Father Didn’t Always Know Best

Posted: Friday, June 19, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I caught a whiff of cigarette smoke on the golf course the other day and it immediately triggered memories of my father.
Dad was only 70 when he died 32 years ago.
I say ONLY 70 because as I get closer to that age it doesn’t seem so old and by today’s life expectancy standards, I guess it really isn’t.
Harry Lund probably would have lived longer had he never touched a cigarette or given them up at the first sign of trouble. But, even though he was a smart guy, he, like a majority of men from his generation, never really considered smoking to be all that harmful much less a vice. Dad holding me in his lap and what’s left of a Camel cigarette in his fingers.
He lived for several years  after he finally did quit but because of asthma and emphysema and his choice of Camel straights, the damage had been done; his lungs were shot.
Dad’s coughing at night was legendary. It could go on for hours and would wake up everybody in the house. My poor mom got very little sleep because of it but never complained…at least not to us.
If the coughing got too bad, dad would sometimes find relief by going out into the living room and sitting in his rocking chair. It was a fine chair for watching television but not designed for sleeping and he’d wind up dog tired with a sore neck by morning.
One of my greatest fears is suffocation so it was particularly frightening in those last years to see dad struggling for air with the least bit of exertion. Eventually it got to the point where even the oxygen and medication dispensed through a breathing machine didn’t help much.
He was tired of going to the hospital and wouldn’t have gone the last time had we not talked him into it. He knew he wasn’t coming out of there alive and had resolved himself to the fact that 70 years on this earth was long enough.
It wasn’t long enough, of course. There was a lot more he would have liked to do.
In going through his woodworking shop after he died, we found several unfinished projects lying about; pieces of black walnut he’d turned out on the lathe for another grandfather clock he was making. In one corner, were boxes of old auto parts he’d picked up at an auction somewhere in case he decided to restore another antique car. On the wall hung a calendar with a date circled. It was for an upcoming parade he planned to drive his Model T Ford in.
Once or twice a year, I get a chest cold so bad that it worries Linda to death and reminds me that I’m my father’s son. I have coughing jags that sound exactly like his used to. The only relief seems to be sitting upright in a chair all night leaving plenty of time to ponder questions like..my chest x-ray was okay but I wonder if the doctor missed something. Maybe my lungs haven’t healed in the years since I quit smoking. Will I be making a one-way trip to the hospital?
But, unlike dad, I always get better..eventually.
Which reminds me..I have some unfinished projects around here that I need to be getting to.

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