YOUR OWN COLUMN More than
this, she did it her way
By Peggy Toney Horton Special
to the Sunday Gazette-Mail
My mother smoked cigarettes.
She started experimenting when she was about ten years old and was still
pursuing the habit when she died at 85.
many elderly people, the older she got, the more crotchety she became.
Sometimes it was amusing.
After her health began to fail, I, her only
child, had to take her for every doctor appointment. I once took her to her
ophthalmologist for an exam. She had terrible eyesight; already having dealt
with cataract surgery in both eyes and still struggling with poor vision due to
age-related macular degeneration. The doctor became a little short of
patience with her when he asked, “Have you quit smoking?” and she replied, “No,
I haven’t.” His speech went something like
this: “I’ve told you over and over again, Mrs. Toney, you may be able to slow
the progression of your macular degeneration if you stop smoking, but if you
continue, you’re going to be blind!” Trying to look innocent, she said,
“I think they gave me some pills the last time I was in the hospital that made
it worse.” “Oh no, they didn’t!” the doctor
shouted emphatically. “It’s your smoking. You didn’t listen to me
and now, there is nothing more I can do for you!” With that, he turned and stomped
out of the room, leaving us both with gaping mouths. I felt sorry for her and
wanted to run after him and tell him he shouldn’t talk to an elderly lady like
that, especially my mother! But part of me knew he was right.
She needed someone to bring her to her senses so she’d dismount the
self-destructive merry-go-round she was on. She cried pitifully all the way home
in the car. She said, “If I told a doctor my
big toe was hurting, he’d say it’s because I smoke. They blame everything on
smoking!” I stifled a giggle. It
must have seemed so to her. Every doctor wanted her to stop, but she refused. When we reached her house, I helped her out
of the car and into the house. She flung her coat off and plopped down in her
favorite chair. Pulling a tissue out of the box on the table, she dried her
tears and quickly lit a cigarette.
What can I say? This woman who raised me from
a baby had never done anything she didn’t want to do and she wasn’t about to
She was never health-conscious, as people are
today. She ate what she wanted. Drank what she wanted. And never bothered to
exercise except for the work she did. That was plenty. I’ve seen her work like a man and get mad at my father because he didn’t do as
much as she thought he should, even after he’d had a heart attack.
But working served her well until she was
past eighty. It was only then her health began to fail and she had a heart
She fought it all the way, refusing to obey
doctor’s orders. She was sure she knew best. Perhaps she did.
Just before she died, she was on the verge of
a second heart attack and needing another stent, but, according to doctors, she
was too weak for the operation.
She had a broken hip, a broken vertebra, COPD, which is a serious lung disease;
she was deaf and legally blind. On top of all that, she contracted pneumonia,
and it was over.
If ever there was a woman who lived life to
suit herself, it was my mother. She did it “her way” throughout her life.
And why not? She lived to be 85 years of age
without giving up anything she enjoyed.
As I think of her tonight, I can’t help but
wonder how many years she would have lived if she had made even the slightest
effort to take care of herself?
I wish she had.
Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and is a frequent contributor to the Sunday
Gazette-Mail “Write Your Own Column.” She can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, the sun shines brightly, the
temperature is 43 degrees where I live and the sky is clear and blue. If it
weren’t so chilly, one could mistake it for a spring day.
And it’s almost Christmas!
In fact, two weeks from today will
be the day after the most special holiday of the year.
“Ah, sweet relief!” some will say.
With all the build-up: shopping,
decorating, cooking, and get togethers, a lot of people will welcome getting
back to normal. Or whatever they perceive as normal. My grandmother used to
say, “Normal is whatever you want it to be.”
I’m still pondering that one.
But I do know this: we still have
two weeks to go at this hectic pace so we may as well put on a smile and try to
enjoy it. For many, that’s more difficult than for others. Those who lost loved
ones during the year are feeling their loss intensely and having trouble facing
what is supposed to be a joyous celebration without that person or persons by
Try to remember, your loved ones
wouldn’t want your life to stop because theirs did. Life must go on. And while
we wait for that wonderful day when we’ll see the people we love again, we
never – not for one moment – forget them!
In the rising of
the sun and in its going down,
We remember them.
In the blowing of
the winds and in the chill of winter,
We remember them.
In the warmth of
the sun and the peace of summer,
We remember them.
In the rustling of
leaves and the beauty of autumn,
I was talking to a
friend on the phone this morning when she said, “Well, I finally got rid of
those kittens I didn’t want.”
“What did you do,” I
asked, ”take them to the shelter?”
“No,” she answered,
seeming quite pleased with herself. “I put them in a box and dropped them off
at that new subdivision down the road.”
“Oh, my!” I said... “and
“I took her, too,” she
I was stunned!“How could you do that?” I asked her.
“Oh, it was easy.
They’ll be fine now; people will find them and take them in and they’ll have
good homes and be happy.”
“You can’t be sure of
that,” I said. “What if they freeze to death or get hit by a car or killed by a
larger animal before that happens?”
“I can’t worry about
that,” my friend said. “I did what I could.”
She really believed
I hung up, not feeling
quite the same about this friend. It’s odd how you can know someone all your
life and yet – not know them at all!
I could never do what
she did! How could you set a box of kittens and their mother out of your car
and, looking into their big, innocent, questioning eyes – drive away?
It is beyond me, especially when it would have
been so easy to take them to a shelter where they’d be warm, fed and possibly
adopted by people who really want a pet and would take good care of it.
The Bible commands us to
take care of the animals under our care. One of the signs of a righteous man,
the Bible says, is that he takes care of his animals (see Proverbs 12:10).
I can’t stop thinking about
these little kittens... huddled together in that box, shivering... their mother
trying to shield them from the cold.
Hungry. Scared. Lonely.
I pray that my friend
was right and someone finds them and takes them in. But, even so, in all
probability, it would be easy to find homes for the cute little kittens –
especially at this time of year, but what if nobody wants the full-grown mother?
What will happen to her? I worry about these things.
As unbelievable as it seems, we’re
in the eleventh month of the year! I have no idea where the time went. Seems it
was only yesterday we were saying, “Happy New Year” and two months from now,
we’ll be saying it again.
Really! Time disappears like a stone in deep water!
Halloween is over and now we move on
to one of the most important holidays of the year – Thanksgiving. Seems we
measure time by special occasions.
November 1stwas Mr. H’s birthday. That’s a special
occasion in our family. Our children visit, cards and presents in-hand, and we
have cake and ice cream together and enjoy a little family time. Lots of
laughs. It’s sort of a warm-up for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We’ve always been big on family
get-togethers for every occasion, but sadly, it gets a little more difficult with each
passing year. Some have moved away and it saddens me that they no longer get to
join us for every occasion.
Life gets in the way, you know.
Others have had some health
problems, making it difficult for them to enjoy things as they once did. And we
lost one of our dear ones this year. Her absence is more obvious at each
We miss her terribly!
I like family tradition. One can
tell because I do things the same every year. Even before they see it, our
children know what the Christmas tree will look like. We’ve used the same
ornaments for many years, adding one or two each year. Some are a pleasure to
add, like the “alien” ornament that mysteriously appears on our tree every
year. We’re not sure who contributes it, but each year, when we decorate the
tree, there is one more ornament to hang than we had last year. It’s fun to hold
it in my hand and say, “This is the alien ornament from last year,” and then
hang it in a prominent place.
A number of years ago, when Mr. H.
and I started losing our parents... one at a time over several years... we began
hanging a white bird for each departed one. Actually, they don’t hang; they
perch regally on the branches. Even with my fear of birds, I like these birds
because I know they’re not going to fly toward me suddenly – and because they’re
symbols of people I love – and good memories. I’ve even come to know which bird
represents which missing loved one. Almost feels like they’re with us.
But white birds are beginning to
take over the tree. And we must add yet another one this year!
What to do?
I’m thinkin’ perhaps another tree.
Smaller. We remove the birds from the main tree and decorate another with
nothing but white lights and birds. In another room, of course.
Mr. H. says, “One tree is enough to
Ah, but wouldn’t it be sweet to have a
whole tree dedicated to our departed loved ones?
I think so.
Now to convince Mr.H. (a little bird told me a coconut crème pie might do the trick!)