Coffee heat rising

Slow-Motion Suicide?

Every now and again, I think about my mother. And I wonder.

Did she kill herself on purpose?

Like today’s political conservatives who disbelieve and reject what the CDC says about covid-19, she and her cohort disregarded what a government agency said about tobacco smoking. Stupidity, ignorance, cant…whatever you want to call it…the effect was the same. Science meant nothing to her. Facts meant nothing to her. The obvious meant nothing to her. She would do as she pleased and would hear not a word to the contrary from Big Brother.


My father, who went to sea until a few years before she developed the cancer that would kill her, apparently wasn’t paying attention. Evidently it never registered: the only conscious moments she spent without a cigarette in her hand were when she was in the shower and when she was stuffing food into her face.

Otherwise…first thing in the morning she lit up a cigarette, before she lifted her head from the pillow, and the last thing she did before she turned off the nightstand light was to smash out the cigarette she was smoking to see off the day. She puffed away until food was on the table, and the instant she put her fork down after a meal, she lit up another cigarette. Once she was at my house for 40 minutes…by the time she left, the seven-inch-wide ashtray on the coffee table was full to overflowing with butts smoked all the way down to the filter.

Even though he smoked, too, how could he not have noticed how extreme her habit was?

But he didn’t. Oddly enough.


You only just now noticed? How could you have missed it? Did you, seriously, never pay any attention to her? Maybe that’s why she spent most of her adult life committing slow-motion suicide?

2 thoughts on “Slow-Motion Suicide?”

  1. It sounds like your mother had a lot of anxiety and dealt with it by smoking. Do you remember if she was often anxious, on edge, or just generally unhappy?
    As for how much/often she smoked, she was addicted. Addicts don’t want to hear about how they are harming themselves and you sure can’t quit for them.
    Maybe I’m crossing a line but I suspect your parents didn’t have the best of marriages and he might have spent so much time at sea to put distance between them. Seriously, I’ve always wondered why people marry, then have jobs that keep them separated for weeks, months, sometimes years. I think they prefer it that way.
    I also think there are a lot of us committing slow suicide. I’ve suspected this for quite a while now. There’s a lot of self-hatred and despair in the world.

    • Oh, yeah: I think you’re right about that in many ways. Drinking, smoking, using dope, promiscuity, and on & on: many extremely self-destructive behaviors. It’s hard to avoid the sense that many people, even if on an unconscious level, are doing it on purpose.

      My father made a good living as a deck officer. Those jobs are (or at least were, at the time) well paid…and o’course, since you’re stuck on a ship all the time, there’s no place to diddle your money away! He was already going to sea at the time they met — he was in the Coast Guard at the time, and after that went into the Merchant Marine. One thing’s for sure: he did one helluva lot better piloting ships than he would have done had he stayed in Texas, watching the rear ends of cows.

      Plus…for the ten years we lived in Arabia, he had a shore job: he was a harbor pilot out there. And believe me: there was NO place to spend your beloved shekels in that dump!

      They both had prior marriages before they’d met. My father’s first wife apparently was a bit of a chippy, and my mother’s first husband (from what I could tell) was some sort of a loser. I think they were determined to make it work. And they stayed together the whole time, decade after decade, until she died of self-inflicted cancer.

      It is true that nicotine is powerfully addictive — some say it’s as much so as heroin. On the other hand, my mother never even made an effort to stop smoking, even after the word came down that the habit was likely to kill you. It was the only thing that she was REALLY self-indulgent about. Too bad she couldn’t have made her indulgence something less fatal, like…oh, say, buying clothes or watching tennis matches or some such.

      My father occasionally did try to kick the habit. He never smoked as much as she did, and so maybe he wasn’t as dramatically addicted. At any rate, the woman he married after my mother died objected vociferously to smoking, so he would pretend to have quit. Then he would go drive around and smoke in the car. She thought it was hilarious that he didn’t know she could tell he’d been stinking up the car! 😀

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