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My mother smoked regularly for thirty or so years. She may have wanted to quit, but I don’t remember her ever trying very hard. My father smoked, too, so nobody was putting much if any pressure on her.
Then her older sister, a smoker like her, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She watched her die slowly, slowly and with heart-breaking pain.
Mom put down the cigarettes after the funeral and quit cold turkey. Dad wasn’t so interested in quitting, but he didn’t really have a say in the decision. It was over.
Today if you light a cigarette around my mother, you’d best be prepared for a lecture that might light your eyebrows on fire. She won’t hold her tongue and she won’t hold back.
I was at Costco last night, when I was nearly rear-ended by a rather large woman eating a huge Eskimo pie and driving one on those little motorized shopping carts. The cart’s basket was loaded down with the biggest assortment of absolute crap you’ve ever seen. Jumbo bag of M&M’s, chips, Oreo’s, Fruit Loops… and a case of generic brand weight-lose shakes.
“Beep, beep,” she said, angling her Little Rascal around me and my cart.
I watched her whiz by me, the little cart working mightily to carry her massive frame down the jumbo-sized aisles, and a dozen thoughts and scenarios raced through my mind.
- You should go snatch the key from her scooter and make her come after it; that would probably be the most exercise she’s had this week.
- You should engage her and talk frankly about nutrition and obeisity… explain to her that she’s racing toward the abyss in a little clown car.
- Tell her if she can’t do it for herself, do it for those two kids I imagine you have, back at home chomping on Doritos and playing video games on this bright sunny afternoon.
- Scream at her: “This is the only life we get. Do you want to live yours’ like this?”
- Grab her ice cream and eat it all in one bite (I hadn’t had an Eskimo pie in ages…)
Of course, I did nothing but say “Excuse me,” and wrestle my cart out of the way. I purchased by bananas and frozen fruit and went on my merry way.
Try as you might, you can’t rescue everyone. That’s something my mother would probably tell me.
But she’d also tell me this: you can rescue yourself.