Today, at age 45, I did something for the first time. I lit up a cigarette. Actually, I lit two.
I went into a gas station and for the first time as an adult, I purchased cigarettes. And that gas station was nearly three hours away, the last hour on two lane rural roads.
I can't say it was the first time I bought them. I did on occasion get sent to the grocery store with a handwritten note from my mom and a dollar and some change in the late 70's to purchase them for my her. I was 6, maybe 7 the first time I ran such an errand.
Anyway, today I lit up a couple cigarettes. But I didn't smoke them. They weren't for me. The one awful puff that I tried in 6th grade was more than enough for me. They were for my mom, who still likes her Kools about four decades later.
For years we nagged her to quit. We told her it was unhealthy and complained about the smoke that we choked on and the smell that we carried on our clothes. Now, she's 82. What's another cigarette going to hurt at this point?
Today, I went to visit her in her new residence - a nursing home. She's been there 10 days. I couldn't stand the thought of hanging out there, so as quickly as I could, I wheeled her to the parking lot, got her in the car and off we went to get lunch. She didn't have much of an appetite for the hamburger and fries I got her. But she wouldn't stop asking for her Kools.
I've never let her smoke in my house or in my car. But there was a gas station next door to the Burger King we were at and it was a sunny day in the 50s in late November. So, I got her the Kools and I got a lighter and I drove across the street to a parking lot overlooking the Illinois River and found a bench. She about blew away when I got her out of the car. I helped her to the bench where she shivered in the cold. After several attempts I got it lit and she smoked that cigarette until it was gone.
In past days, I never would have given in to such a request. But, in reality, her days are numbered. And why not just let her have a cigarette without grumbling about it?
Honestly, every time I have seen her for a while, I tell myself that it could be the last time I see her. So, I kind of hold my breath and hope all will go smoothly and that she'll be sweet and I'll be patient and we'll part ways with hugs and kisses and "I love you's" so that should it be the last time we see each other, it will be a pleasant memory.
But really, there's not much that is pleasant about nursing homes. If you're lucky, you get some very kind staff members that help make it not so unpleasant. But everything else about it is just - unpleasant. And when it gets to a point where it's the only choice, it leaves you guilt-ridden and sad. It's not a hospital stay. I've visited her many times in hospitals. This time it's permanent and it's a hard pill to swallow.
She didn't enjoy the jailbreak as much as I'd anticipated and hoped. She had an upset stomach. She said her knee hurt. She didn't smile much. She didn't laugh as much as she usually does. She had a very difficult time walking since she now spends her day in a bed or a wheelchair since she's been deemed a "fall risk" not capable of walking on her own anymore (even though she was getting around with a walker at home). My heart broke into a million pieces when she realized I was taking her back there after lunch. I wish so much I could turn back the clock to when she was in better health and didn't need round-the-clock care. But I can't. So here I am. Lighting up a cigarette for the first time - and although I loathe the things, praying that I'll have the chance to light one up for her again.