Smokers Are Gamblers

Smokers are like compulsive gamblers, but with their lives, not their life savings. We all bet we’ll be like the mythical “Uncle Bill” or “Grandma Betty” who smoked two packs a day all their lives and lived to be 103. In reality, don’t bet on it.

I started smoking cigarettes when I was 12 years old and continued puffing away for the next six decades. In addition to a pack to a pack and a half a day addiction, (and that’s what it IS, NOT a HABIT) I also consumed vast acreages of the produce of Mexico, Jamaica, and Colombia.

It all had it’s toll. Yesterday, Dec. 27th, 2021, I visited the pulmonologist for the results of my recent chest x-rays and a pulmonary function test. There was good news and bad news. The good news was the x-rays didn’t show any lurking tumors though there was no underlying reason to believe there were any.

The bad news is I’m plodding along on 21% of my lung capacity. I get winded making the bed, so I don’t do that. I sit in the car for several minutes to regain my breath after moving the 50 feet or so from the boat to the SUV. It SUCKS!

But for all that I’m in fairly decent shape for someone approaching 80. Sure, I envy the 80 year olds who run in marathons and compete in triathlons, but I wouldn’t be doing any of that even if I didn’t have COPD. My blood pressure is excellent. High normal, but in the “normal” range never the less. My blood/oxygen level, at rest, which is the benchmark, is always 98%. A person needs to be below 80% to be considered for supplemental oxygen therapy. On my initial visit to the pulmonologist I had to do a five minute walk while wearing the Covid-mandated face mask. The blood/oxygen thingy was on my finger. Of course the exercise made the blood/O2 level drop, but only by 5% which I don’t think is that bad.

Honestly I’ll be surprised if I see my 81st age-advancement day. But I’ve already beaten the national life expectancy average of 77 years which is, by the way, DOWN from 78.8 years because of Covid deaths. At 79+ I even beat the previous expectancy.

I’m not crying about my condition.I did it to myself even knowing what could possibly happen. I am one of the fortunate ones. All the things I dreamed about doing as a kid floating around in an 8-foot pram on Flax Pond at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass, on Cape Cod, I DID! I’ve been down most of the Mississippi River, I have done the “Great Loop” which is a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States by water. I’ve been through the Panama Canal. I’ve sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. I had my own small sailboat and single-handed on a 9-month round-trip from Florida to Mexico, Belize, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. I published a book. I LIVED, not visited, in two foreign countries. I’m not looking forward to dying, though they say it’s the best part of a life which is the reason it’s kept till last, I’m ready. No one, taking their final breaths, ever says, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office…”


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3 responses to “Smokers Are Gamblers

  1. I laughed at this: “Sure, I envy the 80 year olds who run in marathons and compete in triathlons, but I wouldn’t be doing any of that even if I didn’t have COPD.” Ain’t it the truth? Like you, I made the decision to do some things when I was younger that left me without the security of a great pension plan, and a need to keep working now just to keep food on the table, etc. etc. Still, I know far too many people who’ve retired at 60 with great benefits and financial security, only to depart this mortal coil before 65. We all make choices, and I’d rather live with a few bad choices than die by being smothered with a security blanket.

    • “I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone. 
      What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
      The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. — ― Sterling Hayden, Wanderer