The Seven Life Lessons My Father Taught Me
Lesson Five - "Smoking at Age Five"
I remember when I was of the tender age of five watching my Dad smoking away on his ‘Export A’ cigarettes (they should really rename that brand ‘Lungfuckers A’, by the way; those things have so much tar you could repave a major highway).
Being young, naïve, and very impressionable I toddled across the living room to my beloved Father’s knee to ask if I could try to smoke like him. To this very day I still vividly recall the look on my Dad’s face – it wasn’t anger, or denial, or even shock at my childish request for a cigarette; no, it much more resembled an expression akin to “Here’s A Fun Opportunity to Laugh at the Expense Of My Son. Is Mother Around?”
Scanning the living room with shifty eyes to ensure the absence of any sort of maternal presence, my Dad reached into his pack of smokes and pulled one out. “Sure, buddy, why not?” he said as he passed me the cigarette. “You’re a big boy now, aren’t you?”
I smiled with pride. Dad was paying attention to me, and even better, was praising me! “I sure am Daddy!”, I crowed with joy. I put the cigarette in my mouth and tried to figure out what to do with the strange adult thing, which at that particular moment wouldn’t be much, since it wasn’t actually lit.
“Here you go, My Son.” Dad pulled out a small green plastic lighter from his red flannel shirt pocket and spun the tiny wheel on it. I watched with big eyes as he applied the flame to the tip of the ‘coffin-nail’ held between my unsuspecting lips.
Still unsure of what to do with the suddenly burning object, I started to just “puh-puh-puh” on the cigarette. You know what I mean: usually when kids pretend they’re smoking, they don’t actually inhale on a cigarette. Instead, tobacco-innocent kids usually mime as if they’re blowing out carcinogenic smoke like all the adults do, since the only thing they (and me at the age of five then) know about smoking is that it looks like a lot of fun breathing out those big puffy clouds. So that was the information, scant as it was, I was working with at that particular moment.
My Dad, obviously concerned I wasn’t fully appreciating all the pleasures tobacco had to offer my young virginally-pink lungs, offered me the age-old advice probably passed down from father to son since the beginning of human history. Leaning forward with a twisted grin on his face, my Dad said to me, “Boy, inhale deeply! Suck on it like a straw and pull the smoke down into your lungs.”
So I inhaled and…and….and….every internal organ in me shuddered to a screeching, screaming STOP STOP STOP. I could actually hear my lungs screaming, “Hey. Hey! HEY! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP? Aren’t you a little YOUNG for COATING YOUR LUNGS WITH CARCINOGENIC GOO? AHHH!!! BLEHHHH!!! RRREEECCCCHHHH!!! CAN WE AT LEAST WAIT TILL YOU’RE FIFTEEN?!? AHHHH!!!!!! RREEECCCHHH!!!!”…or something along those lines.
(I should state at this time that the above “RRREEECCCHH” description, although a bit juvenile in the literary sense, is the only, uh, ‘word’ that comes close to communicating to you how betrayed my five-year old lungs felt at the time. The hardest thing they’d had to breath so far in my young life at that particular moment was the atmosphere of the bathroom after my Dad had used it, but I had wisely learned to avoid that area after he performed his bodily functions since the only way I could use the washroom then was to hold my breath and urinate until little dark spots began flashing in the corners of my peripheral vision.)
I just –flew- to the bathroom accompanied by the braying laughter of a delighted Father. Fortunately it had been awhile since the last time he had made the air unbreathable in there and that was a very good thing since there was no way I’d be holding my breath at that horrid moment. I retched, and I retched, and I retched. Oh, what a momentous vomitous retching it was; but let’s just stop this particular description right here, okay? I don’t want to gross out any of my more queasy Readers out there. However, to better your understanding of the whole situation, let’s just imagine Captain Crunch steering into a porcelain whirlpool like his ship was on fire (which, for all intent and purpose, it was.)
When I got everything out of my system and returned to the living room, I discovered Mom had come to investigate the noise and was physically assaulting my evil Father. I could see no regret on his face, only great and joyous hilarity.
I suppose looking back on it I should
be glad my Dad wasn’t a heroin addict: “Hey
Dad, can I try some of that H?” “No problem lad, let’s find a
good vein on your upper right forearm…” No matter how you look at
the whole grim situation, it was a mean thing for my Father to do…
but it taught me one of my most favorite Cruel Lessons of Life: “Be
careful. You may just get what you ask for.”