This I Believe

Robert - Norfolk, Virginia
Entered on November 5, 2008

As a child, I was constantly subjected to the carcinogen known as the lung killer. For as long as I remember, my father had been a smoker. I remember riding in the passenger seat of his two door Bronco, inhaling his second-hand smoke. When I finally attended a school sponsored anti-smoking exhibition, I learned that smoking could kill. Every time a visited my father’s house, I reminded him that smoking could bestow the gift of cancer. He took my advice with a grain of salt and continued, not only to smoke, but to smoke with me in the car.

Every time my father pulled out a cigarette my heart would fall to my knees and I would cover my face with my shirt, which was never enough to fend off the impending cancer smoke, but always seemed to comfort me until I gave up defending myself. The suffocating smoke eventually would drive me to stick my head out the window to obtain as much fresh air as possible before my dad would yell for me to return my head to its usual spot on the passenger seat head-rest. I hated him for it. I hated him every time he pulled a cigarette from its container.

When I reached the age of twelve I was given the understanding that my father had quit smoking, and I was ecstatic. The habit that kept me from truly loving my father for nearly ten years was finally obliterated. One day, I came upstairs to ask my father a question and to my great dismay, he had again picked up a cigarette. He quickly flicked the cigarette away and pretended that he was admiring the scenery, rather than leaning on the banister smoking a cancer stick. I was crushed now, more than ever, and I was not indiscrete about my anger. I stormed off and retired to my room for the night without dinner.

For the next several years until several months before my 17th birthday, whenever I was offered a cigarette, I would claim that my father was a bad example for me when I was a child, and I cannot use what transformed my father into a liar. I did, however recently realize how much I truly love my father. I thought back to the times when I was sick and he took care of me, and when I was failing, he lifted me up. If there is one thing I truly believe, it is not just a single action that defines a person, it is his heart. My father was a smoker, but his love for me and his influence kept me from an even worse fate. I could be an addict, but my willpower was built up so that I could resist influence later in life.