The Great American Smokeout 2023

The State of Lung Cancer

The Great American Smokeout 2023 is here. I celebrate it annually because I know people, including my dear grandmother Agatha Green, whose life was certainly shortened – she died at the age of 62 – because of those coffin nails.

“About 34 million American adults still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.

“While the rates of cigarette smoking have declined over the past several decades, from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2019, the gains have been inconsistent. Some groups smoke more heavily or at higher rates and suffer disproportionately from smoking-related cancer and other diseases. These populations tend to be those who experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives, including those at lower socioeconomic levels, those without college degrees, American Indians/Alaska natives, African American/Black communities, LGBTQ communities, those in the military, those with behavioral health conditions, and others. “

The State of Lung Cancer report from the American Lung Association has some mixed news. While the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among both women and men, over the past five years, the survival rate has increased by 22% nationally to 26.6%. 

However
  • Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 80 to 90% of cases. While we have seen historic decreases in the national smoking rate, not all Americans or regions of the country have benefited equally. 
  • Secondhand smoke has also been shown to cause lung cancer. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The “State of Lung Cancer” report highlights that making homes, workplaces, and public spaces smoke-free air zones, with no smoking allowed, can reduce the risk of exposure. This report’s sister, “State of Tobacco Control,” grades states for efforts to protect public spaces from secondhand smoke. 

I found this tidbit from the September 20, 2023, Los Angeles Times to be curious. “In 1998, California adopted a pricey cigarette ‘sin tax’ to discourage smoking. The money was used to create a network of agencies to help young families by funding preschools, pediatric health care, literacy projects, and, among the most successful services, maternal home care visits. But as the number of smokers dwindles, funding for the agencies is plummeting, putting them at risk.” Clearly, the value of people not smoking outweighs the funding loss of these programs.

DNA Day is April 25

Your DNA Guide

According to Your DNA Guide and other sources, today is DNA Day. Their resident storyteller developed a framework for writing about 300 words. I’ll have a go at it with a previously shared tale.

The beginning of your story: What was your DNA question, or what were things like before your DNA discovery?

My sisters and I have known since we were children that the man we knew as our paternal grandfather, McKinley Green, was not the biological father of our dad, Leslie H. Green (1926-2000). I don’t think my father knew we knew.

We learned this info from our mom, Trudy, and HER mother, Gertrude Williams. Grandma Williams referred to vague details about a minister in Pennsylvania.

The middle of your story: What happened, or what did you learn? What did you think or feel about it? Then what happened?  

In 2018, I took my first genealogy tests. When I looked at my DNA matches, I discovered ten people were second cousins. The Yates, Walker, and Williams folks I recognized.

But who were the other four people? Three of them had trees, and two common people were on each, Carl Lorenzo Cone (b. 1915) and Raymond Cornelius Cone (b. circa 1888). But who was Raymond, and how did he meet my future grandmother, Agatha Walker (1902-1964)?

I wrote about this on my blog. On December 26, 2019, my dear friend Melanie discovered an article from January 1927 in a newspaper in my hometown of Binghamton, NY. The Reverend Raymond Cone was acquitted of impregnating Agatha and being the father of Les!

And then…

The end of your story: Where do things stand now? Why does this story matter to you?

By 1918, Raymond Cone’s first wife and father had both died, and he had a certificate to be a preacher. I followed his trek that brought him to Binghamton in the fall of 1925, departing two years later.

I have learned more about him than people I’ve known in person. He died of an apparent heart attack at his church in New York City in December 1947 before he turned 60. My Grandma  Green also died of a heart attack at 62. That’s sobering medical news for me.

#mydnastory

How terribly strange to be 70

Psalm 90:10

RogerGreenBirthdayCartoon490How terribly strange to be 70. I’ve used that title twice before in this blog, and you can probably guess when in 2011: on October 13 and November 5.

Now, I’M three score and ten, which is old. Or at least oldish.

Psalm 90:10 in the King James Version reads, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

In case you don’t recognize the artist, the work was created by my friend  Fred Hembeck in 2007. Fred gave me the original black and white piece, on which he indicated, “54 ROCKS!”  He’s a full five weeks older than I am.  I believe I’ll use this illustration every five years, just because.

The home church

Sister Leslie took the photo on her phone. It was when we visited Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church at the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets in Binghamton, NY, on October 9, 2022.

The room used to be the Sunday School room when I was a kid. My paternal grandmother, Agatha Helen (Walker) Green (1902-1964), taught me. Now, the room is used as a memorial to the Departed Loved Ones of the church.

On the wall, along with photos of Mrs. Armstrong (left of center), and Mr. Woodward, is my Grandma Green, more or less hovering over my head. I don’t THINK that was the photographer’s intent, but it’s a rather cool effect.

Not incidentally, the church – specifically, my father’s cousin Ruth – requested a picture of my parents for the wall. My sisters and I ought to work on that.

Anyway, it’s my birthday, divisible by five (and seven and two), no less, so that’s enough for today.

Personal History: Sunday Stealing

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

daughter, wife, niece, sister, sister, niece (Feb 2011)

This week’s Sunday Stealing is called Personal History, an interesting topic.

1. What would you like people to know about your mother?

I was thinking about this a lot this week. My father was the more outgoing and visible member of the couple. But I doubt they would have been been able to pay the bills if it wasn’t for my mom.

She was a bookkeeper at McLean’s Department Store in Binghamton, NY, then worked at Columbia Gas, not even a block away. When she moved to Charlotte, NC, she was a teller at First Union Bank, which eventually was swallowed by Wells Fargo. I probably got my love of numbers from her. When I told her we were learning base 2, which we were told was the basis of computers, she was clearly excited.

2. What would you like people to know about your father?

I’ll be writing about him on August 10, the anniversary of his death. My eclectic taste in music started with him.

3.  What was your childhood bedroom like?

HA! After my second sister was born, my father put up two walls in the dining room, built a wooden shelf into the two walls, then put a mattress on top of that. My storage was under the “bed,” though my books were around the corner on a bookcase. My dad painted the solar system on the ceiling.

Ballgame

4. What was your favorite activity as a child?

Alone: playing with my baseball cards. With others: playing softball/baseball/kickball. And singing.

5. What was high school like for you?

When we first got there, there was a certain hostility from some because my friends were identified as against the Vietnam war. But by the time I graduated, most of the school was against the war. I was on the stage crew and president of the Red Cross club. I was also president of the student government, which is how I sort of got to introduce Rod Serling.

6. Write about your cousins.

I have no first cousins. My parents were only children. Well, essentially. My mom had a younger sister who died as an infant. So my cousins were my mother’s cousin’s kids who lived in NYC and were a decade or more younger than I. Still, aside from my sisters and their daughters, they’re the closest relatives outside my nuclear household.

7.  What was your favorite food as a child?

Spinach. Totally indoctrinated by Popeye.

8. What was your most memorable birthday?

My 16th was held at the American Civic Association, so it was a real party. Lois, who I’ve known since kindergarten, gave me Judy Collins’ album Who Knows Where The Time Goes. She was afraid it might be too country for me; it was not.

9. What world events were significant to you as a child?

The integration of the high school in Little Rock, AR. Sputnik. The Cuban Missile Crisis – I didn’t really understand it, but I grokked adults all being nervous. The assassinations of Medgar Evers and John F. Kennedy. The massive 1965 blackout was the only time I ever heard my father worry about a possible Soviet plot.

To Starr Avenue

10. What did a typical day look like as a child?

During the school year, walk to school about half a mile, usually trying to vary my route. At lunch, walk home to my grandma Williams’ house for lunch, watch JEOPARDY with her sister, my wonderful Aunt Deana, back to school, then walk home with, in geographic order, Bill, Lois, Karen, Carol, and Ray. I’d walk home.

11. Write about your grandparents. 

Gertrude Williams (1897-1982) operated out of making us afraid of the boogie man. I don’t remember her husband, Clarence Williams (d. 1958), though I may have gone to his funeral. 

Agatha Green (1902-1964) was my Sunday school teacher and taught me how to play canasta. She was the first person I knew well to die, and I was devastated. McKinley Green (1896? -1980) was a custodian at WNBF-TV-AM-FM and would bring home stuff the station no longer wanted, such s the soundtrack to The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968).

12. Did you move as a child?

I moved from the second floor of 5 Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY, to the first floor when my mother was pregnant with her second child. Until college, that was it.

13. Who taught you to drive?

Several people tried, including the Okie, Uthaclena, my father, and a professional.

14. Which job has been your favorite?

FantaCo, the comic book store/mail order/publisher/convention, where I worked from May 1980 to November 1988.

15. What was the best part of your 30s?

Working at FantaCo, singing in the Trinity UMC choir

Generations of mothers

Oneonta is a lot closer than Charlotte

I’ve long been aware of how different my mother, my daughter, and I were raised. My mother grew up with her mother, Gertrude Williams, but also her grandmother Lillian (and her second husband, Maurice Holland), and her mother’s siblings Adina and Edward Yates at 13 Maple Street in Binghamton, NY. She had generations of mothers.

My sisters and I grew up with my parents, Les and Trudy Green, at 5 Gaines Street. But my parental grandparents, Agatha and McKinley resided just upstairs. My maternal grandmother, Gertrude, and her sister Adina lived just six short blocks away from us. In fact, my sisters and I went to 13 Maple Street at lunchtime during the school year and spent much of the summer there as well. It was a fair approximation of having generations of mothers.

The daughter of my wife and me saw her maternal grandparents maybe every six weeks or so. But they were over an hour away. Her maternal aunts and uncles weren’t close by either, though she at least has had a decent chance to know them and their kids, my daughter’s first cousins.

But my birth family was more geographically scattered. My parents moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. Since my father died in 2000, my father and my father never got to meet each other. My mother and my sisters and niece Alex (daughter of Marcia) came up from Charlotte and San Diego a few times, and I went down to Charlotte with my daughter in 2009, when she was five. She doesn’t really remember my mom, who died in 2011.

So no local familial babysitters on either side except when we dropped her off in Oneonta for a few days.

Jade

The first time my daughter saw her cousin Rebecca (daughter of Leslie) was on television. Rebecca and Rico were on some show called Wipeout. My niece actually came in second. The first time my daughter saw her oldest cousin in person was at my mother’s funeral.

The next time was in 2013 when my cousin  Anne invited Rebecca, Rico, and my family to Thanksgiving dinner. (That was also the last time I saw my mother’s first cousins Robert and Donald Yates before they died.) My family did see Rebecca perform in NYC in 2017, but we spent five minutes with RJ afterward. At least we all had dinner together in Syracuse in 2019; thanks to Shela E. for both of these opportunities.

This explained why my daughter was so annoyed with me, after the fact, that I didn’t take her to the Dave Koz Christmas show on Long Island featuring Rebecca. And it’s why she and I are going to see Leslie singing in New York City in June. Leslie’s coming to my daughter’s high school graduation, and maybe Alex can too.

My daughter recognizes that I want her – maybe she also wants for herself – to better know my (tiny) side of the family.

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