My dad has been smoking ever since I was young. But for as long as I can remember, I never actually saw him lighting up a cigarette. He would always either hole up in the toilet or step outside for a puff.
But I could always somehow still smell the smoke. And I detested it.
Through our growing up years, my sister and I have tried various means to make him quit but to no avail. Funnily enough, the deepest impression of my Dad smoking wasn't his actual deed; rather it was our gifts to him. Because come special occasions like Father's Day or his Birthday, we would usually gift him Polo Tees. And there was only one kind of Polo Tee that he would only wear - one with a pocket on the left breast.
Why so? So that he could place his pack of cigarettes there.
When Ash was born in 2005, we thought he might quit for the sake of his grandson. That didn't happen.
When Ayd was born in 2006, we harboured the same hopes. Again, those hopes were dashed.
And when Ash was old enough to walk and talk, we would educate him on the ills of smoking hoping that he would in turn influence his grandfather in a positive way. Who would have thought that Ash would take things a step further - he would yank the pack of cigarettes out from my Dad's pocket whenever he caught a glimpse of it and throw it into the rubbish bin!
But still, it was business as usual.
All that changed in the year of 2008.
My Dad was getting breathless after walking for a ridiculously short distance and he went to see our family doctor. The doctor packed him off to NUH immediately and after a few tests and scans, it was discovered that my Dad's heart arteries were severely blocked. Put it simply, it was a time bomb waiting to ignite.
A triple heart bypass was arranged immediately. And I still remembered what the surgeon told me on that fateful day. He said out of 10 people who are wheeled into the Operating Theatre for such an operation, 3 wouldn't make it out alive. That was really sobering. But there was nothing that my mum, my sis nor me could do. We could only wait.
And as my Dad was wheeled in, it was the first time in my life that I saw fear in his eyes. I could sense he was genuinely afraid that he wouldn't be able to see us again. And as he faded out of sight, I could have sworn that those fears have slowly turned to tears.
The hours passed ever so slowly, and after an agonising wait he came out. The operation was a success.
When he regained consciousness, the first thing I asked him was would he still pick up a cigarette. The answer was a resolute no. Thank goodness!
For me, I have never smoked at all, not even a puff. So perhaps, I may not be the best person to say that I fully understand what smokers go through when they are in the process of quitting. And I agree, it is never easy to say ‘I Quit.’ But it does get easier with support – support from friends, family, ex-smokers and even smokers who are trying to kick the habit.
Enter the I Quit Club at http://www.facebook.com/IQUITClub. It is a social support network where ex-smokers and other like-minded individuals can come together to motivate, encourage and support each other on their journey to quit smoking.
Despite me not having picked up a cigarette, my story tells of the pain and anguish that the loved ones go through when a member of the family falls ill as a result of prolonged smoking. It pained me to see what my dad had to undergo as he recuperated from the effects of the operation. My mum took care of him tirelessly, nary a complaint. And this was on top of her nursing a chronic knee joint ailment.
I have told myself that I would never ever put my 3 kids and lovely wife in that kind of situation. And that is a promise that I will hold true until the last day of my life.
By sharing my story, I do hope it will resonate with some people – especially those who are looking for a motivational reason to quit. And if you have similar stories to tell, do pop by the I Quit Club Facebook page and share away. You will be amazed how much impact they will have.