Every few weeks there’s an incident forcing me to think back about things I’ve been through. Sometimes they’re positive. Sometimes they aren’t. Because of our human tendencies and the lives we live we cannot always walk around with a smile plastered our faces. We’d all be liars if we said there wasn’t anything hidden beneath the surface. This, however, brings me back to the thoughts I’ve been having.
Halloween is usually a holiday where children can dress up creatively and run around from house to house begging for goodies to rot their teeth out. It’s a beautiful tradition that has been continued for as long as anyone alive can remember. There are only a few things I can remember growing up and Halloween was one of them. I remember the weeks before as my mom would prep the house. We’d go down to the basement or upstairs to the hall closet (or my closet where we’d packed it all one year) and drag out all the decorations. Then we’d spend three days setting everything out.
There’d be witches placed around the living room. There were ghosts and spiders in the dining room. The bats flew happily in the hallway. After the cardboard skeletons were taped to the wall and mirror in awkward positions, Dad and I would head outside with the remaining boxes. Our lawn would then be decorated with tombstone cutouts as ghosts glided across the front porch. In my mind there was nothing better, nothing could come close; not even going through the same procedure with the Christmas decorations.
The second best part of Halloween was the costuming of it. A strange term, but fitting nonetheless. It’s a complicated and vexing decision, deciding what to wear, how to wear it, to make sure you don’t look like any of your friends. This is where the hilarity of the holiday comes into play; this is categorized as a children’s holiday, but adults have just as much fun dressing up while teenagers frown on anyone who does.
This brings me back to the point of this post: the last time I unintentionally celebrated the holiday. Now some of you might say, “Didn’t you celebrate Halloween last year?” I did in a manner of speaking. I went to the Halloween party. Our apartment handed out candy. I personally decorated our apartment, but for a purpose, a distraction.
Six years ago was the last time I enjoyed Halloween for its festivities and not for the distraction it provided.
It’s because this time of year is more than a little depressing for my family. Although we celebrate Halloween and the birth of someone who means more than words can express, we also mourn the loss of someone important, someone we lost six years ago. I’ve heard it said that as time goes by, the pain begins to lessen. Each year is supposed to be easier than the next. Sometimes I feel like people just say things they think are going to make a person feel better, they don’t step back and assess that this probably isn’t going to make this person feel any better.
For reference, the first date is October 31st, Halloween.
The second date I am referring to is my older sister’s birthday, November 5th.
The third date I refer to is the day before, November 4th.
It was on this day in 2005 that our family lost someone important—the only grandfather I’ve ever known. This year will have been six years since I last saw his mostly toothless grin smiling at me. Ironically, that is the most important memory I have of him.
Many grandchildren who lose their grandparent at a memorable age can remember all of the sadness and deterioration time inflicted on this person. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with me.
I can remember walking into the nursing home, walking past the nurse’s station, taking a left and walking down the hall to the third door on the left.
I remember watching them take him to dinner.
I remember his smile as he flirted with all the nurses.
I remember laughing at all his jokes.
I remember this being one of the only times in the last six months he called me by name.
I remember promising to see him later that week.
I remember saying goodbye.
I remember his smile, his voice telling me goodbye.
These last three are important because we never said goodbye. Whenever we left it was “See ya later, Alligator”; “After while, Crocodile”; or “Goodnight, See you in the morning.” It was always something of that nature. We didn’t say goodbye. Goodbyes are too permanent. Goodbyes meant forever.
But this was our goodbye.
It’s funny how we remember these things afterward when everything is said and done. My dad says that one day things will get easier, that it will be easier to remember. I can’t help but agree. Every year it becomes a little easier to get up. It’s easier to look at pictures. It’s easier to celebrate my birthday. It’s easier to remember all the good things, open the mahogany box of memories, and smile.