I saw Pete a few months ago for the first time in 10 or 12 years. It was his retirement party. I went, not because we were close friends, we weren't, but because I wanted to make sure he knew how much he was appreciated.
I was aghast at how old Pete looked. His face had become lined and wrinkled and his eye-lids sagged at the corners. In 10 or 12 years he went from looking 15 or 20 years younger than me to looking 15 or 20 years older than me.
It wasn't easy getting to visit with the two of them as they kept disappearing from the party to go out and have a smoke. After a couple hours I finally got to talk to them. He introduced me to his wife whom I had not met before.
Like Pete she had a slim build that could have passed for a 20-something. Her face, however, was more badly wrinkled than her husband’s. I’m sure she was in her mid fifties, but her face looked like she could have been in her late seventies.
I was alarmed, but not surprised. I had seen it so many times how smoking ages the face so dramatically in one’s forties and fifties. The muscles seem to collapse, color and texture both change making one look quite weathered.
They told me of their plans for retirement - wonderful plans that sounded just delightful. They were a happy couple.
Yesterday, I got an email telling me that she was dead. She died from cancer three months after retirement. Just when they should have been starting the happiest time of their lives, they entered the worst time of their lives.
Damn smoking! Destroyed one life and shattered another! After 35 years of hard work, Pete gets to retire alone, alone with his cigarettes. What a waste!