Monday, October 14, 2013

My Heart's Not In It

Halloween has always been the favorite holiday of my family. It was my maternal grandmother's birthday, and my parents chose to be married on her birthday in 1959. My sister was married the day after Halloween, because Halloween proper fell on Friday.

My father and his best friend took up growing their own pumpkins a few years ago, which was catastrophic the first time around; Dad came back crowing about how he'd planted the seeds "good and deep", only to be mocked by my mother, a farm girl born and raised, who told him, "They're a ground-runner- you won't get many if you planted them deep!" She was right, so the following year they planted shallowly, resulting in more pumpkins than we could have possibly wanted, needed, or imagined. That was the year that my father carved 11 Jack O'Lanterns. He and his friend left the unharvested overage in the field for the deer to eat, and donated the 200lb. whopper of the crop to the local hospital where the two of them alternated as Chief of Medical Staff. (Better doctors than farmers, especially Dad, whose previous farming experience extended to growing tomatoes in our back yard. Sadly, his friend died at Christmas a few years ago. Now we buy the pumpkins elsewhere.)

The year that my sister got married, she and some of the bridesmaids took the children in the wedding party trick-or-treating after the rehearsal, which was held in costume. I went home and answered our parents' door (which I've done for the last eighteen years or so, pretty much ever since I moved back to the general area after grad school).

This year, I can't really get into it. Mom is so sick that it's hard to concentrate on anything else. My sister and I purchased three pumpkins each over the weekend; she helped Dad string up the handkerchief ghosts and put out the other decorations. I went to the grocery and bought about $50 worth of candy, which Dad has, as usual, already been eating as of the night I brought it home. It all felt sort of hollow. Mom was not able to receive chemotherapy on Friday because she's become immunosuppressed, and then the "chemo-brain" conversation in the car on the way out of the hospital garage surpassed 'trying' and went straight to 'awful' in ten seconds flat...I quickly drove to my sister's house across town, where we switched drivers. I ended up chauffeuring Jack, the Golden Retriever, to Smalltownland in the back of my sister's Prius. Golden Retrievers are a balm on the soul, even the ones with slightly fishy breath...

Over the weekend, the situation became somewhat fraught. I really don't want to discuss it, but it's been hard. By Sunday, I needed my inhaler- allergens plus stress plus too much exertion equals a huge problem. I called my mother twice after I got back to my house last night and twice today to check up on her. My sister is still at their house, but will leave tonight because she works in the morning. I feel sort of helpless, which I hate.

All year, I usually look forward to Halloween. This year, we're going through the motions. I will dress up and answer my parents' door and coo and gurgle over the costumes and pass out the fifty dollars' worth of candy ("You did get mostly chocolate, right?" asked Dad, who added, "Not the cheap kind. We can afford the good stuff!"). I just don't feel right about it, though. For my next trick, I'm going to go to Big Lots to see if they have any of the lighted Snoopy vampires left. Snoopy has always been a thing in my family, and so is Dracula (long story). Maybe it will cheer someone up, although I don't know if my mom will even notice.

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