The joys of smoking

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One of the cats is limping and I fear she’s hurt herself.  But when we take a closer look at the paw she
protecting, there’s no sign of damage. 
I’m slow to visit the vet, given the cat appears to be pain
free, despite her limp which is becoming less pronounced, and at the same time I
think of my shame at not being one of those pet owners who races off to the vet
the moment their beloved animal shows the slightest sign of ill health. 
I’m the same with my children – slow to respond – unless they
are obviously ill and in a way that suggests a doctor’s attention is
necessary. 
Does it go back to my childhood when a visit to the doctor
was almost unheard of?  My mother used to
go, in my memory in relation to women’s business, mostly to do with the making
of and the aftermath of having babies. 
Otherwise, we stayed away from doctors, and my father
attended to broken bones and the like, as when my sister fell out of a
tree. 
My sister told me later, how our father had made a makeshift splint on her
leg and left her to a sleepless and pain filled night before he decided this
one was too much for him and she was off to the hospital for a plaster
cast. 
In the back of my mind, I have thoughts of visiting both the
doctor and the periodontist and neither thrills me. 
The doctor for a pap smear. 
That event happens every two years and for me ever since I was 21 years
old or thereabouts when I first entered into a sexual relationship. 
Forty years of pap smears, you’d think I’d get used to
it.  The speculum, the cold thrust, the
doctor’s gentle hands.  
I only go to
women doctors these days for pap smears but in my early twenties it was only
possible to see male doctors and I tried not to let it bother me. 
Until I met my husband, I did not have a regular GP but
followed him into his GP’s surgery to see a Doctor John Pettit, a kind man
who’d have been in his forties when I first met him. 
He smoked cigarettes in the surgery, which even then came as
a surprise to me.  I was still smoking,
too, as was my husband, but somehow we were on that initial wave of people who
knew smoking was dangerous and needed to be abandoned if you wanted to live to
a ripe old age. 
Even after my husband and I finally managed to stop smoking –
more easily because I’d discovered I was pregnant and no longer craved
cigarettes – though I still dreamed of smoking. 
I kept it in my mind that if something bad happened,
something worse than death itself, I could always go back to smoking, and would
not care. 
It became my default position, rather like my thought when I
finally finished my work at the Southern Memorial Hospital’s Community Care
Centre as a social worker and moved into part time private practice as a
therapist after I had that first baby, I could always go back to being a social
worker if all else failed.
For years, it was a comfort to me, that thought, both thoughts:
that I could resume social work and take up smoking again if everything else became
impossible. 
But it’s never happened, and these days I have no desire to
smoke whatsoever, though sometimes I enjoy the smell of someone else’s
cigarettes, unlike my husband who is one of those serious anti-smokers, despite
his past. 
As for social work, I doubt I could get a job as a social
worker any more. I resigned from the social work association about thirty years
ago and no longer feel that way inclined. 
It occurs to me, I often have a default position in my head, a
place or a person or a thing to which I can revert, when all else fails.  
Once upon a time, it included ex-lovers, the men I’d
rejected, not the ones who rejected me.  And
now I’ve moved beyond that. 
No more default positions for me, other than the occasional
fantasy of winning Tattlslotto – not that I ever enter it – or of finding a
publisher for my book. 
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