My smoking mom, in her 90s, gives me headaches

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male company employee in my 50s. I have a problem with my mother in her 90s, who is a smoker.

I don’t like tobacco. I get a severe headache not only by inhaling its smoke, but also from smelling even a little bit of nicotine. The headache usually lasts for a whole day and sometimes even a week in the worst case.

Recently, when I visited my mother’s house, I was careless enough to inhale her tobacco smoke. I felt very bad because of it all through my stay there. I explained to her that I have a health problem caused by tobacco smoke and asked her to stop smoking at least while she was talking with me. But it seems difficult for her to do so.

She raised four sons alone and even sent me to university. So I’m very grateful to her. I respect her, too. Despite her old age, she isn’t senile and has no physical problems. She always looks forward to my visits. Each time, she talks and talks happily to me for at least an hour or two. Seeing her that way, I think I should endure her tobacco smoking and patiently listen to her. But I have no way of dealing with my headache.

Honestly, I don’t want her to smoke. Am I a cold person?

D, Fukuoka Prefecture

Dear Mr. D:

Even if you tell your mother that you don’t like tobacco, she won’t listen. So, the only solution is that you make thoroughgoing preparations to cope with the situation.

Why don’t you place a high-performance air purifier near her, install a strong ventilation fan at her house, wear a thick mask, or talk with her outdoors? I think you can find some other things you can do, too.

But I can’t understand your problem well. You are concerned about your own health, not her health. You wonder whether you are a cold son if you don’t like your mother’s smoking. I wonder how I should answer you.

I understand you don’t want to take away your mother’s favorite thing from her. If you want to know how to cope, I should just repeat what I said in the beginning of my answer.

I have one more thing to tell you. Is there anybody at her house who looks after her? I’m concerned about a fire. As your mother is very old, you should be careful about this.

You are responsible for this matter as her son. It’s much more serious than the harm of tobacco smoke.

Tatsuro Dekune, writer

(from April 21, 2015, issue)Speech

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