#43 If

by Annie Liss

A letter arrives each year repeating this single message, “Grandma, please quit smoking.” Each year my reply is silent, why listen? I grew up on a tobacco farm; this whole Surgeon’s General Warning label is malarkey! Besides, what does a first grader know?

The girl grows, but persists. She becomes a teenager too soon, and still the annual letters come. Reflecting on my life, I have to write my will, what to leave behind. All my possessions reek of smoke.

In my kitchen smoking, I put down the cigarette. I don’t pick it back up again that day or the next. Months go by, then a year, then two. Marlboro no longer represses the wonderful odors of cooking, life, and love. This is much easier than I ever thought possible. I am one of those blessed people who can give up an addiction with mere determination.

Visitors comment that my home is now refreshing. I am ecstatic and know my doctor will be just as pleased, since he echoes my grandchild at each appointment. There is no smile on his face. Instead of a lollipop, I walk out with a sand timer. Instead of a clean bill of health, I received a death sentence.

Another letter arrives, “Grandma, I’m pregnant.”

Why didn’t I listen in the beginning? Would the diagnosis be different if I listened to her sooner? If I had never started, would I one day hold my great-grandson? Thinking over a life half-lived, this time I will reply.


Unknown said...

So sad - and sadly real.

Julie Nilson said...

"Instead of a lollipop, I walk out with a sand timer." Great metaphor.

JRVogt said...

I agree with Julie. Great image with the sand timer.

Anonymous said...

This could have become sappy and unauthentic quickly, but it never did. Consistent voice, nice details.

Laura Howe said...

Reminded me of my grandmother and her smoking. The 'possessions reek of smoke' made me crack a smile, it was so true. Like the sand timer image and all the "Ifs" the character's left with.