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My Grandfather Smokes

Updated on January 14, 2012

I enter through the automatic sliding glass doors and stop as the smell of ammonia interrupts my breathing pattern. I gasp for air, catch my breath and continue walking until I reach the row of elevators.

Though I have a slight fear of elevators I enter the box bravely and push the button so that the number four glows as a response to my touch. The doors shut. Again my breath becomes irregular as the slight claustrophobic feeling takes over my mind and body. DING!! The doors slowly open and I quickly jump out of the elevator, hit once more by the smell of ammonia which travels through my nose. As I look around I am struck by the pure whiteness that is almost blinding. This place is so clean that I feel almost dirty in comparison. I am slightly confused until I see a sign that reads Intensive Care Unit.

Knowing now that I am in the right place my heart starts beating faster as I struggle to control my breathing. I turn to go back to the elevator but as the doors close reality hits; I am here and I must stay, but I am scared.


My grandfather has been a smoker for a good portion of his life and until a few years ago he smoked at least a half of a pack of cigarettes a day. For as long as I can remember he has had a so called “smoker’s cough”, that obnoxious wet and thick groveling sound that emanates from deep within – the kind of cough that can send shivers through a body and can stop people from taking a bite of food. Nobody really ever paid much attention to my grandfather’s problems; they mostly made little comments like “You should stop smoking.” “Smoking can cause cancer.” “Boy, that’s a pretty bad smoker’s cough you have.” It is not that nobody cared, it is just that smoking was such a socially acceptable habit and a pastime that people took for granted. No matter what anyone said, my grandfather had a habit that became an addiction, lasting almost sixty years and his attempts at going cold turkey were not the successful solution. The answer, however, would ultimately come with time and the threat of death.



Almost five years ago my grandfather suffered a major stroke and within two years he had two minor strokes, as was termed by the doctors. After the strokes, he lost the use of the left side of his body and three years after his first stroke he was diagnosed as having asthma, emphysema and other bronchial infections. My grandfather in three years was reduced to half the man he once was. The pressure from my family trying to get my grandfather to quit was immense. The messages they were giving became increasingly clearer. Finally, my grandfather realized that quitting his habit was necessary to save his life. With each drag of his cigarette he understood that his life was coming closer to an end. Finally, left with one alternative my grandfather gave up smoking so that he could continue living and now the repercussions of his years of smoking have put him in the hospital.


As I walk down the long white corridors my mind becomes clouded, and a rush of nausea comes over me. I am looking for a bathroom or any form of escape but I know that there is no way out, so I keep walking. After what seems like an eternity I reach the door that is marked with my grandfather’s last name and a flood of anxiety washes over me. I find myself trying to catch my breath once more as the tears come to my eyes and I fight them away. I push the heavy door open, feeling like Jack pushing open the door of the giant’s house in the story Jack and the Beanstalk.


Standing inside my grandfather’s hospital room, I am sad. I have not seen my grandfather for about a year and a half and looking at him I feel like it has been at least ten years. He is nothing like he used to be. He has become frail and small; covered by tubes and surrounded by machines he looks almost childlike. I feel that I should hold him in my arms like a newborn baby. The room is quiet except for the rattling wheeze of my grandfather’s shallow breaths, as he sleeps. Listening to him breathe makes my chest feel tight and painful, I sit down trying to relax as I wait for my father to arrive.


It has been years since this moment but the moment will stay with me forever and even though it was not my grandfather’s last trip to the hospital it was a significant turning point for me. It was at this time that most of the family did not think he would live much longer; however he ended up out living some of those who were skeptical of his time on Earth. My grandfather would continue to go back and forth to the hospital up until his death a few years ago and during those years I would try to visit him as much as possible. My last visit with him was incredible filled with love, laughter and stories, the way I want to and always will remember him.


The Judds - Grandpa (Tell Me Bout The Good Old Days)


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