A little memory

It has been a long eight months since a knock on my door at 5 a.m. changed my world forever. I am still trying to get used to waking up to an empty house. People ask how I’m doing and I say I’m fine, which is not entirely the truth and not really a lie. I have come to terms with the fact that the emptiness will always be with me. Sometimes I pretend Jim is just outside working, and that helps. I picture him in that faded, shapeless hat he wore to keep the sun off his head. He might be barefoot and shirtless, but the hat was always on. (I gave his clothes away months ago, but I kept that hat.)

Another image of Jim came to mind while I was watching “Dancing on the Edge” the other night, and Louis and Stanley were talking. Each man was smoking a cigarette and I was idly thinking that the smoke alone would tell you that the story takes place in the past because no one smokes on TV any more.

Jim smoked when I met him. A lot. At the time, though, it didn’t seem like the vice we view it as now. It was just a habit.

I remember him taking out his ever-present pack of cigarettes, shaking a cigarette from the pack, and lighting it. His hands were strong and slender, and their movements were graceful. He inhaled, tipped back his head, and blew the smoke out. His body visibly relaxed. He was a very nervous person, always moving, and this was the only time he was still.

A cigarette was as much a part of him as his shirt or tie, an accessory of sorts. Sometimes I looked out the window to see the car gone, and knew that he’d run to the store for a new pack. It got to be a family joke, because he never told anyone he was going. It was both an impulse and a necessity.

Later, of course, when the Surgeon General’s report came out, we  knew smoking was a Very Bad Thing. The boys learned about the dangers in school and urged him to quit. I knew he wouldn’t–or couldn’t–and he didn’t.

Then he had a stroke. For six weeks he was housebound and not allowed to drive. No more quick runs to the store. He asked me to buy him a carton and I did the unthinkable. I refused.

He never argued or yelled or complained. He was pretty stoic about it, and when he could drive again he told me he had gone this long without smoking and might as well continue. He never smoked again, but used to say if he knew he was dying the first thing he would do is get a pack of cigarettes and light up.

I wonder now, if he had kUntitled-2nown he’d never leave the rehab center, if he would’ve ask for a cigarette. I think I would have given him one, or a whole pack, and let him smoke to his heart’s content, knowing it wouldn’t make any difference. He could have gone out in the courtyard and smoked as much as he wanted.

But maybe he didn’t crave nicotine any longer, not after 40+ years. I never thought to ask him, because I didn’t think he was going to leave us. I thought he was going to come home. But he didn’t.

And so I am doing fine, really, but sometimes little things bring back memories. And I think of him as young and vital and how graceful his hands were when he gestured with that ever-present cigarette.






4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lorraine Q. Shumate
    Aug 21, 2016 @ 08:15:12

    Thank you for sharing such a touching memory of a special man.


  2. CristineGzr
    Aug 21, 2016 @ 21:56:00

    Sandy, you are constantly in my prayers and I keep you in the light. My prayers are for a soul-lotion to soothe a little of the ache. You handle life’s challenges with such grace, something I couldn’t do when I was young. I loved this story, it struck a chord. I was the smoker. I often stopped and forget, never really got addicted but towards the end the last few years my husband relented -he used to refuse to kiss me until I brushed my teeth. But those last few years he told me I probably needed it to help with the fears and stress. He made me promise I’d quit six weeks after he was gone. I promised but I had my fingers crossed, I didn’t want to promise something I couldn’t keep and the future was such a vast chasm… Without even realizing it until much later, I just quit at six weeks… I found an old pack half full, in my purse with the receipt stuck in the cellophane and I thought, wow that was 6 weeks to the day! I hadn’t even given the promise that much thought, since I assumed I would break it. Strange how the mind works. I’d forgotten this until I read your post <>


  3. J.A. Coffey
    Aug 22, 2016 @ 04:49:48

    Beautiful, heartfelt memory that brought tears to my eyes for your loss and for the love for your husband. May you find more peace in the coming months.


  4. Ashantay Peters
    Aug 22, 2016 @ 08:35:00

    Thank you for an insightful and lovely post.


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