My father; love him as I do, is on the path of his own demise. A path that never seems to end or change. He is a daily smoker of Camel cigarettes since 1951, he is now an 81 year old enigma of failing health and miraculous recoveries. This week has been the forth ambulance ride to the hospital for life-long smoking related novel of illness since 2010.
The most recent chapter began as a phone call to me while we were waiting for my brother to arrive from New York on a planned visit. Dad said that I better come over to his house because he was not feeling well. He told me that he was having trouble standing even for short periods of time. He was also feeling light headed and dizzy. I went to his house and surveyed the situation; ultimately summoning an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
Thus began the painful routine of gathering his wallet, keys, checkbook, clothes, adult undergarments, and CIGARETTES! The crux of all of his problems was never to be too far away from reach. Sitting in an emergency room bed, and later; a hospital room on the 4th floor, dad was unable to even get the the toilet on his own, but never forgot to ask about his true love; the ever-present cigarette. “When do you think they will let me smoke?”, “Did you bring my cigarettes?”, “At Drake, they let you take me outside, so I could smoke.”
Following a two night stay in the hospital, where CT scans and MRIs discovered the damage caused by numerous transient ischemic strokes and brain atrophy, it was recommended that dad be transferred to a nursing facility for yet another round of physical and occupational therapy. At a hefty price tag of $4270 for a two weeks stay, we begin the next chapter. Dad was transferred to the nursing facility and settled in, while asking his old reliable question. “When can I get a cigarette?”.
I fully understand dads desire to smoke. As a former smoker myself, I know the painful draw of needing a smoke. Nicotine is an addictive bastard like no other. I bought dad a pack of Nicoderm patches for his stay in rehab. The problem is, that dad and I have been through this rodeo a few times before. When do I stop helping? When do I draw the line? How do I make dad understand that while I am trying to help him regain his strength and health, he is undermining all of my efforts by focusing on the one thing that keeps bringing him (and me) back to emergency care?
How many times do we have to go through this? How many lost vacation days do I have to piss away for the ultimate goal of getting dad back to a place where he can smoke again? How many countless hours of running around caring for all of dads affairs? How many trips to get clothes and prescriptions and groceries? How long will my own health and sanity hold out?
How many more times will be enough to be a slave to a cigarette?