Buck and I visited my Uncle Marvin and Aunt Lou Ella in Mississippi in 1990, when Uncle Marvin was dying of emphysema. He lay in the bedroom with an oxygen tank. There was a hard, straight-back wood chair sitting just outside the door. Aunt Lou Ella fed us one of those great Mississippi spreads for lunch: fried chicken, yellow squash, field peas, greens, corn bread, fried peach pies and sweet tea.
Before we left, I asked whether she was getting any rest. Her eyes puddled up then, and she motioned toward the chair. “I set in that chair all night. I’m afraid to go to sleep. Afraid Marvin’s going to blow us and this house up when he smokes.
Kathy’s and Kurt’s comments on Cancer Sticks reminded me of Uncle Marvin. Their words also bring Hemingway’s “one true thing” to mind. Their words have the power of no-averted-eyes experience.
Kathy said: “Yet people we love will do this. People make choices, with full knowledge of what they are doing and the risks. You and I can bitch and moan, but they have their pat answers. And there’s not a thing we can do. I’ve been there.”
Kurt said: “It’s an addiction. Reason has nothing to do with it. But I’ve been in both roles and I share your frustration.”