Tag Archives: halloween

Happy Halloween: May there be more treats than tricks

Many may have mixed feelings about celebrating Halloween in such a difficult year that has been filled with so much real-life horror and death. For those who have lost a loved one, the sight of neighbors decorating their lawns with grave and skeleton decorations may seem insensitive. For those who have children or others in their lives who love celebrating the holiday, it may be important to maintain some semblance of normality.

I definitely feel both of these perspectives when I take the dog on neighborhood walks. Some decorations are quite elaborate and creative, and make me smile. Then I feel an inward cringe when I see the grave markers with RIP stamped on them. I can’t help but think of all of the lives lost this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Personally, I love Halloween and enjoy the spooky decorations more than Christmas ones. But I remember feeling a similar ambivalence about Halloween the year my mother died, though she died months before the holiday. I instead focused on the happy Halloween memories we had as a family.

I also had a critical reaction to seeing Christmas decorations being put up at the hospital where my dad lay dying in the ICU. When you are in a family health crisis mode, your perspective narrows. How dare all of these strangers celebrate the holiday when my dad is dying? Realizing the world doesn’t stop for you is a tough, but necessary lesson to learn.

Happy Halloween to those who do celebrate, and hope you receive all treats and no tricks. And if you are grieving and struggling with seeing Halloween decorations, I understand. I hope you can have a quiet night honoring your loved one’s memory.

A free treat for all: You can get both of my books, The Reluctant Caregiver and CBD for Caregivers, for free through this Halloween giveaway.

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A mix of tricks and treats on Halloween

It seems strange not picking up the phone today and wishing my mother a happy Halloween.

Even though we never spent the holiday together after I was grown, my mom always went out of her way to make Halloween special for me as a kid. That included a nifty handmade “Planet of the Apes” costume when I was very small. As I got a little older, my parents faithfully took me to a nearby park for a community event which was like a carnival, complete with games and you guessed it, candy!

halloween cards

Every time I passed a Halloween card display this month, I felt a pang in my heart. Never again would I pick out a Halloween card for my mom. And never would I receive another one from her.

But, I also have kept the cards she sent to me over the years. So I pulled a few of those out, and read the messages from happier times. This lifted my spirits.

I have no shortage of written memories from my mom. Much of the correspondence may be of the mundane variety, but there is her writing, her words, her expressions of love.

So perhaps there are more treats than tricks this Halloween after all.

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Time marches on, with or without us

Today it has been five months since my mother died. With the crisp mornings of fall now greeting me each day, it’s the second season I’m experiencing without Mom. It will be the first year without a Halloween card from Mom, a holiday we both enjoyed and that my mom always tried to make fun for me as a child.

I was looking through photos and came across one from just about a year ago. It was taken in Nov. 2014, when Mom was already beginning her final battle. The pain was at least somewhat bearable then, but she’d already been to the ER.

It’s one of the last pictures I have of the two of us together. She’s still smiling, still has her makeup on, was still Mom.

mom-joy-nov2014

Even though she wasn’t well then, little did we know that six months later, she would be dead.

I guess I can take some solace in the fact that she didn’t suffer that long, though it felt like to me she did. Some people can go on for years suffering much worse than my mom did.

I’m glad I made the tradition of taking selfies with Mom at the end of each trip home, even if they are not of the best quality.

We have to capture the fleeting happy moments together as best we can.

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Awkward Halloween drive to school

I remember one year while I was in junior high, I decided to dress up as a punk rocker for Halloween. It was a very common costume for that era. It didn’t require much. Some torn clothes, a sprinkling of tacky jewelry and a can of spray paint designed for use on the hair, and you were ready to go. I was always shy about dressing up as anything too weird for Halloween. This was a good compromise.

I’m sure to Dad, I might as well have been dressed up as a space alien. I’m sure he had no understanding of the punk rock movement, as he was more of a Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby kind of guy. I remember him looking at me quite oddly as he got in the car to drive me to school. Mom thought it was fun and colorful. Dad just thought it was nuts!

I was relieved to be able to walk back home from school that Dad, so I could dodge Dad’s critical eye. After that year, I had pretty much grown out of dressing up for Halloween. I don’t remember ever putting on another Halloween costume.

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Dad’s love of ghost stories

Halloween is in the air. Decorations are everywhere, even in the bank where my Dad once had his accounts.

Dad wasn’t big on the Hallmark version of Halloween. He was never a big fan of candy and he was easily bored with the trick-or-treating and other kid-friendly events that my parents hauled me around to as a kid.

Dad did enjoy a good old-fashioned ghost story. Despite his penchant for vivid nightmares and his own encounter with a violent ghost in a hotel, he enjoyed the spooky adventures told by others. He loved to retell famous ghost stories as well, where he could show off his acting skills that he was never able to develop into a professional career.

To this day, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love scary stories and movies, and yes, I have a sweet tooth!

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Dad takes on the neighborhood bully

For my third Halloween, I dressed up as a clown. It was one of those cheap dimestore getups that reek of vinyl that somehow attracts a child and repulses the nostrils of anyone over the age of 10. There was a crinkly plastic smock that covered my petite frame, painted crudely with giant buttons and garish colors and all of the other perversely cheesy attributes of a clown. The mask was fragile, with the rubber band breaking the very first time my mom slipped it over my freckled face. She mended it with a bit of motherly magic before we headed to the kids’ Halloween party at the neighborhood recreation center at the park.

Photo: Dirtybirdiesvintage, http://etsy.me/ybOBA2

I don’t remember much about that night, to be honest. I don’t remember the decorations, or the other kids’ costumes, or even the candy, which I assume there was copious amounts of everywhere.

What I do remember is the little boy. Jose or Juan, his name I can’t recall for sure. I don’t remember his face, or if he was even wearing a costume. What I do remember are his dirty little boy hands. They were small and brown and the fingernails were crusted with grime. They pushed my tiny body down to the ground.

The next thing I remember is the shock of being on the ground and the pain and the immediate waterworks that only a kid can turn on. The injuries didn’t amount to much, just a couple of skinned, bloody elbows where the vinyl costume didn’t offer much protection. My mother scolded the little ruffian as he fled, while she gingerly picked the gravel out of the modest wounds and dried my eyes. The incident put me in a fussy mood that no amount of Halloween candy could soothe, so my mom brought me home soon after and put me to bed.

And that might have been that. Except my father, coming home from the swing shift that night, sweaty and tired, with muscles aching from lifting heavy boxes all day, asked how our day had gone.

“Well, tonight was the Halloween party,” my mom ventured.

“Oh yeah, how was it,“ my Dad asked absent-mindedly, shoveling a forkful of a Salisbury steak Hungry Man dinner into his mouth as he flipped through the newspaper.

My mom hesitated. They had only been married for six years, but she thought she knew my Dad pretty well by now. He generally took a back seat to household affairs, but she had seen flashes of that Irish temper. “Well, there was this little boy at the party that pushed Joy down,” she said quietly.

Dad’s emerald eyes caught fire. “Pushed her down? Why?” His chin was already tensing up.

Mom sighed. “I don’t know, he just did. He was just a little bully, I guess.”

“Did he hurt Joy-Kim,” Dad asked cautiously, invoking my first and middle name, just like everyone on his side of the family did.

“She’s fine. A couple of skinned elbows. She’ll have forgotten it by tomorrow,” Mom said to placate him.

But Dad did not forget. As he sipped his nightly beer, the angrier he became. No little twerp was going to injure his daughter without punishment.

The next day, he left early for work. Mom didn’t think much about it, busy with household chores and the taxing duties of taking care of a three-year-old kid. Dad went down to the recreation center where the Halloween party had taken place. With his Irish charm, he coaxed the name of the little bully out of the pre-K teacher. With a little more coaxing, he got his address. The teacher assured my dad that the little boy would not be welcome back into the program, but my dad had his own version of justice in his mind.

That night, Dad came home from work at his usual time. I had been put to bed a few hours before. He peeked in at my sweet, slumbering form before setting down at the dinner table.

My mom had cooked up one of my dad’s favorite dishes: halibut. He savored a couple of pieces, his muscles unknotting slowly but surely. Then he said, as casually as he could, “I took care of it.”

“Took care of what,” my mom inquired absent-mindedly, while washing up some dishes.

“The boy. The boy who hurt Joy-Kim.”

A dark cloud formed in my mom’s mind. “What did you do,” she asked suspiciously.

“I went to the park and asked for the boy’s name and address. Then I paid his parents a surprise visit. And boy, were they ever surprised to see me on their doorstep,” Dad chuckled darkly. “I told his mother what happened, while the little whipper-snapper hid behind his mother’s skirts,” my dad spit out with disdain.

With further venom, he added, “I asked to speak to his father, but the mother said he doesn’t speak English.”

“Anyways,” my dad said cockily, “I don’t think that little boy will bother Joy-Kim anymore.” And with that, he drained his Guinness in a healthy swallow and released a satisfying, well-earned belch.

And dad was right, I never had to deal with that pint-sized bully again. And I’ll never forget what dad did for me.

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