the stuff of snuff

My father’s father (Dido) chewed snuff. Although the habit is somewhat repugnant to me now, it was seen as a fascinating peculiarity when I was a little girl. I would observe him with a lump protruding from his lower lip, looking for some place to discard the spittle that squished and swished within his mouth. The most captivating component of the recurring episode was where the clear stream would land, and if he could succeed at it without dribbling on his chin.

Upon his admission into a local long term care facility, a great discussion arose among his children, some of which said that such an unhealthy and disgusting habit should be purged from his lifestyle immediately. Others, however, considered the implications of imposing such a restriction. Chewing tobacco was a practice he had enjoyed for the last 7 decades of his 80+ years. The adjustment of moving from his private home into a public lodge would be difficult enough, without compounding it with the unnecessary withdrawal of a habit that had become part of his personality. After much discussion, the children decided to continue supplying him with the carbon cans, rationed to a reasonable amount.

The staff at the home supported his wish to continue chewing snuff, until they discovered that he was using the plants in the atrium as his spittoon. The cans were promptly removed from his room, and he was thus forced into involuntary withdrawal from his habit. He died some time later of complications unrelated to his addiction.

As a young woman observing this train of events, I learned a valuable lesson.

When life gets tough, it’s always an option to spit at the dieffenbachia.


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