He was also a heavy smoker who, while now deceased, amazingly did not die of lung cancer. I think if a heart attack hadn't killed him at age 52, lung cancer probably would have been his fate. The thing is, we grew up with him smoking and, while it wasn't something that we were exactly crazy about, in those days it wasn't "a big deal." There just wasn't the level of awareness that there is now.

I was amazed to discover, after his death, how much my sense of smell had been diminished by growing up around a smoker. I had absolutely no idea how much the smoke had permeated our lives until the source of it was gone. I'm sure I walked around for two decades smelling like a used ashtray and never realized it. Maybe that's why I'm so intolerant of smoke and smoking now.

But I feel an unwavering certainty that, if my dad had been aware of the effect at the time, he would have tried to quit. For us. Because I think that the vast majority of parents would rather suffer themselves than hurt their child in any way.

So, if you're a smoker and you've read this far, I would encourage you to try (again, most likely) to quit. Do it for the people you love and the people who love you. We'll all thank you for it.