I know this seems trivial but I felt it was a major landmark in my life as well as Paul’s. His childhood-high school friend Mark said he’d been smoking since junior high, I think eighth grade, maybe sooner, he is from the Southside of Chicago (an old, mean joke about Cubs fans I’ve seen on The Daily Show). Paul always smoked during our days at Marquette and then years after graduation. At least he was always polite enough to do it outside if we were in some non-smoker’s house or my grandmother’s car (my main means of visiting him and Helen in Chicago). It was pretty big news when Helen told me he stopped cold turkey and fortunately, she stopped eight days after him. Recently, she confided to me about Paul falling off the wagon at least one other time but he has been cigarette-free now that his sons are in the picture.
Science and/or old wives’ tales claim the children of smokers (including former) become smokers themselves. If smoking takes place around the kids, I can see it happening. However, I disagree with it in general through what happened to my brother and me. Our parents used to smoke until our mom was pregnant with me (I’m the oldest), our dad shortly afterwards (I think it was more of Mom not wanting to suffer alone from the nicotine withdrawals). Then we were brought up in big Seventies push against smoking as the connection to cancer was strengthening. I remember Mom taking it up occasionally and the paranoid-holier-than-thou spiel coming out of us, especially when I skimmed her pamphlet on high blood pressure. She was pretty pissed after we flushed her cigarettes in the toilet once. I recall Dad scolding us yet there wasn’t any actual punishment for it because I’ve never, ever seen him smoke; he’s more of a rude opponent when he catches someone smoking in non-smoking areas (the acorn doesn’t fall from the tree eh Paul & Helen?). There’s a point, I’m getting to it. Over my life, I never seriously took up smoking in high school, university or later. I’ve had a cigarette from time to time but it never “did anything” for me. My ex-something (girlfriend is too strong a term) Dana tried to instruct me on how to do it correctly for the nicotine buzz, nothing. I do have a cigar or two annually, especially when I’m in Vegas (it seems to fit the personality of the place). I was also smoking them in college long before that Cocktail Nation crap started, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I just have to be decontaminated afterwards since my wife will make me sleep in another room. Meanwhile, my brother somehow got hooked on smoking in high school and I cannot remember when he quit. My best guess is around his wedding. I blame this vice more on his peers, his preference to be accepted (he was one of the cool kids growing up) and the overall boredom permeating Bloomington-Normal.
Will the smoking fate befall Paul and Helen’s kids TJ and Jack? Washington DC sounds like a city that shares Austin’s anti-smoking attitudes despite all the foreigners living there. I would say the outcome will really depend upon the older, female cousins who will be high schoolers in a couple years. Brian’s kids Nicholas and Anna? Chicago’s a tough call. I’ll have to go on the comment Brian made about them recently. Anna is like him so she’ll take it up in high school with her cool friends as they raise hell around Mount Prospect. Nicholas, if he’s like me as my brother said, he’ll be smoke free because he would inherit my Scrooge genes that quickly point out how much it costs (annually) and not wanting to obey “the unwritten law” which forces you to give cigarettes to anyone who asks; strangers, homeless people and jerks you can’t stand on your dorm’s wing.