Just to Dance with Daddy Again
Copyright 2006 by Geary Smith
“What is that awful smell? Can’t you smell it? It smells like something dead. It is coming from your house.”
I knew exactly what the smell was and where it was coming from, for it was the aroma of my Daddy’s chitterlings slowly cooking on the kitchen stove. Daddy’s chitterlings would stink and smell up the entire house. And, if I had the kitchen window or screen door open, which I did all of the time during the hot summer Texas days, the aroma of his chitterlings would spread all the way outside, and into the front yard.
“You better come and get some of this good eating,” said Daddy.
“You better come and get a taste, and let me know what you think about my famous chitterlings.”
Then, Daddy would light a cigarette and smoke while stirring his chitterlings.
I would always try just a little bit of Daddy’s chitterlings, but to be honest with you, they weren’t my favorite dish. However, I did love Daddy’s red beans and ham hocks, with hot buttered corn bread. I would spend hours and hours with my Daddy while he was in the kitchen cooking.
After we all ate, Daddy would lie on the couch, smoke a cigarette and then take a nap.
“Why do you smoke, Daddy?” I asked him one evening after dinner. “Why do you smoke?”
“I really don’t know,” replied my Daddy. “I have been smoking for about 40 years, and it is just a bad habit.”
Daddy would teach me how to make brown gravy, and homemade bread pudding, out of just regular white bread that I used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Did you know that my Daddy used to work as a real chef in very fancy restaurant in New York City? And, during the summers, when he was a young man in his twenties, he worked as a Pullman Porter on the trains traveling from Atlanta to New York. During the rest of the year, Daddy attended Morehouse College studying religion and education.
However, Daddy was not a chef anymore, but an eight grade history teacher at Booker T. Washington Middle School. But, he still loved to cook. And, the advantage of being a school teacher, was that Daddy would meet me at the house around the same time, and we would begin to cook the family dinners. Momma worked as a secretary at a big office building downtown, and she would arrive home later in the afternoon.
She really enjoyed not having to cook when she got home. All Momma had to do when she got home was to take off her shoes and relax.
“Baby, baby, boy,” my Daddy would sing while stirring his red beans. “Baby, baby, boy.”
My Daddy was not only a chef and Pullman porter at one time, but also he was also a professional singer and dancer. He would light up a cigarette and sing and dance all around the kitchen. Daddy would do a quick shuffle, while still holding a cigarette in his left hand, and then do a little tap dance. To me, he looked very silly and funny while dancing, and would always make me laugh. Although, Daddy did not know the new dances that I could do, he could still really move. However, over time, Daddy continued to smoke and could not dance like in the past. Daddy would become short winded and needed to take a break from all of the dancing.
“Oh, no!” shouted Daddy one day. “I’m out of eggs.”
Minutes later, after turning down the heat on the red beans and ham hocks, Daddy left the house to go to the store for eggs.
I would normally ride with Daddy to the store, however as I was getting ready to go out and tying my shoes Daddy said, “Watch my beans for me. “Don’t let them burn.”
For the very first time, I was totally in charge of the red beans and the family dinner. I was a little nervous, so I checked on the red beans about every minute, making sure that they were not burning.
“Hurry back home, Daddy,” I would think to myself. “What if something goes wrong, and I ruin the entire meal?”
Well, everything was all right, as I heard Daddy pulling his car back into the driveway.
“How are the red beans?” asked Daddy as he entered the house with a dozen eggs. “Now, let make some of my fluffy corn bread. Come over here and help me stir the batter.”
I would eat a very big meal that evening until my stomach was completely full. Then I would top it all off with Daddy’s homemade bread pudding.
“Daddy, you make the best bread pudding in the entire world.”
That was almost twenty years ago, and I still remember those days as if it were just yesterday. I would spend almost every afternoon, in the kitchen with my Daddy. On September 17, 1991, my Daddy died of lung cancer. The doctor told me that it was due to all of the years of smoking cigarettes. As I grew older, and went off to Morehouse College, I would often think about my childhood-all of the happy memories of cooking and dancing with my Daddy in the kitchen.
“Maybe if Daddy had not smoked he would still be here with me today?”
So that is why I decided not to smoke cigarettes, so that I can spend afternoons with my own daughters, Jessica and Somer, in the kitchen cooking for years and years. However, I still think about all of the fun memories of me and Daddy cooking together- and often I wish just to dance with Daddy again.
Facts About Smoking
Smoking is an addiction. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, a drug that is addictive and can make it very hard, but not impossible, to quit.
More than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are from smoking-related illnesses. Smoking greatly increases your risks for lung cancer and many other cancers.
Smoking harms not just the smoker, but also family members, coworkers and others who breathe the smoker's cigarette smoke, called secondhand smoke.
Among infants to 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is associated with as many as 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year.
Secondhand smoke from a parent's cigarette increases a child's chances for middle ear problems, causes coughing and wheezing, and worsens asthma conditions.
If both parents smoke, a teenager is more than twice as likely to smoke than a young person whose parents are both non-smokers. In households where only one parent smokes, young people are also more likely to start smoking.
Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to deliver babies whose weights are too low for the babies' good health. If all women quit smoking during pregnancy, about 4,000 new babies would not die each year.
Quitting smoking makes a difference right away - you can taste and smell food better. Your breath smells better. Your cough goes away. This happens for men and women of all ages, even those who are older. It happens for healthy people as well as those who already have a disease or condition caused by smoking.
Quitting smoking cuts the risk of lung cancer, many other cancers, heart disease, stroke, other lung diseases, and other respiratory illnesses.
Ex-smokers have better health than current smokers. Ex-smokers have fewer days of illness, fewer health complaints, and less bronchitis and pneumonia than current smokers.
Quitting smoking saves money. A pack-a-day smoker,
who pays $2 per pack can, expect to save more than $700 per year. It
appears that the price of cigarettes will continue to rise in coming
years, as will the financial rewards of quitting.
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