Growing up most kids had super heroes as idols. My childhood idol was my grandfather. He could do no wrong in my eyes he was one heck of a man a very proud but quiet stern man. He epitomized the meaning of the head of a household. My grandfather had a lot of positive attributes to admire and to look up to but he had a bad habit of smoking Camel cigarettes that ended up killing him. As far back as I can remember my siblings and I would pack up and head to East Texas to spend the summer with my grandparents. I loved that because I got to spend time with my Pawpaw.
He was a very tall and slender man. He stood 6’6” and weighed about 200 lbs. He was very soft spoken yet stern. He was like the old catch phrase from the 80’s when EF Hutton talks everyone listens. My grandfather didn’t say a whole lot but when he did it was a big deal! He was well respected in his community and everyone loved him. There are a lot of things that I remember about him that I admire still today even though he’s been gone over twenty yrs. He worked for the railroad for 35 yrs, back then there were no big pieces of machinery doing all the labor it was all done by hand.
He was a tall strong looking man a picture of health in his prime. Every morning he would sit and enjoy his breakfast and thank the Lord for his job and family before he got up from the table. He would then go sit on the porch and have his coffee and smoke a cigarette. I remember he used to smoke Camels brand cigarettes. He was a heavy smoker and coffee drinker. I used to think that doing both of those things was so cool because pawpaw made it look so smooth. After a long hard day of working in the Texas heat, Pawpaw would get home around 4 pm every day and you guessed it he would smoking a camel.
The first thing he would do when he got home was sit down on the front porch and ask us to help him take off his boots while still smoking his cigarette. He would then send one of us to the bathroom to run his bath (as hot as he could stand it he used to say) while he sat and read the evening newspaper and smoked another cigarette. My grandmother by this time would be up and preparing dinner for him before getting ready to pull a night shift at the hospital. I remember him staying in the tub for what seemed like hrs but was more like 30 minutes.
He then emerges from the bathroom and settles down at the dinner table while my Granny served dinner. He would enjoy his meal and then come out on the porch and play with us while of course smoking another cigarette. This was my grandfather’s routine everyday like clockwork for as long as I can remember until he got sick of course. By now I’m sure you’ve figured out that the habit that eventually killed my hero was “smoking. ” My grandfather retired from the railroad after 30+ yrs of hard work in 1983. In January of 1984 he went to the doctor complaining about a nagging cough that just wouldn’t go away.
The doctors did their thing and after a month’s worth of test diagnosed pawpaw with lung cancer in both lungs. At the time of his diagnosis he was 6’6” 220 and full of life. That was just the beginning of a long battle with lung cancer which my grandfather eventually lost. Pawpaw fought a tough fight but in the end he couldn’t even stand up or walk on his own. When he passed away he was a measly 100 lbs, a shell of the man I once idolized. I remember asking my mother was it those cigarettes that he loved so much that got him sick and her replying, “Yes son it was those damned cigarettes.
”The day he passed away I vowed to speak out against smoking to everyone I loved! I wasn’t going to sit by and watch smoking kill someone else I loved after watching my grandfather die a horrible death because of a horrible habit the eventually killed him! So if you are a smoker please, please stop today! Think about the person you are today and how happy and full of life you are and then think about dying a horrible death. This disease tortures you and the ones who have to stand by and witness your demise. It’s not worth it!!!