Seniors Lifestyle Magazine Talks To Mom Was Like That

You smoke. Oh, not a lot. Seven, maybe 8 a day.   Mom was like that.

If necessary, you can go two or three hours between puffs. A movie. A dinner party. A Little League game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom was like that.

You don’t smoke in the house, a nod to your spouse who quit cigarettes under surgeon’s orders after his heart attack.

Mom was like that.

You mostly light up outside. In the garden. On the porch. In the rocking chair beside the bird feeder.

Mom was like that.

You’re much too polite to smoke in the car, or around family members who don’t have the addiction. You tell people that, yes, even one cigarette is bad, but at least you’re not like those huddled wretches who fill their lungs inside smoking booths at airports and rail stations.

Mom was like that.

Betsy Mathews started smoking during her freshman year in college. She kept it up for more than 70 years until X-rays revealed two large, fast-growing tumors in her lungs.

She quit, but the doctor doubts it was discipline. More likely, he said, she inhaled one day and it felt like the devil breathing fire.

Death came six weeks after the diagnosis.

Mom was an active, vibrant person who ate the right foods and kept her weight down. Smoking-induced cancer stole her too soon.

Betsy Mathews didn’t smoke like a fiend.

Not a lot at all. Seven, maybe 8 a day.

But they added up and now she’s dead.

When Mom still had enough strength to talk, I told her I’d like to write about cigarettes and lung cancer.

Is there anything you’d like to share? I wanted to know.

She whispered, “Tell them not to be like me.”

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I grew up in Abingdon, Va., and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1971. I wrote features and columns for the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph from 1972 until 1987 when I was hired to write the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier. I retired from the newspaper in 2011. Altogether, I penned more than 6,500 pieces on every subject from murderers to moonshiners and mail-order brides to Appalachian snake handlers. I won several contests (and thousands of dollars in prize money) in contests sponsored by Scripps-Howard (the former owner of the Courier). My 12 books include “Swing Batta” (about coaching 9-year-old baseball players) that was published by Michigan State University, and “Defending My Bunk Against All Comers, Sir!” (about Army basic training during the Vietnam War) that was published by Zone Press. My play about the civil rights movement — “Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror” — has been performed three times. Two of my one-act plays have been in the Indy Fringe Festival. My humorous take on having my prostate removed was published recently in the Chicago Tribune. My legacy web site — Plugger Publishing — has links to four projects that have consumed quite a bit of time over the years. “Favorites” is a collection of my columns from Evansville. “Columnists: While We’re Still Around” contains pieces from other columnists whose work I admire. “Folks Are Talking” is a collection of Appalachian-related features I penned during the ’70s and early ’80s when I worked on the West Virginia newspaper. “Coming Together” contains interviews I conducted with three dozen civil rights volunteers who went South during the turbulent ’60s to register black voters and desegregate institutions. My wife MaryAnne and I live in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis, where we happily babysit our two grandchildren, Gavin and Ben.

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