notquiteold

Gracefully Aging – With Resistance

I Hope There Are Windows In Heaven.

When I was young, my father loved cigars.

A while ago, I wrote about Dad smoking cigars in the car (“Riding In The Car with Daddy”). I sat up from between my father and my mother – basically because my sisters would not sit next to me. I was nauseated most of the time. And nobody ever attributed this to my dad’s cigars. They just figured I was a puker.

Well, okay, this was sort of true. I still can’t sit in a car going backwards (even the length of a driveway) without my stomach turning over. And until recently, I used to go to New York once a week on business. I’d take the train. God forbid I didn’t get a forward-facing seat. Of course, as I turned greenish, the gentleman opposite me would often generously volunteer to switch. Wasn’t that sweet?

And forget amusement parks. I am okay with skeeball – that’s about it.

But I think my motion sickness is a Pavlovian response to all those years in the car with Daddy. All I need is to feel vehicular momentum and my body reacts:  ‘Okay’, my autonomic nervous system says, ‘Vehicle in motion = Let’s get queasy.’

After all, the other stimuli elicits the same response. ‘Cigar smell = Let’s throw up’.

But the cigar response is more complex. Sure the waves of nausea are like the incoming tide. But there’s also another beachy reaction – Sheer delight.

To this day, the smell of a cigar fills the air with images of my father  (along with the stinky smoke).

My mother always hated cleaning ashtrays. Her solution was easy – she never put any out.  Dad would sit and watch TV in the evening, with his hand cupped under the cigar.

And there would often be a half-smoked cigar perched on the edge of the end-table near his chair, or on the lip of the sink. “Don’t throw that away,” he’d say. “I’m going to finish it later.” And so the unsightly (but not too unsightly – he didn’t chew the end) would sit, patiently waiting for the next evening.

(I think he got that habit of saving his stogie from his old relative – not an uncle – I’m not sure how exactly we were related – but this old guy would leave his cigar perched on the step at the door of our church. He’d pick it up after Mass.)

When I was a teenager, I remember my mother wanting to hang some new sconces on either side of the picture window in the living room. My father put up the first one by measuring the distance from the window with his cigar. He popped back into the den for a few minutes to check the game. Then he went about putting up the second sconce also by measuring with his cigar. “But your cigar is shorter now, ” complained my mother. “Don’t worry,” said my father, “I’m allowing for the ash.”

When I was in college – I took my first big trip. I flew down to Mexico. (my first plane trip, and I did it alone. To another country! And I didn’t throw up on the plane – I waited till 2:00 AM at the hotel. Pretty good, I still think.) Anyway, I had a high school friend at the University in Mexico, and we met up and went to Acapulco for the cheapest Christmas Break adventure ever experienced.

Cuban cigars, though contraband in the U.S., were available in Mexico. And I bought my dad one. One. It cost the equivalent of six dollars. Which was about 30% of what I spent that whole week. Given the exchange rate at the time, I think the price on the label was about $40.00… this was what I liked best about the cigar. When I gave it to my Dad, he was impressed. “I’m going to save this and smoke it at your wedding.”

I didn’t get married right after college.  I waited a few years. Like twenty.

And at my reception, my Dad took from his pocket the twenty-year-old Cuban cigar and lit up. We practically had to evacuate. But it was one of the highlights of my day.

As my father grew older, he cut down on his cigars, and eventually in his old age, he gave them up completely.

I’d like to say I miss them – but honestly…no.

But I do miss Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I hope there are lots of cigars in heaven.

But for God’s sake… (LITERALLY, Dad!):

Open a window.

My Dad and Me on my wedding day. Behind my head is the cigar-aligned sconce.

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24 Comments

  1. I too get car sick – funny how things that are objectionable, are also fond memories

  2. I love this! What a sweet post! I’ll be chuckling all day about the “ash allowance”. Thanks!

    • My mother still chuckles every time she thinks of it.

  3. I hated when my dad smoked in the car (cigarettes). I was sure I would NEVER smoke because it always made me feel sick (but I didn’t puke). I started smoking when I was 19 but couldn’t stand smoking in the car. I quit 20 years ago though.

    Awful habit, smoking.

  4. thank you, what a lovely post, and so beautifully written

  5. What a lovely remembrance of your dad!

  6. What wonderful (although stinky) memories you conjured up this Father’s Day! As a young child we would travel about an hour on Sunday afternoons to see my grandparents. I was in the back seat between my brothers, Dad was smoking his cigar. As I read your post I could feel my stomach and throat tighten remembering the stench in the car. Dad gave up the cigars for a pipe, and later smoking all together. I know what you mean about missing him, but not his stogies!

    • Oh Yeah! Sunday afternoon drive to see my grandparents – the longest nine miles ever! I was always so nauseated, and then Babci couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat the golumpki!

  7. I loved this post. I know exactly what you mean about your complex response to vehicle motion and motion sickness. I hate the symptoms of the flu but I get a thrill when I feel the aches and shivers coming on. It reminds me of being sick as a kid and being comforted by my mother with tea and toast in bed and lots of picture books.

  8. Perfect Father’s Day story!

  9. Michelle Gillies

    It’s amazing how our senses can have their way with us. Smells, sounds, tastes, they can all evoke memories from days long gone and fondly remember.

  10. Aw, this is so sweet (and stinky!) Happy father’s day to your dad, lighting up in heaven.

  11. This is such a sweet and touching post! I loved reading it! (I think I can smell cigar smoke…)

    • Thanks. And try not to puke.

      • OK. But, just in case, I’ve got an emesis basin within reach–hehe!

  12. This is a fabulous Father’s Day post! Your dad sounds like a wonderful man, and I’m sure he’s being considerate with his cigars in heaven, LOL I can’t believe he held onto the cigar all those years. You looked gorgeous on your wedding day – I had similar flowers in my bouquet!

    • Dad took out that cigar every couple of years to remind me he was still waiting!

      And along the lines of my other posts, it’s amazing how we see ourselves as time goes by. I did not think I looked especially nice on my wedding day – how I wished I were prettier! But now I look at that photo, and I think I was quite beautiful. And young looking (for 40)!

  13. Loved this story, Nancy! Your dad pulling the cigar out of his pocket at your wedding — totally wasn’t expecting this post would lead to me thinking of an icky cigar in such a sentimental way.

  14. What lovely memories! Ask me someday about my granddad and his cronies playing poker, chomping cigars and drinking Wild Turkey! That was every day at the Liquor store named for my granddad in a little south Texas town, it even had a drive up window ;)

    • I think you need to write about than liquor store. It must have been fascinating viewed through a child’s eyes.

  15. Aw, I teared up when I got to the part about him pulling out the cigar at your wedding reception.

    • Oh, it made us all cry, but perhaps not in the way you think.

  16. great father’s day post.

  17. I always feel some connection to all of your posts, but this one really got me. My dad was a smoker (cigarettes, not cigars) and I was a puker (or so I was dubbed). Hmmm. Every once in a while, on a very special day, my dad would drive me to school. Smoking the whole way, of course. When we got there he would take his arm off the back of the seat (as a lefty, he always drove with his right arm across the back of the seat, with a burning cigarette in the right hand — right behind my head (special day = I get to ride shotgun)), take a big drag on the cigarette, lean in for a his goodbye and ….blow all of that smoke all over me. That way I could spend the entire day sitting in school smelling like an ashtray. And thinking about how much I love my dad.

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