By Judy Reiss
Since I have been trying to recover from all the medical issues I’ve had this winter, I kept thinking how difficult it was because no one ever told me to anticipate such things. But the more I thought about it, I realized that in the real world, no one can give you the information you probably need. And then I saw a very young boy who was walking along the sidewalk and smoking. And that really opened my eyes.
When I was young, smoking was the most sexy and grown-up thing to do. Not only was everyone encouraged to smoke, the cost of cigarettes was amazingly cheap. But for me, the cost was still too much and after about three months, I quit forever. My parents both smoked. They did try and let me know that it was not a sexy habit, but one that looked nasty and really was. What they didn’t know back then was that it also caused cancer! And as I looked at this young boy strutting along thinking that he was grown up and very cool, I did think that although he was young, he must also hear that this habit will eventually kill him! And either he didn’t believe it, thought it was just adults who were trying to ruin his life or because he really didn’t believe it, he just didn’t care.
And as I thought about this very young smoker, I realized that maybe someone hadn’t sat him down and made him realize the truth. Once you do that, even if he is young, the decision whether to believe it and smoke anyway, is his.
Of course I am leading up to something. Now that I am old, there isn’t much anything can tell me or warn me about. Unfortunately! But I did think that although it takes time and doesn’t always work, it is the responsibility of adults to give the young people the information they need or will need when they grow up. I think that when I was young, no one ever told me or even knew that smoking was a terrible habit that would affect the smoker for the rest of his or her life. No one knew that the harmless appearing cigarette was actually a time bomb.
For me, there were other things that I never knew about that have changed my life. Shortly after I graduated from college and moved to Vermont, for some reason, I began to gain weight. And after I got married and started to have children, I really really swelled up! And I must admit that I never thought it was an issue, health wise and no one ever told me that every pound I put on affected my heart and probably every joint in my body. And of course, I became a diabetic, which believe it or not, no one ever told me how insidious that disease is. Why am I sharing this with you? Well, I now realize that if someone, anyone had told me what that weight gain would cost me when I got older, I hope that I would have believed it and changed my ways probably 40 years earlier. It might not have changed what happened during my surgery But then again, it probably would have.
Although I know that not many young people are going to read this column, I hope the adults who do will think about it and tell their young people what actually happens to your body and young brain as you grow older. I did say to myself the other day how different my life and probably yours would be if you knew what getting older not only does to your body, but how it affects every single thing you do. And as I was deep in thought, I wondered how different we would be if we were told the truth? And although I no longer think that it would work 100 percent of the time, hopefully it would save someone. Think about addiction, which includes smoking, drugs of all kinds, drinking alcohol and even eating. Addiction is a disease whether it is socially acceptable or not. So, as an adult it is your responsibility to save your loved ones and hopefully they won’t ever have to say, “if someone had only told me what not to do to keep me from struggling with addiction, whether it is socially acceptable or not.” Growing old is hard enough as it is without trying to clean up your physical problems that should have been left behind when you were young. I only ask that you just think about it!