My Pa

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If you have had the chance to read my first post, you will know that I quit smoking very easily, but I was a light smoker.  My habit was minimal to say the least; at only three ciggies per day over a period of one year and a half, most smokers would laugh at that and say that I wasn't a 'true smoker'.  So, this next post is about someone who showed an incredible amount of strength when he chose to stop burning these addictive little sticks of stress-relief.

His name is Jean-François, but most people just call him Franck.  A French-Canadian with a heavy accent when he speaks English even though he started learning at the tender age of 12, he makes those he knows well laugh non-stop, for he enjoys being the clown in a group of people.  But, as with most others who lived in a family where physical (both hitting and sexual) and verbal abuse was the norm, he sought relief.  He found it in tobacco and bottle, and when he met my mother – who fell in love with the bad boy on a motorcycle – he would learn to be a different man.  Yes, the myth that sometimes all it takes to bring the best out of a man is a woman is true.  My parents are living proof of this.

Not to say that my pa wasn't a good man before; after all, unlike his brothers and sisters, he chose to join the army and make a living, instead of depending on welfare (some permanently, some on and off) to sustain himself.  I can't say that I blame them for doing so, even though all of us wish it didn't happen this way.  My father was the one who didn't fall through the cracks of the system and managed to pull himself together. But, with a girlfriend bursting with the glow of pregnancy, he had to act quickly.  And he did.

His drinking diminished drastically.  He ditched the bike and bought a car.  What he chose not to stop – and this was the compromise between him and my mom – was the smoking.  He was allowed to continue so long as he accepted to smoke outside (my mother is an RN and extremely cautious when it comes to babies and second-hand smoke).  The year they met: 1971. The year they married:  1973.  My brother was born two months later.

Fast-forward 30 years.  The year is 2003.  I had moved out already a few years before that, and had been living on my own in another city for quite some time, but still visited regularly.  My parents were the type of couple that always complained that they didn't have much money, yet my father was happily puffing away at his pipe every evening in the garage (cigarettes were no longer of interest – only cigars and pipe tobacco for him, now).  Although the smell is much more pleasing and the amount of chemicals greatly reduced, this is still not good for your health, nor for your wallet – which I pointed out to him in a gentle, yet firm way; I was a grown-up now, and my father treated me as so.  I therefore felt that I could give him advice on financial matters (whereas my mother still told me what time to come home in the evening if I went out with friends… !).  I blatantly pointed out that I didn't believe anyone who complained to be strapped for cash, yet continued this nasty habit.  Was this my father's turning point?  Perhaps it wasn't the only reason – after all, my mother surely nagged continuously about it – but I strongly believe that it gave him that final push he needed.  It had been years since he had ridden a motorcycle and the thought of sitting on a hog again was chewing away at him, and he knew that money was part of the issue.  It was the pipe or the bike.  He chose the bike.

Quitting was easy for him.  Like me, he took one last look at his tobacco products and said, "This is the last time I buy any of these".  He kept his pipe, of course, but it sits in its box, as usual, as a reminder of what he sacrificed to keep this vice of his.  He does not use the word 'regret' to explain how he feels about it, but had he decided to quit earlier, his life may have been different.  However, like they say, it's never too late to make yourself into a better person.


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