Thursday, January 28, 2010

Smoking comes with a price

As I delve into more and more family history, I decided yesterday to call my aunt (my mother’s stepsister) and her husband, who live in West Virginia.  I was somewhat afraid the number would be disconnected or that at least one of them would be deceased.

This aunt of mine was the darling child of my grandfather’s second marriage.  My mother had been 4 when his first wife died of TB.  They sent her older brother off to a relative’s to live, but she stayed home, where she soon enough got to help take care of her new baby sister.  I don’t think my mother had a very happy childhood, but she always spoke kindly of her sister.

My earliest memories of that side of the family were that everyone smoked.  (Some drank as well, with my mother’s brother dying of alcoholism.)  I probably saw them only a handful of times since we visited every other year and I can recall them coming to see us in Florida only once.

After I got married I begged my aunt and uncle to come visit us, but they always declined because we had a smoke-free house.  Even my father had to learn to step outside to smoke and was willing to do it.

Yesterday’s call revealed that my aunt is now confined to bed because her lungs are so bad.  It’s hard for me to imagine such an energetic person being so debilitated.  I’m hoping she quit smoking along the way, but didn’t dare ask.

My uncle’s comment on life, “We’re getting by.”  I wondered how they were living, since he was always self-employed in the construction business and they never seemed like the kind of people who would save for a rainy day. 

But their family is considerably larger than mine, with 10 great-grandchildren, so maybe they are rallying around to help my aunt and uncle in their old age.

I’m trying to learn more about the photo of my mother’s grandfather’s farm, which I successfully had restored.  I hoped maybe my uncle could shed some light on where the farm was since he grew up in that area, but his mind seemed to be too occupied with just getting by to remember anything about a Miller farm of times long ago.

I wondered if my aunt would have chosen to quit long ago if she could have looked into the future.


Anonymous lr said...

Maybe if you mailed your uncle a picture of the photo, it would bring back the "good old days" for him. He might open up and share his stories with you.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

LR -- Since the farm was on my mother's biological mother's side, it is likely that neither her stepsister or her husband (my aunt and uncle) know anything about it.

My mother, on the other hand, spent many summers on that farm and loved to tell about visiting the spring house and about stepping on a black snake in the path while in her bare feet.

I'm going to try the Washington County Historical Society and if that fails, the dynamic trio may just have to make another road trip and start looking around. :)

6:29 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I wonder at the stories they have of their lives, with or without smoking. It's so hard to catch up, to get a true picture of someone so far removed.

I have a lot more to say to the people I see every day than the ones I haven't seen for years. The details get lost.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

Barbara, my dad quit at 55 and was diagnosed with lung cancer at 80. Smoking is a vicious killer. I hate it.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- The fact that they have 10 great-grandchildren since we last were together says it's been too long!

Merle -- My dad switched from cigarettes to a pipe at about 55 (with pressure from me), saying he would take his chances on dying over giving up tobacco altogether. At 86, he paid the price, but he smoked up until about the last month and that gave him some comfort.

9:56 PM  

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