My Grandma was my Bike

Courtney - Lusby, Maryland
Entered on June 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Smoking is bad. Don’t do it.

We’ve all heard it. But what does it really mean? I found out my answer the hard way, like a kid that learns to put away his belongings, after his dad backs the car over his bike. My grandmother was my bike, the reason I learned that smoking really is “bad”…the reason that I will never smoke.

I called her Gheema. She loved her family, her friends, and the beach. The colors from the sunsets reflected off her smiling face often and I remember her waking me up excitedly one morning because there was a gorgeous sunrise over the river. The pure joy of standing on the boardwalk or looking out the window in the sunroom was enough to make any one else topple over.

Unfortunately Gheema did topple over, but not from excitement. She was diagnosed with COPD and the doctor told her that she was slowly losing the capability to use her lungs because of all the years she had smoked. A few years passed and she seemed fine. But, one day, I went over to her apartment and noticed that she was sitting in a wheelchair. It was painful to watch her stand up, slowly and gingerly, to give me a hug. In November of that year, my family, including Gheema traveled to Ocean City. The beach was empty. We decided to wheel Gheema out to the beach. After much sweating, pushing, and frustration, we managed to get the chair on to the sand. She sat as I threw the tennis ball for my puppy and she complimented me on how far I could throw it. But the sadness in her eyes was obvious. I could tell that she wanted to fling the dumb wheelchair to the side and jump up and run into the freezing ocean and splash and yell and laugh. But she couldn’t. Her 1/3 of a lung could barely keep her breathing through the night.

A few months after that, I sat in the living room of her apartment, looking out the window and trying to block out the sounds of the respirator and the beeping and the nurse talking to my mom. Gheema was basically in a coma. She looked peaceful, but when she breathed in, her lungs would shudder and she would quietly gasp for more oxygen. Some days I would sit on the bed and look at her hands as they would clench and relax, like she was having a dream. I imagined those hands picking up shells and throwing water playfully. But I also had visions of those wrinkled hands holding a cigarette as she puffed her way to a coma. She died on October 16, 2006.

I made a vow that I would never smoke. I want to enjoy my life and not be limited by my bad decisions as a young adult. I want to go to the beach when I am sixty and be able to throw the ball farther than my granddaughter. I still thank my grandma every day for saving me from ever smoking. The kid can buy a new bike after he learns his lesson, but me? I can’t bring Gheema back, but I think she did save at least one life. This is believe.