After my father’s transfusion went haywire, the nurse in the emergency room asked many questions, among them this one:
“Have you ever been a smoker?”
The nurse stood before him, her pen poised to record his response.
I gave him a sidelong glance and thought about the cigars he’d light up in our backyard after dinner, the puff puff sound he’d make to get it lit; I could picture the two of us walking down Germantown Avenue and hear the trolleys clattering by, could still feel the cold metal of the Muhlenberg statue that I’d climb on summer nights, the fug of my father’s cigar trailing and sometimes enveloping us, always a coda to our outings.
“Nope, never smoked,” came my father’s ready answer.
The nurse finished her questions and left the room.
Amused, I turned to my father. “So you don’t tell the doctors about your cigars?”
He smiled, his mouth partially open in a laugh. He shook his head.
“I never inhaled,” he shrugged.
I cocked my head sideways to get him to look at me. “You sound like Bill Clinton,” I said.
He grinned back like a kid. He liked that comparison, oh he liked that very much.