I’m going to start this post with a little bit of a caution. I’m in Momma Bear mode. So, if you dare, read on.
My family is pretty open about our lives and we know with that comes a risk- a risk people will judge – a risk people will criticize. We know that and we accept that…but sometimes things happen or are said that I think need to be addressed. Today I am addressing one of those things.
Throughout Kramer’s illness, and passing and even to this day, we get comments in regards to Kramer smoking and other members of our family smoking. I’d like say this to anyone who has ever said anything in regards to people in my family smoking and that they should quit…your comment is not helpful.
My husband Kramer smoked. Yes he died of lung cancer. Would he have died from lung cancer if he hadn’t smoked? Maybe. Maybe not. We don’t know for positive. Likely he would have. The type of cancer he had is more common in people who smoke but people…it was his life and his choice. (I know a whole bunch of you are rolling your eyes and are chiming in about second hand smoke. You’re all ready to tell me that his choice could be forced on me because of second hand smoke. Not the case with Kramer. If I asked him not to smoke he didn’t. He never smoked in the house….also, I had two legs that worked and I could walk away from him at any moment. This is my circumstance. I realize others of you might not be able to walk away but this is about my family..so that’s who I am referring to in all of this).
When Kramer died we had his celebration of life. We were at the party for Kramer and someone our family knows walked up to one of my kids and started saying things like this, “It’s to bad your Dad smoked. You’d have thought he knew better. I told him that is wasn’t good for him. He really should have listened.”
My kid, who the lady told that to, stayed really composed. They didn’t say:
-this is none of your business
-this is not the time or place for you to say this
-we really could care less about your opinion
-You are not helpful
-Look in the mirror and when your life is perfect, let’s talk
But when my child got home from burying their father…after all the other people had left. They told me what happened. They had a good cry. Several of us were crying over her willingness to interject her opinion into our lives. Thanks lady. You missed your target audience. Your target audience is dead and in the grave.
Well things have gone on from there….People have started to make comments in regards to others in our family who smoke and still do. We’ve heard things like “after his father in law passed away Craig should know better that to smoke”….or this one “maybe Craig should consider quitting smoking”. Things have been said to Jason and Buck too. Things have been said to all of us about all of them. People have no filter. Yes. They all smoke….and do you know what? It’s their business if they do or don’t.
I would like to ask the people who say these things…
-have you ever had an addiction
-have you ever been nagged
-have you ever looked in the mirror
Kramer smoked when we got married. I did too. I quit and started and quit and started. I didn’t smoke while I was pregnant but did when I wasn’t until I quit for good when I found out I was pregnant with Buck. I remember trying to quit. I remember how hard it was not to start after Buck was born.
I married a smoker. I picked him. I’d pick him again and again and again…even knowing the ending…even knowing I’d be a widow at 53.
Cigarettes are addictive. If you haven’t had an addiction yourself, you may have known someone with one….you may have a family member with an addiction. Addictions never end…they are on going. If you would talk to someone who has quit smoking for 5 years, they will tell you they are still tempted…even me 30 some years later. The time has been right, the situation perfect..and the thought that “I could go for a cigarette” still pops in my brain.
Through our 32 years together Kramer tried to quit smoking about a dozen times. One time he quit for over a year. He started again. I was so angry. We had the talks about him quitting smoking about every other month. I told him I loved him. I told him I didn’t want him to risk his health. I told him I wanted our grandkids to have a grandpa. I told him about lung cancer. Guess what? IT DIDN’T WORK. Nagging doesn’t work. Nagging just took me away from him. Nagging just made me look like a bag. Kramer wasn’t ready to quit. Nagging didn’t work.
I ask you…how responsive are you to nagging? Does nagging make you want to jump up and do whatever you’ve been nagged about? NO.
After Kramer was diagnosed with Lung Cancer someone close to me decided to stop smoking. They tried. They failed. One day they were on the phone talking to me about it crying. The person was crying because they knew better. They knew they should quit smoking. They knew that there was a chance they could get lung cancer. They knew it was expensive. They were crying because they knew all of this and still couldn’t quit. After the call Kramer asked who it was. I told him and told him about the crying and the situation. Kramer just shrugged and said, “They aren’t ready and if they aren’t ready, it won’t work.” Kramer spoke the truth. This is addiction.
Another point I’d like to make in all of this: Before people decided to give their “friendly” advice PLEASE LOOK IN THE MIRROR. Everywhere, everyday we are warned:
-don’t text and drive. People still take the risk and do.
-wear sunscreen. People still take the risk and don’t.
-drink water and water and water. People still take the risk and don’t.
-drive the speed limit. People still take the risk and don’t.
-eat fruits and veggies. People still take the risk and don’t.
-read to your kids so they’ll be readers. People still take the risk and don’t.
-don’t work too much. People still take the risk and do.
-exercise. People still take the risk and don’t.
-we’re ruining our planet. People still don’t manage their footprint.
-manage your stress. People still take the risk and don’t.
-get the recommended amount of sleep. People still take the risk and don’t.
-change the batteries in your smoke alarm. People still take the risk and don’t.
-wear your seatbelt. People still take the rick and don’t.
-get a regular physical. People still take the risk and don’t.
-keep a good body image. People still take the risk and don’t.
-be kinder to a spouse. People still risk divorce and don’t.
-manage your mental health. People still take the risk and don’t.
-don’t drink too much pop. People still take the risk and do.
-get along with your family. People still take the risk and don’t.
-manage your weight. People still take the risk and don’t.
The list could go on and on for forever.
For me, high on the list is take better care of yourself with your diabetes. I still have treats. I’m adore to chocolate. I have a small piece most nights. I know the risks. I know I could end up on insulin. I also know how good bread tastes to me. I also am willing from time to time to spin the wheel and take the risk. I play the odds…I think what can this one piece of pizza do to my blood sugar…and do I really care….Or I think, I’ll do better tomorrow. I’ll write down what I eat. I’ll balance it with exercise. I’ll eat more fruits and veggies. But do I? Sometimes. Sometimes not. It’s my body. It’s my brain. It’s my risk. Leave me to it. It’s my business.
I think we all have something in our lives that we are trying to manage whether it’s smoking, drugs, not managing our stress, or diabetes. Sometimes it goes good. Sometimes it doesn’t. These are some of the big things we risk that we can almost see the results of in front of our eyes and for some reason, people feel the need to judge others about rather than look in the mirror and see what they themselves should be managing in their own life. Someone will be quick to ask me “should you really have that dessert”. In reality we all have something of our own we should be managing rather than Craig’s smoking or my eating a dessert. We all have room for improvement….EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US…me included.
About four years ago, I quit nagging Kramer about his smoking. I decided it was his life…it was his business. I decided unless I was willing to let him nag me about any of the issues I have, I had no business nagging him. I’m so glad I did.
…but back to my diabetes. A few days after Kramer passed away, I had a doctor’s appointment. I have my A1C take and my blood sugar was high and went into the unmanaged category. My doctor didn’t lecture me. She didn’t make me feel bad. She said, “You had a lot going on and it’s perfectly understandable that you did what you had to do when Roger was sick. How about you take a chance to do a little better and we’ll check you in 3 months.” We did…. Sweetness and understanding go so much further than nagging. Judgemental opinions would have not been effective at all. I would have railed against it. My blood sugar is back in the managed category. Sweetness and understanding from my doctor made a lot of difference.
When Kramer was diagnosed, we were all sad but not one of us blamed him. Not one of us made him feel terrible for ever smoking. He did that to himself. He did that often. He spun the wheel. He took the risk and it got him. He paid the consequence. That’s his business. We could have blamed him. We could have been rude to him for shortening our time with him. But there is no way we would have done that. We all loved him unconditionally…smoking included.
So please….when you are tempted to interject your opinion on who does or doesn’t smoke in our family….if you are ever tempted to pass along some “friendly” smoking advice to educate us, trust me, we don’t need it. We have lived this. I lost my husband. My kids lost their dad. My grandchildren lost their grandpa. Even knowing this…EVERY SINGLE DAY WE ALL WOULD PICK Kramer AGAIN…and again…and again. The life we had with him was so good it is worth the pain we feel now. We know first hand the risk of smoking. We have lived the consequences. Every single day, we live the consequences. So, instead of telling us what we should do, what we should say, how we should encourage to get our remaining loved ones to quit smoking, please walk to your bathroom and look in the mirror and take care yourself…I’m sure, if you’re human, you have something that you need to be working on about yourself. Your chance of fixing what is needing to be fixed in you, is so much more possible than you fixing what is wrong with someone in my family.
P.S. Kramer was diagnosed with cancer at the end of January 2019. He smoked for about two more weeks. His surgeon told him that he would recover more quickly from surgery if he quit smoking. He quit about five days before the surgery. He didn’t smoke again. He didn’t complain about it. He wasn’t tempted. It took facing death head on to get him to quit. That is addiction. I pray you never know an addiction like this.