Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A craving for good health empowers

When Doug Bicknell stepped outside to speak with co-workers at his prior job, he entered a den of temptation.

Seeking to end his 28 years of smoking, Bicknell knew the area where colleagues gathered to have a cigarette would be fraught with temptation. But as the manager of a shower door company, he had to communicate with them. So he entered the cauldron of smoke and nicotine, and it beckoned to him.

On a few occasions, he even held a cigarette in his hand, ready to light up.

But another fire burned brighter, a fire fueled by the vision of a disappointed daughter and two words.

Smile, dad.

The phrase served as code between Bicknell, 51, and his daughter Lydia. Each and every day, she inquired: "Smile, dad?" Yes meant he had gone another day without succumbing to the old habit.

And in those moments when the urge grew strong, he knew he didn't want to affirm Lydia's two-word accountability test with a negative response. So he put the cigarette down to keep his family's hopes high.

After all, he already had failed once and drew the wrath of older daughter, Abigail. She couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 years old, but when she caught him smoking, she looked with disapproving eyes and uttered, "I am so telling Mommy."

"I remember the reaction on her face," Bicknell said of Abigail. "So the combination of that and Lydia's face saying, 'Smile, dad,' I just couldn't light it.

"I had tried to quit before, so I knew if I had one, a few more days later I would have another one and I would be back smoking again."

With parents who died at a young age from cancer and a brother who died from lung cancer in his mid 50s, Bicknell understood the risks. But he needed greater motivation.

So Lydia first challenged her father, asking, "Did you smoke today?" That inquiry grew stale, so as Lydia charted each day of success with a smiley face on the calendar, she changed her words to something more encouraging.

Smile, dad.

And she never stopped. At the age of 9, through sleepovers and camping trips and text messages to friends, and dreams of some day replacing Scott Pelley as the anchor of the CBS Evening News, she never missed a day.

Some 1,800 days later, she's still at it. Bicknell doesn't know if he could have succeeded without her help.

"I know I've helped him, but the way he describes it — I don't know," Lydia says. "I just wanted to help him. I don't need any recognition for it. I don't feel like I was being a good daughter. I feel like any daughter would want to help their dad become healthier."

But Bicknell and his wife, Allison, can't help but share the story with friends and family. He gets a little teary-eyed when he talks about it, because "smile, dad" sustained him through tough times.

His company closed its Tampa operation, leaving him out of work. He skipped around to a couple of other jobs, wondering if a cigarette might alleviate the stress, but he stayed true.

Now, as he approaches the fifth anniversary of quitting later this month, Bicknell has a new, promising job at My Shower Door on N Dale Mabry Highway, not far from his Northdale home.

Lydia, now 14, is preparing to join 16-year-old Abigail as an International Baccalaureate student at Hillsborough High. And the whole family looks forward to healthier, happier times.

Smile, dad. Smile big.

That's all I'm saying.

A craving for good health empowers 07/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 1:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Dry, muggy conditions for Tampa Bay before severe storms, possible tornadoes arrive ahead of cold front


    Tampa Bay residents can expected a muggy, dry day Tuesday ahead of a cold front and a string of severe storms slated to arrive late Wednesday.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Islamic State group claims responsibility for Manchester blast after Ariana Grande concert

    Public Safety

    MANCHESTER, England — The Islamic State group says one of its members planted bombs in the middle of crowds in Manchester, England, where 22 people died in an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in the city.

    Emergency services work at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig in Manchester, England Monday, May 22, 2017. Several people have died following reports of an explosion Monday night at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England, police said. A representative said the singer was not injured.  [Peter Byrne | PA via AP]
  3. Five recipe ideas for cooking with sparkling wine


    With high school and college graduation season upon us, you might find yourself stocking up on sparkling wine (if you don't normally). Though the obvious choice is to drink it all, you may find yourself with leftovers after all the parties are over. These five recipe ideas will use up that grad-friendly bubbly so …

    Sparkling Wine Risotto takes risotto up a notch.
  4. Florida education news: Budgets, principals, vouchers and more


    VETO TIME? Gov. Rick Scott weighs advice on whether to reject the Legislature's education budget. • Pasco County school officials