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Chapter 55

Lead Me Not Into Temptation; I Can Find It By Myself

The demon tobacco finally gained the upper hand a few weeks ago. As if the shingles were not enough to deal with, I found out I had acute bronchitis and pneumonia. My addiction to tobacco started back in 1939 when I was about six years old. I had a great uncle Bob who had lost his left arm in an accident. He was a frequent visitor and smoked Bull Durham, the kind you have to roll. He could roll a perfect cigarette with his one hand by placing the paper on his knee, pouring out just the right amount of tobacco, creasing the paper with his index finger and with one deft movement complete the cigarette. He would moisten the paper, give one end a twist and finish off the act by striking a kitchen match on the seat of his trousers. I was fascinated to the extent that I begged him to let me try. I could barely roll a decent smoke with all my facilities but I practiced mightily every day with my Dad's sack of tobacco. It wasn't long, maybe a day or two that Daddy noticed his supply dwindling and gave me fair warning that further incursions in to his stash would result in some corporal punishment. I knew about that and quit stealing his Bull Durham.

Now I am not about to blame my poor old one armed Uncle Bob for my addiction to tobacco. It got worse when we moved in to town. During the war, tobacco was in short supply and took some maneuvering to keep me supplied. I admit to smoking "butts" along with members of our gang. Yep, we had a gang but we didn't terrorize any neighborhoods or bully anyone. We just hung out, dug a cave where we would hold meetings and smoke the butts we had collected. I was a follower back then, younger than most of the others and pretty much did what they told me. We had a charge account at a grocery store and I was put in charge of buying cigarettes. I did this by telling the clerk they were for my dad. I didn't put them on the charge account. We always managed to come up with the cash. It didn't last long. When Daddy settled his bill the clerk mentioned my incursions for cigarettes and that ended that caper.

By the time I was in high school, I was carrying cigarettes in my shirt pocket and no one challenged me even though sales of tobacco to minors was illegal back then. The school even had a designated smoking area where all the smokers gathered between classes and before school started. By now I was hooked big time.

My habit soon grew to two to three packs a day, "Pall Mall, break'em in the middle, light'em on both ends, that's my brand!" About five years ago, I started failing the breathing tests the doctor conducted. She told me then I was a candidate for emphysema and worse. Me, being smarter than any doctor, did not heed her warning. If anything, I may have started smoking more. Even the price didn't faze me.

About the middle of June while mowing the lawn, I really started feeling bad, short of breath. I had to stop every thirty or forty feet to rest. I also developed a cough that would not go away. Nonie kept after me to go to the doctor but I knew what she was going to say. She and daughter Liz took matters in their capable hands July 1, 2005. They hauled me to the Emergency Room at Harris Hospital downtown Fort Worth. By the time we arrived I was really wheezing. The admitting physician took one look, called for an Oxygen bottle and said, "We are going to keep you for a few days!"

Things happened pretty quick after that. They wheeled me past X-ray for a quick look and then to room 537 where they hooked up an IV with antibiotics, two liters per minute oxygen and told me not to move any more than I had to. I had a private room, almost a private nurse 24/7 for the next four days. It must have been pretty bad, all my kids and even my ex-wife came to visit.

So where has all this led? I was discharged late July 4, 2005, and sent home with an oxygen bottle and instructions to stay on it. July 12, 2005, I returned to the doctor who had treated me in the hospital. I had improved greatly, %SPO was 93, a pretty good number I am told considering. He gave me two more massive doses of an antibiotic and cautioned me to stay on the O2 as much as possible. He didn't have to tell me not to smoke.

It didn't bother me too much while I was in the hospital. I was amazed at all the smells, good and bad, I had been missing. Food has never tasted better. I guess you might say I am a "born again non-smoker." There is one thing that bothers me. What will the government do now that I am no longer paying all those taxes on tobacco?

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