Sepia Saturday 175: Thinking of my Dad

Sepia Saturday 175Late again! This week’s Sepia Saturday had me thinking of all the smokers in the family, especially my Dad. I have never been a smoker, but most of those around me at work or at home, were. It was just normal at the time.

I was surprised looking through my photos that I actually had relatively few of anyone, cigarette in hand. One or two of Granddad with his pipe, none of Mr Cassmob but quite a few youthful photos of Dad, some alone, some with me.

Dad at the beach during my parents' honeymoon, pipe in hand.

Dad at the beach during my parents’ honeymoon, pipe in hand.

With me at the beach, cigarette in hand.

With me at the beach, cigarette in hand.

On the rocks at Rocky Bay, Magnetic Island.

On the rocks at Rocky Bay, Magnetic Island.

Dad was healthy – he had to be because he walked for eight hours straight every day in the railway yards, many miles in a dangerous environment. For possibly the first twenty years of his working life there were steam trains, progressively fading out over the years. By the time Dad was fifty, our friend, a physician, said he had the worst lungs he’d ever seen, full of coal dust. Dad also smoked until he was in his 70s.

For ten years before he died Dad was on oxygen 24/7. Coal dust or cigarettes: which was the major problem? Impossible to say. No doubt the coal dust played a part offset by the lung capacity from walking every day and a longevity gene. 

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to watch someone they love cough hackingly, be too embarrassed to go out in public accompanied by the oxygen cylinder, totally dependent on it for breathing and vulnerable to power outages. Smoking isn’t sexy or sophisticated: it can and does kill. Hence the bans on cigarette advertisements and the warning notices on cigarette packs. I could have included a photo of Dad, wired up for oxygen, but I preferred to show him full of youth and vigour, and also to respect his privacy in ill-health.

The timing of Dad’s death is inextricably linked in my mind with the re-election of the ALP to government in Australia which was happening during his final stint in hospital. Dad died on the same day as Australia’s campaigner for compensation for those with illnesses caused by work-place asbestos. Both men’s deaths were, at a minimum, contributed to by work-place dangers. Ironic I suppose in conjunction with the election into government of Australia’s party for the working person.