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February 15, 2003: Hands tied

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She got into the car with me and the look on her face told me something had gone wrong. Again.

"He's smoking again," she told me. And this time I wasn't so surprised. The first time it was a shock. How could it not be, to find out that someone you thought you knew had hidden a secret like this for so many years? But he'd promised to stop. And now it seems he hasn't. In fact I still wonder if he ever stopped at all, but instead simply said he would because he's very good at saying anything, anything at all to get himself out of trouble.

I've watched him play ostrich with his health for years now, although it wasn't so obvious until he was diagnosed with diabetes, and then even more so when the diabetes got so bad that he now has to be on insulin. You'd think when someone reached that point they would start to take it seriously, but she says he doesn't even monitor his blood sugar like he should be doing. And somehow this doesn't surprise me at all to hear either, as much as I would like it to be otherwise.

It isn't the smoking that is so much the issue. It's a disgusting habit and the health consequences that will probably result are horrible. He already has a cough that emerges far too often, and although he's quick to blame it on just being tired or sick, we all know better. He is fooling no one except, perhaps, himself. The issue is that he refuses to take responsibility for his own health and worse yet, he doesn't even care.

He doesn't want my sisters and I to know that he's started smoking again (or that he never quit in the first place - I don't know which. That minor detail hardly matters here). But we know anyway. We needed to know. The knowing doesn't make it any better, but at least it's there.

He is an adult and he can make his own decisions about whether or not he will take care of his own health. He is an adult and therefore allowed to ignore his doctors' advice and pretend that everything will be just fine and that these habits of his will not hurt him in the long run. And because he is an adult, there is very little we can do, short of reminding him that we love him and we would prefer he stayed healthy so we can keep him around.

But this doesn't make it any better. I am frustrated by the fact that he seems to just *do* all of this and think that it will somehow be just fine; that despite all evidence to the contrary, he doesn't need to pay attention to his own health because the long term effects can not possibly affect *him*. I am frustrated by the fact that I can do nothing; that none of us can do anything at all to convince him otherwise. I am angry that he has lied about things and that, even worse, he tries to shift the blame.

I am angry because - no matter how impractical and silly it may seem - there is this little illogical voice in my head that screams that parents are not supposed to do this to their children. Parents are supposed to know better. Parents are supposed to be the ones to set the examples. And yes I know that adults make mistakes - all adults, parents and children and yes, even myself. We all make mistakes. But we are supposed to learn from them. We aren't supposed to close our eyes and pretend it will all just go away.

I am angry because I feel helpless - because we are all helpless. He is doing this to himself and only he can make it better. And I do not feel old enough to handle this. I am not ready for this. I am not ready to handle this. I am not sure I will ever be ready. And I am not sure how to make him understand that what he is doing to himself is hurting the rest of us too.

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