Archive for the ‘Dangers of smoking’ Category

My Mother – 12-2-2010 – updated 5-10-2015

May 10, 2005

This entry about my Mother was first executed on this site on my 71st birthday,  December 2, 2010.  The math is easy isn’t it?  I am now 75.  Mother (pictured above with me) made the transition from this world on the first day of our Summer – almost 11 years ago.  I am convinced that she is in the wonderful domain  of The Great Guy In the Sky.  She visits me now and then in my dreams as do some others I love who have left this world.  Today is Mother’s Day and a fitting time for me to revisit this writing – making any corrections or modifications that might be needed.  At this time, I’m thinking not only about my dear Mother but also of my wife and how lucky I and our children are to have her in our lives.  The three are spending quality time together today and that warms my heart.  So, what follows are my December, 2010 thoughts and followed by some May, 2005 musings about mothers.  Below is a current image of that happy baby in the photo above.

TT 2015 G

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December 2, 2010

I turned 71 today.  As an adult my birthdays have never been a big deal for me but I often tried to make it a special day for my mother when she was alive. She has been “gone” for over 6 years now.  Still, each of my birthdays (which I’ve been so lucky to experience) cause me to think of her even more than usual.  Call me a mama’s boy if you like.  I am welled-up with gratitude for her making the choice to have me and for the many years she sacrificed for me.  Even in 1939 when it was officially illegal, she could have had an abortion.  In fact, she was given the opportunity and she along with my father mutually decided against it.  My father’s reaction, as explained to me by a relative of my mother’s was: “Lets give the little shit-ass a shot at life!”

Born in 1923, mother had her “sights set” on my father by the time she was 8 years old – at least as she told it.  She was 10 when he joined the Navy and 14 when he returned to the farm.  They married when she was 15.  He was 8 years older and a former “farm boy” converted to a “man of the world” by then.  Shortly afterwards the two ran off to California.  That adventuresome choice was for lots of reasons but one was the scrutiny under which they were subjected by some of the folks in the nearby small Indiana town.  That my mother had been born out-of-wedlock didn’t help matters and I’m sure she was tired of being referred to as the only known bastard in Monroe township.  Countless times growing up she was tormented by a very small percentage of the locals (mean, judgmental individuals some with kids who parroted what they heard).  Dad’s version of the story is that he got tired of kicking asses over that treatment and then getting in trouble for it.  She was 16 when I was born in Long Beach.  Nurses at Community Hospital referred to her as a baby having a baby.

Things went fine until December 7, 1941.  The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor drew my father right back into active duty where he spent most of the War in the Pacific (New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands) as a Seabee.  Mother worked long hours at multiple part-time jobs to take care of me and herself; that’s another story worth telling at some time in the future.  Dad was not the same when he returned, God bless him; he was one of those casualties for which there were no obvious visible wounds, and his alcohol abuse eventually played a major role in their breakup when I was almost 10.

The years of hard work and sacrifice that followed for my mother will one day be documented as I continue to write on the subject.  She was so very special (and so was dad for that matter).

This essay that follows was written by me over 5 years ago shortly after Mother’s Day.  For some reason, it seems to fit with my mood today.  Yes indeed – my experience leads me to believe that mothers are extra-special in so many ways.  I’ve had the good fortune of being married to two terrific mothers – one for 15 years and into year 32 of my current marriage.  Though I can’t explain it and I’m no expert regarding gender differences, I’m convinced that mothers possess some magic that we fathers can’t even come close to duplicating.


Tonie Ansel Toney

Hours before my first of four children was born, I nervously did what little I could for her mother, my first wife, as she went through contractions in preparation for birthing.  That amounted to mere words of encouragement along with back rubs – maybe also some moist towels on the forehead – I’m not sure.  That was over 43 years ago.  A nurse occasionally peeked-in the labor room and sensing my nervousness and dismay said, “She’ll be ready to go when she’s ‘at’ about 10 centimeters.”  In those days, the labor room was as far as the father could go.  Many did not even do that – rather, they sat in a waiting room with no real notion of what their wives were experiencing.  Some first-time mama’s must have been terrified to be left “alone” like that.  Some of the fathers fled and went back home, to work, or to a local bar.  There were no cell phones to provide him updates or to issue the command to return.  Often, a family member had to find him hoping he was still able to think clearly.

I wonder how many men in this country have the slightest notion of the 10 centimeter goal for the diameter of dilation prior to delivery.  As a science major in college also working full-time with close tolerances in a factory, I knew that it was about 4 inches.  I know that for most men 4 inches seems decidedly unimpressive but just imagine any opening of your body getting that large for any purpose!  What many men do not understand, even if they can envision 10 centimeters, is that we are talking about the dilation of the cervix, the mouth of the uterus, an opening that is quite small most of the time – a tiny opening about the diameter of a pencil.

Once I had the opportunity to look I realized that we were probably going to have a very long wait.   Hours later I could finally see the top of my daughter’s head.  I called the nurse and she let us know that in a few more hours it might be “time”!  Eventually (and that’s not nearly a strong enough word – I’ll try again) – – – In an eternity our family doctor walked in, took a look at the dilation and said these words, “Well, let’s get the block and tackle, jack her up, and yank that outta there!”  I was then directed to the waiting room – exempted from the remainder of the procedure.  I didn’t know about episiotomies (you might have to look that up) nor about the giant tongs (the sanitized term is forceps) that were going to put a dent in our daughter’s head and that she truly was going to get yanked outta there!

A few days ago I didn’t think too much about the exclusiveness of Mother’s Day because in the 10 months since my mother died, almost every day has been mother’s day in my mind.  There are some mothers who don’t get much attention during the other days of the year.  My mother was one who got plenty thanks to my understanding family and mother’s willingness to move close to us after my step-father died.  Yet, as her emphysema progressed, no amount of love, time, attention, expertise, or money, could save her life.

16 years ago, as my son was in residence in his mommy’s womb, my second wife suffered a detached retina.  Emergency surgery was absolutely necessary in order to retain the sight of that eye.  She knew that general anesthesia would increase the risk of her losing her baby.  So that brave lady endured over three-and-a-half hours of eye surgery just on local injections to dampen the pain.  They actually had to remove her eye from the socket to work on it!  I wonder how many men would do that?  My reaction probably would have been, “Knock me out!  I’ll take my chances!”  That event earned my wife an additional ranking in my eyes  – that of an extraordinary hero.

Mother’s day has passed for this year.  But I encourage you – if it is possible, please express your appreciation to her often.  If you were raised by your biological mother, especially if you were born after 1973 in the U.S.A. – though it might not have ever entered her mind – she didn’t have to bring you into this world.  She could have legally terminated you.  Aren’t you glad she didn’t?

Yes – mothers are indeed special –whether biological or otherwise.    Even if you are among those who never knew your biological mother – perhaps because of circumstances that led to adoption, don’t think that stretching to beyond 10 centimeters or the alternative abdominal surgery was the ultimate sacrifice for her.  It wasn’t.  Carrying you to term was probably no “piece of cake” and if she played no role in raising you, don’t think for a minute that she has not agonized over not having kept you; probably her primarily consideration in turning you over to someone else was doing what was best for you.  So – in my way of thinking – that was the ultimate sacrifice – letting someone else have you for your sake. If she doesn’t know you, remember that she probably thinks of you every day and prays for your well-being. And, if you are an adopted child I hope you consider that there’s little chance you were “unwanted” by the lady who raised you. She must really love you so very deeply. What a very special relationship that must be.

My mother still called me her “baby” until the day she died.  Parenting doesn’t end when the child has grown up and left the home.  I was able to retire from my job as a full-time college science professor but mother never could retire from being a mother.  She said that it gave her something to live for those last years when she was living alone.  She called me her “pride and joy” yet scolded me when I had it coming.  Once a parent – always a parent; that is Nature’s way.  Don’t deprive your mother of that right.  Respect her and try your best to see her side when you have differences of opinion.  On my first birthday my mother was 17; I was not even 6 percent her age.  On my 17th birthday I was half her age.  When she died I was over 80 percent her age.  You see – I was catching up with her!  Consequently, as the years went by we understood each other with more clarity and we became more “alike”.

Don’t exclude your mother from too much of your life.  If she is still alive then you have never been her age.  In other words, whatever your age, you have not yet been where she is.  But – she HAS been your age and it’s most likely that she has been in most of the same spaces you have occupied, especially on the emotional level.  Trust that no matter how she acquired it, she probably has you out-classed in the wisdom department.  Please give her the respect she deserves and don’t be timid about expressing your gratitude – even if she implies that it was nothing.

For those of you who are curious about this photo:  This was taken during the time that my lifelong interest in open-wheeled racing began.  After WWII my father took us to many midget races at a variety of tracks in Southern California.  On this particular afternoon a gentleman came through the stands looking for a “good looker” to present the trophy to and plant a lip kiss upon the winner of the feature race.  Mother was quickly noticed and just as quickly declined the invitation.  She wasn’t shy about being in front of people but she was shy about kissing a sweaty total stranger with whom she had no involvement.  My father was upset because he really enjoyed “showing off his young prize.”  He insisted that she be a “good sport” and got pretty loud about it.  I’m fairly sure that it was alcohol enhanced behavior on his part.  To keep the peace, mother agreed.

This is where the fun began.  Though you can’t tell by the photo, mother was pretty bent out of shape out there at the finish line – upset that my dad pushed her to do something she preferred not to do.  So – when the time came – she planted a real whopper on Gib Lilly’s lips.  As she withdrew, displaying a knock out smile of pleasure, she nailed him with another even bigger Hollywood-style romantic kiss!  There is no doubt in my mind that Gib enjoyed every bit of that ceremony.

I remember this well because she won that round.  My dad was absolutely bent out of shape.  Never, in similar circumstances afterwards, did he ever try to draw attention to her when it came time for a track representative to find the trophy presenter of the day.  At least in that arena, he respected her wishes a bit more.  My Mother was one special woman.  Here is an image of her with me in November 1979 at the wedding of my lovely wife and myself:


What Smoking Has Done To Me

Dad 47 or 48


and more importantly




In a nutshell:

It has probably taken some years off my life.

It has caused the deaths of people I love – far too early.

It has caused me to be unfairly judgmental of others who smoke and to make assumptions about them which are not necessarily true.

It has caused me worry for my children, one who has smoked for several years and two others who are experimenting.

Its consequences are the source of certain real experiences I’ve had which were all-consuming and nightmarish.

It has brought about anger within me – something I must work against because of its adverse effect upon me and others around me.

So much for that!  That was quick and to the point.  I suppose this would be a good time to stop typing but I’d rather try to persuade you to stop smoking .  Please read on.  In spite of the title, if you are a smoker – this is more about you than it is about me.


I have never smoked beyond early experiments which were brief.  By brief, I mean, no more than a few cigarettes, no cigars, and one attempt at a pipe ending with nausea.  My mother, father, and step-father smoked; it killed all three of them.  My first wife (15 years) smoked and continues.  I have been around a lot of tobacco smoke.  I most certainly have been harmed.  The extent of the physical harm is unknown and the emotional harm and the hurt is hard to describe.  The hurt does not go away.  I know about addiction; I am qualified to write about it.  One day I may tell my story.  But today I’m more interested in trying to help you.


Are you a person who would like to quit smoking?

Are you turning over a new leaf and trying to live as healthy a life as possible?

Did you know that early-age smoking causes damage that might not manifest itself as lung disease until 30 or more years later and that the earlier you start, the greater the probability for lung disease?

Are you fed up with the ridiculous prices you are paying for a pack of cigarettes?

Do you want to reduce the probability of your dying of a smoking-related illness?

Are you sick and tired of having your body, your hair, and your clothing smelling like a billy-goat that has been continuously pissed upon by his other billy-goat pals?

Are you willing to admit that you are addicted or on the verge of addiction?

Are you willing to ask for help?

What were the circumstances that prompted you to begin smoking?  In retrospect, does it seem to have been in your best interest?

Are you so very selfish and self-centered that you can’t imagine quitting – ever – or is it just simply not convenient for you to quit at this time, Scarlet?

Do you have a relative who smokes every day of his/her adult life and has lived over 90 years?  If so, do you regard that as an indication that you are invincible to the dangers of smoking and therefore have some special immunity to its harmful effects?  If so, might you have that disease that is epidemic today, terminal uniqueness?

Are you one of those persons who claims, “If the good Lord had not intended us to smoke, he would not have created tobacco?”  If so, I contend that he also created the caladium (e.g. elephant ear plant); do you smoke it?  Must a plant have some designated utilitarian use because God created it?

Have you considered the effects of your second-hand smoke upon others?  Do you care?

Have you tried to stop?  If so, how many times?

How well do you handle pain?  Can you envision experiencing excruciating pain resulting from something that can’t be cured and is killing you?

Aside from the effect of your smoke upon others, are you one of those who says, “It’s my body and the only one I’m hurting is myself”?  If so, had you ever considered the agonizing stress and pain a loved one might go through as they watch you die of cancer or emphysema related to your smoking?  Do you know that such stress and emotional pain can cause one to become physically ill?  How far would you go to cut down on the chances of that happening?  In any event, would you like to reduce the chances that your loved ones will go through hell watching you waste away due to a smoking-related sickness?

Do you know that addictions can be overcome  with willingness, diligence and determination and that you can go for the rest of your life without ever smoking again?  Did you know that you can also enjoy life without smoking?  I know people who have quit “cold-turkey” without help from other people but it was extremely difficult.  Do you have the guts to suffer the discomfort and quit entirely in that way – beginning right now?  Are you willing to put yourself through that extremely rough period for the sake of yourself and others?


Instead, I recommend that you involve yourself with other people who have quit or who are attempting to quit.  I believe that it is easier that way because we are social animals and also because it is extremely beneficial to realize that you are not alone.  I advocate 12-Step programs because I have seen them work.  Though on-line meetings and chats can be helpful, I highly recommend attendance at meetings where you are actually with other people who have quit or are trying to quit.  In many parts of the country, meetings of that sort occur on a regular schedule.

Here are two links that can help you to get started:


If smoking snuffs out your life – you will not be the only one who suffers.  If you care about your loved ones and the quality of the memories they have of you after you die, please do whatever is necessary to stop smoking altogether.  I have heard that the addiction to smoking is as strong as or perhaps even stronger than addictions to cocaine.  So what?  Stop anyway.  If you believe in God or some form of Higher Power you have a wonderful tool to use right there.  If you don’t, you can designate anything you want to be your Higher Power – like the “whole group” of members who attend meetings devoted to the cessation of smoking if you are so lucky as to have some near you.  Ask for help.  Try Smokers and/or Nicotine Anonymous using the 12 steps derived from Alcoholics Anonymous.  Also, speak to your doctor; he/she may have some suggestions.  Make the decision to prevent your loved ones from torment similar to what I have experienced.

Think about what you are doing – think about the quality of your life.  It’s my guess that you have no idea how much better you will feel once you break the habit.

I will never be the same as the result of the smoking-related deaths of many people I have known and loved.  Five of them are listed below; I am not going to describe the horror but may do so at a later time as a follow-up to this posting.  First I will have to decide whether or not such descriptions might be helpful to one who might read them:

1. On March 2, 1965 a man I knew lovingly as “Daddy-Gene” died of lung cancer at his home in Ft. Lauderdale.  He was my stepfather of 12 years.  He was in his bed and I was seated on the bed next to him.  My first wife and my mother were standing together at the foot of the bed.

2. On February 27, 1987 my former boss and best friend, Loren, died of lung cancer at South Miami, Hospital.  I was standing in the hallway after having left him in his room with his wife in order that they could have total privacy during his final moments.

3. On March 2, 1991 my biological father died of esophageal cancer in a nursing home in Southern California.  He was in his bed and I was seated on the bed next to him.  No one else was there.

4. On January 1, 1997 my Mother’s mother died of pneumonia at Ball Hospital in Muncie, Indiana.  She was in her bed and I was seated on the bed next to her.  No one else was there.

5. On June 21, 2004 my Mother died of emphysema in a nursing home in Homestead, Florida.  She gave birth to me when she was only 16 years old.  She was behind a modesty curtain being bathed in her bed by a Hospice nurse while I sat in her room near the doorway.

6. My wife’s aunt is in the advanced stage of emphysema.  She has never been married.  She has no children to help care for her.  She is now fighting her third bout in two years with pneumonia.  She weighs 83 pounds.  She hasn’t the energy to get from her bed to the bathroom without assistance.  She has no appetite.  After speaking a sentence or two she struggles for air.  She is on oxygen 100% of the time.  UPDATE: THIS LOVELY LADY BROKE HER HIP ON DECEMBER 8, 2010 AND DIED APRIL 10, 2011.  BECAUSE OF HER EMPHYSEMA, SHE DID NOT HAVE THE STRENGTH TO ENGAGE SATISFACTORILY IN THE PHYSICAL THERAPY NECESSARY TO GET HER BACK ON HER FEET.  SHE WEIGHED LESS THAN 70 POUNDS WHEN SHE DIED.  SHE DID NOT WANT TO DEPART.  HAD SHE NOT SMOKED SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN AROUND ANOTHER 10 YEARS, AT LEAST.

The six descriptions you have just read are dispassionate.  I left out what should be the obvious fact – I loved the five who are gone and I love the one who remains.  I also left out the hurt, the stress, and the horror.  Two of the deaths were “peaceful,” two were mildly disturbing, and one was an absolute nightmare bordering on chaotic.  All six episodes have left lasting impressions on me.

1. My stepfather was a heavy smoker.  He quit only when he no longer had the strength to smoke.  He suffered a back injury from a WWII plane crash in Morocco which diverted the attention of his chiropractor from the real cause of the pain – his cancer.  It might have been caught sooner had he not depended entirely upon the chiropractor’s diagnosis.  I believe that there are now, and have been terrific chiropractors practicing all along.  I doubt that this man was one of them because he led my naive stepfather to believe that he could fix him.

2. Loren smoked for many years before quitting but there were also other factors.  Asbestos was an issue in the Miami-Dade Community College science labs and in the prep room where he kept most of his office hours.  Later, levels of radon higher than 4 picocuries per liter were found in that same prep room where he spent countless hours.

3. My father’s physician told me that when alcohol abuse and heavy smoking are combined, the probability of esophageal cancer increases by a factor of 10.  My father engaged in both vices daily.  He never quit until he was unable to light his own or obtain them.

4. Not many days before she died, my maternal grandmother stepped out of her back door wearing a sleeveless dress with no coat, scarf, or hat and shoveled snow in order to be able to get to her garage.  Her pneumonia began shortly thereafter.  She never smoked and as far as I know she did not have any smoking-related lung disease.  However, her husband was a heavy smoker who smoked inside the house every day for many years as did other members of the family.  My grandmother’s lungs certainly were not helped by that.

5. My mother was a smoker from age 15 on.  Before she began smoking my father persuaded her to hold a cigarette in her hand as they slowly drove past their friends in the small town near where they lived.  It looked chic!  In short order, she began lighting them up.  As far as I know she did not have lung cancer but cigarettes caused the emphysema.

6.  Until April, my wife’s aunt was independent – happily living alone, driving, and volunteering many hours with her local animal shelter; she was one of the original founders.  Members of her family have spent countless hours and travelled great distances to assist her.  My wife has been and remains her principle advocate in every respect and has been away from home (580 miles) to be near her since this most recent setback began in April.  It began with 15 days of hospitalization followed by 85 days in a nursing home’s rehab wing.  She is now in an assisted living facility and is struggling.  Each time in the past that the lady has gotten sick, my wife has rushed to her – something I do not begrudge.  I am 100% supportive; I love the lady too.  My 20-year-old son is with his mother this very moment helping as much as he can.

This current drama with the aunt is playing back old tapes and I can see the terrible drag it is inflicting upon all of those who love her.  Sadly, it was preventable.  She smoked most of her life.  I don’t believe she ever quit entirely – not even after learning that she had emphysema.  I believe that she has been in denial about her emphysema for a very long time.


Emphysema is insidious and it never gets better.  It almost always gets worse and long periods of remission are uncommon.  In the severe stage breathing can be torture akin to that of water boarding.  Panic is common.  There is much suffering.  If you want to know what it’s like to breath with severe emphysema, particular if anxiety sets in, find a plastic coffee stirrer of the type that is circular on each end like a straw – not the type that is crimped down its long axis.  Put it in your mouth, hold your nose tightly closed, and then try to breathe through the stirrer for one full minute (if you can).  You will find that exhaling is difficult as well as inhaling.  This is what it’s like!  Sufferers run out of energy quickly.  Talking exhausts them, sometimes very quickly.  As they become more and more inactive they lose muscle mass.  Though there are many variables and the statistics are not in complete agreement, 1.5% loss of muscle mass per day is common for someone who becomes bedridden for whatever reason.  That’s a 30% loss in just 20 days – assuming that you were in fair shape at the beginning.  If you’ve been sick for a long time it’s even worse.

It’s probably not necessary for me to explain how painful lung or esophageal, or throat cancer can be and how much of a problem that pain management can be.  In spite of the morphine, my father begged me to take his life.  Even after he could no longer speak he got that message through to me.  He died about 25 minutes before the hour that I had chosen to do the “deed.”  The nurse who visited his room very infrequently that night made it clear to me that I would not be disturbed and that questions would not be asked.  I had planned to use a pillow over his face as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I don’t know whether or not I could have actually done it but as I look back, I recall being ready and resigned to the idea.  I also know that if I had done it, I would not have been able to come to terms with it nor find peace.

In time, I will tell the stories associated with the cancer and/or emphysema that killed 4 out of 5 of those loved ones and is taking the life of the 6th.

Smoking is simply not smart.  Don’t be a fool.  If you haven’t started – don’t.  If you are smoking – stop.  Don’t feed me this baloney that “You can’t.”  Yes you can – if you truly want to.  You might not be able to do it alone – but you can do it.

In the future at this site I will describe some of what is known about how tobacco smoke causes cancer and emphysema.

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