When I was five years old, my best friend Susan and I decided that we wanted to learn how to smoke cigarettes. We had the place – Susan had a GREAT log playhouse that her dad had built in the backyard, we had the cigarettes – both our parents smoked so each of us could get a pack to share, and we had the time – it was summer time and we were pretty much allowed to roam at will since we lived in the small town of Gunnison, Colorado.
The chosen day arrived and we met in Susan’s playhouse, cigarettes and matches in hand – ready to enter the world of grown ups. We lit up, took our first puff and starting barking like a couple of sick seals – but that didn’t stop us – we knew it would get better — after all, all of the grown ups did it and they seemed to be okay.
So, we took a couple more puffs and were just getting the hang of it when Susan’s Dad came through the door and busted us. Susan stuck her lit cigarette into her shirt pocket and I stuck mine into my back pocket of my jeans. I should have known things weren’t going to go my way when Susan’s cigarette burned outward and a hole showed up in her shirt – and my cigarette burned inward and left a hole in my butt!
I was sent home and a phone call was made immediately to my mother, who was at work – who then called my Grandfather Bjorklund who happened to be visiting, to let him know what had happened and that I was not to be allowed outdoors the rest of the day.
My grandfather felt it was his duty to teach me a lesson — one which I never forgot and shaped the rest of my life. My grandfather sat me down and asked me why I wanted to smoke. I explained to him that I wanted to be a grown up and this seemed to be one of the things grown ups did. My grandfather listened very calmly and then said, “Well, if you are going to smoke, you might as well smoke the right way and let’s get you broken in right away so you can smoke as much as you would like without coughing all of the time.”
I thought – Wow! My grandpa is pretty neat (it was 1961 — I didn’t know people were ‘cool’ yet!). That feeling didn’t last very long. My grandfather was a cigar smoker and he proceeded to make me smoke not one, not two, but three cigars one right after the other! After the first one I was a little light-headed but didn’t think it was too bad. By the end of the second one, I was starting to turn green around the gills and more than a little woozy. By the third one, I was a completely new shade of green and was running to the bathroom to throw up my lunch!
My grandfather grinned through the entire scene and when I ran to the bathroom, he asked me if I still wanted to be a ‘grown up’ – to which I immediately answered ‘NO’, and then threw up again.
To this day (almost 50 years later), I do not smoke. I tried one time when I was a teenager and had a flashback of staring into a toilet bowl – and put the cigarette down. I didn’t thank my grandfather at the time – mainly because I was angry, sick and embarrassed – but he definitely cured me of ever having a smoking habit!