Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Friend Bill

Bill Pyle is a kind and pleasant man.  He and his wife, Pacheca, moved into a first-floor apartment in our retirement community.  The first day he came into the dining room and went from table to table, introducing himself to everyone.  Within two days he knew every resident, not just names but where they came from, what kind of work they had done, and how many children and grandchildren they had. 

After living here for over a year, he still comes into the dining room every day with a smile on his face.  He consoles those who are feeling the aches of aging and cheers up all of us, even those whose children have forgotten them.  Bill is one who makes this place of retirement a substitute family with a happy home. 

Bill served 20 years in the U.S. armed services.  He traveled all over the world purchasing equipment for the Air Force.  He held the rank of major.  Despite his genial nature, Bill is very firm in his beliefs.  As a good soldier, he never questions orders.  Nothing wishy-washy about our Bill.

At lunch Bill and I talked about the deficit. 

He said, “It is due to Obama’s rash spending.”

I said, “No, it is due to enormous cost of Bush’s wars and the lack of revenue to pay for them.  The fault is with the Republicans and the Bush tax cuts.”

Bill said, “That is your opinion.”

“No!” I said, “That is fact.”

Bill insisted that we had differing opinions as to what the facts are.  He gets his “facts” from Fox News and the Internet.  I am a trained journalist, read publications like TIME and the New Yorker, and know how to listen to “talking heads” and distinguish factual reports from propaganda. 

I can not change Bill.  As a retired Air Force Officer, his mind is locked tight, and he will not surrender the key to anyone.  He and I agreed that in spite of our differing points of view we would remain friends and not fight about it. 

Not fight, but he knows I will keep on talking.  As I said, in spite of being a Republican, Bill Pyle is a kind man.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Smoking Addicts

Why do people do things that they know are harmful?  Cigarettes kill.  Yet smokers will do anything rather than give up cigarettes. 

My first husband, Wallace Gaarsoe, was addicted.  Our children put up little “No Smoking” signs in the living room and kitchen.  Wally took them down and lit another cigarette.  Our three children grew up.  None of them smoke.  Wally died at age 66 of lung cancer.

My oldest brother, Lyle, started smoking as a teenager.  He quit after developing emphysema.  He lived to be 80, after many years when each breath was agony.
I live in a community where the average age is 80.  We have several residents who are over 90. To reach this age, most of us took care of our health.  Some, like me, never smoked cigarettes.  Others, like Sue, kicked the habit years ago.  We do not smoke.

Then there is Barbara.  The only place she did not smoke was in the dining room, where smoking is not permitted.  She had to come there to eat.  Otherwise, she sat in her room, puffing away.  The air in her apartment was as full of smoke as Beijing.  It filtered through the air ducts into the apartment next door and aggravated Doris’s asthma.  Doris moved.    

On Monday nights, when a group of us go out to supper, Barbara walked out of her apartment with a cigarette in her mouth, stamping it out just before she stepped on the bus.  At the restaurant she went to sit alone in the smoking section, rather than join the rest of us at our companionable table. 

This week, as we came home after our weekly outing, Barbara asked our driver to stop at the strip mall across the street from our complex.  She needed cigarettes.  Jackie refused.  As she turned the bus between stone gates into the mid-block entry to our complex,  Jackie warned Barbara, “Now don’t you go walking across the street in the dark.  It is too dangerous.  I’ll get you cigarettes tomorrow.” 

LaPrada Drive is a four-lane boulevard.  Cars speed past our gates day and night.

Barbara couldn’t wait.  At lunch today an old lady told me, “Barbara is in the hospital.  She was hit by a car.”   According to “my informant” the driver stopped.  He said he saw Barbara and she looked directly at it before stepping right in front of his car.  She was badly injured. 

We’ve heard that smoking is an addiction, causing a chemical imbalance in the brain.  I also suspect that it is a personality type – someone who insists, “I will do it my way, regardless of the consequences.”  The kind of person, desperate for a cigarette, who steps in front of a car and dares the driver to miss her. 

Smokers are gambler who believe they will win every time.  When will smokers learn that they lose?  One way or another, they always lose.