Charlie has taken up a new habit: he has rediscovered the cigars of his youth.
He was an occasional cigar smoker in his days as a fighter pilot. According to him, cigars and martinis were part of the fighter pilot persona. Once I met him, sixteen years ago, he only smoked when he was in his deer blind or when he was mowing the lawn. He said the smelly things kept the bugs away.
Cigar smoke gives me a headache, not to mention the health repercussions, so it was a habit that I never encouraged. We moved to New Hampshire five years ago and Charlie had not smoked a cigar since we arrived here—no deer hunting or lawn mowing, ergo no cigars.
One afternoon, as he sat daydreaming, Charlie mentioned that he would like to have a cigar to smoke. I thought: Well, why not? One cigar never hurt anyone and if it gave him a little pleasure, no harm could come of it.
How was I to know that it would quickly turn into a new passion?
He stored the first cigar in the refrigerator, with no thought to smoking it. Every now and then he would remember that it was there and say, "Someday, I'm going to smoke that cigar." That was good. It gave him something to look forward to.
Then the day finally arrived when he decided the time had come to light up. Since there is a no smoking rule in my house, I settled him outside in a lawn chair. I placed a folding table beside him with an ashtray and his afternoon glass of wine. Well, to use an expression from my grandfather, Charlie was "happier than a toad in God's pocket."
The problem that has developed is that Charlie now wants at least one cigar to smoke every day. Do you know how much those smelly little things cost? The small cigarillos are $2.89 for a three pack. The big ones can run from $3.50 to over $30.00 each! We have a cigar store near us that carries every exotic brand of cigar imaginable.
Smoking one cigar didn't make him addicted to the vile habit, but it certainly imprinted his brain with the enjoyment that comes from having something to do with his hands while he sips and watches for the deer and turkeys to march across his field of vision.
This habit can't last. The weather here in New England will be turning nasty before we know it and he won't be able to sit outside and puff away at will. So now I am the bad guy, telling him he can't have a cigar or two every day, lest the smoking becomes a bad habit that he can't kick.
He's not happy about that, but like most decisions we caregivers have to make, it is in his best interest. I have regrets that I bought that first cigar for him. But there is so little that gives him any pleasure I saw no problem in that decision.
It's possible that, by the time he goes through the winter without a cigar, he will forget he ever smoked them. That's the way of dementia.