Life After Smoking
Peter Gzowski
Elements of the Essay
"Life After Smoking" appeared in 50+ Magazine in June 2001, and also in A Peter Gzowski Reader. (2001), just before the death of
Peter Gzowski from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema), caused by years of smoking. Although the essay topic is
serious, it takes a positive approach. With lighthearted humour, this self-reflective essay takes a look at life after
smoking. What do you think is the purpose of this essay?
About the Writer
Broadcaster and writer Peter Gzowski was born on July 13, 1934. His love for the written word began when he was editor of The
at the University of Toronto. In 1962, he became the managing editor of Maclean's before moving on to Star Weekly (owned
by The Toronto Star). Nine years later, he was the host of the CBC Radio show This Country in the Morning (1971-1974), followed
by 90 Minutes Live (1976-1978). However, it wasn't until he hosted CBC's Morningside (1982-1997) that Gzowski became the most
highly recognized voice in the country and gained a wide following. During his lifetime, he published 11 books, including The
(1980), The Game of Our Lives (1981), and A Peter Gzowski Reader (2001). He also earned numerous honours and
awards, notably the Governor General's Award for the Performing Arts (1995). Gzowski died on January 24, 2002.
NEARLY ALL THE LESSONS OF your early life, from tying your shoes to parallel parking to knowing which wine to order with dinner (not just before you take your parking class, I hope) are about things you're figuring out how to do as you grow up. Not only how to do but that you can do them, sometimes well, occasionally with some profit, and often just because you love doing them. From knowing your skills and dreaming of where they can take you, you begin to figure out not so much who you are, as they used to say in the 60s, but who and what you'd like to be when, if ever, you grow up. But there's another part of the process too; learning-and accepting what you can't do, or sometimes what you used to do but can't do any longer. Some of that's just aging, accelerated, in my own case, by fifty years of smoking cigarettes-a tyranny I've been free of for well over a year now (thank God, the patch, Zyban and some wonderful professional help) bur for which I am still paying a heavy price. But some of it's been going on for a long time too, and I realize now, hell-bent for seventy, and still with some growing up left to do, I'm beginning to understand that the limitations I'm facing up to now really aren't that different from those I've had to deal with all my life. I was only about twelve, for instance, when it became clear that Elizabeth Taylor wasn't going to marry me, and not much older when I saw from the expression on the choirmaster's face as he listened to me run through some scales that I should probably give up my dream of succeeding Bing Crosby. I held on a bit longer to the idea that I'd play in the National Hockey League some day. I had, after all, scored dozens of goals in the Stanley Cup finals, many of them in overtime-you could hear Foster Hewitt yelling my name as I broke down the wing of the outdoor rink in Dickson Park. "The Kid from Galt has done it again," Foster would shout over the roar of the crowd, even though he and I-or his voice and I-were all by ourselves in the winter morning. Actually, I never stopped thinking there'd be a place for me in the NHL. Playing big-time hockey is the one ambition that draws all Canadian males together, and though I couldn't prove it I'd be willing to bet that if Chris Hadfield had been a better skater he might never have walked in space or if James Orbinski of Montreal had had a harder slap shot he might never have become the president of Medicins Sans Frontieres, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. About thirty years after everyone else had given up on my hockey career, I spent a season hanging out with the Edmonton Oilers. Ostensibly I was writing a book about them, but in my heart I was just looking for a chance to show my stuff It came one day at practice. The team had been playing well, and Glen Sather, their coach and general manager, set up a game of old-fashioned shinny. I borrowed some gear, joined in, and managed for a shift or two to become a winger on Wayne Gretzky's line. At one point I wobbled to a place in front of the opposition goal. Wayne set up behind the net-in his office, as we reporters liked to say. He dug out the puck, feinted once, and flipped it right onto my stick. I took dead aim at the empty corner, cocked my wrist and . Oh, well, maybe I wasn't cur our for the NHL after all-though I almost hit the net. Hockey, crooning, or marrying movie stars aside-not to mention breaking a quarter horse, flying my own jet or swimming the Strait of Juan de Fuca and other dreams that have faded as I've aged-I've had a pretty full life. On radio or television or with a pencil in my hand, I've got to meet the Queen, eight prime ministers (nine if you count Margaret Thatcher, who had a cold and couldn't hear my questions but kept on answering what she'd have liked me to ask anyway), four governors general, two chief justices, two Nobel Prize winners, the world yodelling, whistling and bagpipe champions (all Canadians) and every winner and most of the runners-up of the Giller Prize for Literature. I've danced with Karen Kain (well, I made a lifting motion and Karen sprang into the air, light as dandelion fluff), sang with Leonard Cohen (well, Leonard sang and I chanted along to "Tower of Song"), played chess with Boris Spassky (I moved, he moved, I asked if he wanted to resign, he grinned, said sure and we shook hands), golf with George Knudsen, cribbage with Gordon Sinclair and-well, sort of, as we've seen-hockey with Wayne Gretzky. And I'm a long way from finished. I need oxygen most of the time now, and without my walker-a kind of baby carriage without the baby-I'm pretty well confined to barracks. On radio, which I still love, I sometimes sound a little breathier than I'd like to, and if I'm asked to make a speech, I need to know there aren't too many stairs to the platform. But, I've learned, once you accept your limitations you can deal with them. Travel is hard for me now, but if I plan every move as carefully as I can, ask for rooms near elevators and make sure the airlines know I need oxygen, I can get to most of the places I want to go. Even around the city where I live, I've learned to call restaurants in advance to make sure washrooms are on the main floor. I've taken to-and hugely enjoy-having friends in for lunch rather than going out. I'm way ahead on my reading, and writing more than I have for years. I've bought a treadmill to keep myself as active as I can. I'd like to learn some Inuktitut-there are lessons, believe it or not, on the Internet-and I'm wondering if I could try a little watercolour sketching. Elizabeth Taylor? I'd probably still be standing in line.

Source: ftp://ftp1.sd34.bc.ca/Grade12Courses/Eng12/CheatedEssay/LifeAfterSmoking.pdf


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