Monday, April 03, 2006

Wrong Decisions

I feel like my life is built on wrong decisions, a string of left turns when I should have turned right. It's not enough to say that I came by in honestly, that my father didn't teach me right. I'm in my forties now.

I'm trying to remember what it is I did, or didn't do, that makes me feel this way, but I can't remember. But it's there, making my heart feel sick.

Ah, here's an example. As some of you know, my mother died of lung cancer, caused by a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. One of our last conversations, in full view of the end, she asked me to do her one favor.

"Sue those bastards."

"Who?" I said.

"The tobacco industry, all of them! They did this to me."

I didn't even pause to think about it. "Mom, when I was old enough to buy your cigarettes for you, I asked you who the Surgeon General was that so clearly warned that smoking caused cancer. How old was I then?"

She didn't smile, nor did she look hurt, but she didn't reply.

"Eight maybe? That was thirty years ago, and you've been smoking several packs a day ever since. What possible grounds do I have to sue the tobacco companies on? I love you Mom, but there is nobody to blame here but yourself."

I let the doctors take her lungs out for research, because I thought maybe she would have wanted to help find a cure for the disease. But I was only guessing. All I can think about, when I allow myself, is her chest open like the kitchen cabinet, and the doctors carving her out--and how vain she was about her appearance.

We can't be children forever.


Claire said...

I don't think that is a wrong decision at all, and if that's the kind of thing upon which you base this feeling, then I would have to disagree with you. Before I go on, let me throw in the dosclaimer that I am not, nor have I ever been, a smoker, but from reading what you had to say, it sounds to me as though your parents raised a very principled person who knows both the difference between right and wrong and where he believes he belgonsa in the grey area thast inhabits the space between the two.

Of course, that's two cents worth from a random person who just started reading your blog a few weeks back, so take that for whatever you feel 'tis worth.

Claire said...

Damn typos! that's what I get for commenting without my morning coffee and my glasses this early in the morning!

Scott said...

Claire, I appreciate the sentiment. I'm not saying that I would do anything different. Perhaps we get old because the weight of our decisions gets too heavy.

Mrs.T said...

I think donating her lungs was a great thing. I had mono when I was a kid, and ended up in the hospital because I was pretending to smoke (I say pretending because I hardly ever inhaled without getting sick to my stomach). I ended up with complications and they actually brought me a lung to see what smoking does to a lung. I have to say, that it is something that I will always be able to think back on as the reason I am not a smoker.

I wonder about the people who sue McDonalds for being obese. I always have that.. 'hughrh' look on my face, like WTF?

Bailey Stewart said...

The tobacco companies never lit a cigarrette for me, held my hands behind my back and make me take a puff. It's entirely my decision and I have no one to blame but myself. Maybe if anybody should be sued it should be the goverment for allowing it to be legal - after all, everything else (asbestos anyone) that causes cancer is taken away from us. And I'm with Mrs. T about the people who sue because McDonald's made their children obese. McDonald's didn't drive them up there and plop down the money.

We make the decisions that we do based on the knowledge and circumstances at the time. We cannot allow ourselves to play Monday Morning Quarterback - no decisions would be made if we had to be absolutely certain that it was the right one. Let the guilt go.

Toni Anderson said...

Well the tobacco companies do sell highly addictive drugs that are poisonous. Most addictive drugs are controlled or banned--ever wonder why Colombian drug lords are villified and tobacco companies contribute to political campaigns? Maybe you should make all drugs legal and just print a warning on it--'This might/probably will kill you'?

I used to think like Scott and Eve--I mean nobody is forcing (my idiotic hubby) people to smoke. But maybe having one rule for one thing, and a totally different rule for another is just plain dumb.

PS. In case you are wondering I am anti smoking and drugs.

I am so sorry about your mom Scott. I don't think you did a bad thing. Cancer and death do not respect vanity and it is her soul that really counts.

Erin-erin-bo-berin said...

What a poignant memory of your mother. My DH knows that I wish for my body to be donated to science. At first, it was because of the miraculous way I was told I'd never bear children, but concieved anyway (four times!), but now it's also because of the miraculous way that I recovered from the car accident (May 2003) that no one expected me (or my unborn daughter) to survive. I'd like to know if the answers lie within my body or if I make scientists marvel and scratch their heads. I know not what my future holds - maybe cancer, in spite of all the healthy things I do to avoid that disease. There is much to be gleaned from each human body - healthy or diseased. I am so glad that you made that decision for your mom. It will impact cancer research!

Kathleen said...

I don't think it was a wrong decision either. Anything that contributes to cancer research is not a bad thing.

Shesawriter said...

I think there is a very special corner in hell reserved for the tobacco folks. Nice and toasty, I'll bet.

Moni said...

Organ donation is an agonizing, private, personal decision based on the moral, ethical, social and religious beliefs of the donor and the donator.

That being said, here is my opinion:

Scott sweetie, please don't even entertain the thought that donating your mother's lungs to science was a wrong decision. As a Respiratory Therapist I can tell you that every day I see people struggling to breathe and I wish I could help them more. I, myself, have been in the position where I couldn't breathe and it was one of the most frightening things I've experienced.

If one person could be helped as a result of research on a terrible illness via a diseased lung provided by your mother, then her suffering would certainly not have been in vain.

I thank you for your bravery and maybe future pulmonary patients will be able to thank you and your mother for a possible cure.

bless :)

magnetbabe said...

Whether your mom realized at the time or not, she tested you and you passed. I think at the time your mom wanted revenge, but in the end it doesn't really do anybody any good.

I agree with you 100% about your decision to let her be apart of cancer research. Randy's mom did the same thing. Maybe it's the scientist in me, but I take comfort in the fact that one day I may look at a leukemia study, see a bunch of data points and think, "maybe one of those is Randy!" It's one more way for your mom to live on.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

In Native American culture, I think they say that you are not a man until your father dies.

I haven't lost aparent yet, so I won't pretend to understand what it's like.

I will say this though.

There's absolutely no shame in speaking your mind. It took guts to say that to your mother. I think you did the right thing.

Scott said...

Mrs T - I remember the lung in grade school! Maybe that's why I had such an aversion to smoking.

Eve - Sometimes I wonder if any drug should be illegal, but that quickly falls away when I think about children before they are wise enough to make their own decisions. Still, I don't like the idea of the government micromanaging our lives, but what is the alternative?

Toni - "Cancer and death to not respect vanity..." Wow, that was beautiful.

Erin - You are a walking miracle. No wonder you have such faith.

Kat - Thanks. It was just one of those defining moments where each answer has a negative consequence.

Tanya - As much as I don't blame them, what they are doing is wrong. I have to agree.

Moni - That was sweet, and thank you!

Nat - I was wondering what you would think, especially with your recent loss. The rational part of my mind made the decision with my heart buried. Thanks.

Toast - Your opinion matters sir, and I don't think you have to lose a parent first. It's actually a good matter to work out in advance so you don't have to make such grisly decisions on your own, but maybe not. My dad doesn't like to talk about the after.

Beth said...

Such a personal subject, but I must say, I myself believe in organ donation ... whether it's to science or for transplant.

I do not hold tobacco companies liable for my smoking. Of course, it was a lot different for your mom when she first started. The "warning" labels weren't there in the beginning.

mr. schprock said...

I think what you said was exactly correct, but a very difficult thing to say. Rough.