There were two things that really made Halloween IT for me when I was little. 1) Mama really went all out and made a BIG deal out of Halloween every year. And 2) My imagination was just ignited by Halloween. Ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and all kinds of monsters came out on that one night. And all of fall was really the season of Halloween to me. As soon as the weather started to turn, my mind turned pretty much exclusively to witches and black cats, full moons obscured by clouds, monsters, monsters, monsters.
I had nightmares almost every night when I was little. I used to tell people it was because nothing really scared me like that during the day, so my imagination took over in my sleep. I fell in love with horror movies early on, because for an hour and a half or two hours the monsters were REAL. I loved all the eerie, creepy cartoons Disney showed around Halloween. I mean, I really wasn’t interested in much else. There was Christmas, and it was magical enough to catch my attention, but it’s not hardly dark enough.
Growing up, every year we went trick-or-treating with family and friends. We started at Grandma’s house and moved into the neighborhood. I only remember not doing the normal routine one year, and that was because we went with Nancy and her niece Courtney (yep, my first experience of breaking routine for a girl). Come to think of it, every holiday centered around going to Grandma’s somehow. And that’s because Grandma was awesome.
Halloween ’91 was the only Halloween I didn’t celebrate.
Halloween was already a pretty big deal for me, and after my mom died, I decided I would celebrate it in her memory every year. And I celebrate it every year. Hell, I practically celebrate it year ’round. Yeah, the darkness of it is still pretty important to me (it’s my favorite part) but it’s one part of my mom that I can always see and always have physically present.
This year is pretty tough, though. See, every year part of Halloween has been talking to my dad about my mother and how much I miss her. He’d always check with me about when I was going out to the cemetery to leave something for Halloween. (I never did the flowers thing. I always leave some Halloween decoration for her.) This year he’s not here. This year, instead of calling him when I got home from Macon Memorial, I actually took DJ over to his grave on the way out. We left a little something for him too, as a kind of joke from the three of us (if you’ve been out there, you’ve seen it, I won’t let the cat out the bag here).
You know, I’ve really been trying to pretend for the last almost-three months that I’m doing fine, that everything’s okay and I’m just getting along. Well, with Halloween approaching it got harder and harder to keep that up. I wasn’t dealing with all my ghosts and demons that are haunting me this year. I’ve really allowed my mother’s death to define who I am and to define a lot of what I do. My whole year is centered around one day, and it always has been, but now it’s because this is the one day of the year I feel closest to my mother. With my dad’s death now, I’m having to deal with my mother’s death, and Aunt Amy’s (that was like losing Mama all over again because they were so much alike in so many ways even though they were complete opposites in others) again. My dad kept and hid a lot of things that belonged to my mother. He wanted me to get them when the time was right, I guess. He didn’t leave a whole lot of his things for me that weren’t already stashed by my mother.
I realized that it’s impossible for me to allow my life to continue to be defined by my losses. That’s just too much weight to carry around every day. And I’ve got too many people depending on me. You know, my job depends on me not to let it wear me down. (And that thought makes me giggle like a possessed Linda Blair.) My son depends on me to be emotionally available. So does my wife. And lately, all this has had me completely shut off. To everyone.
When DJ was born, I had a new reason to celebrate and go all out. I knew then I had a real chance to celebrate in honor of my mother, by making this day as awesome for him as she did for me.
I feel like I owe them both so much, for all the things they did for me. I feel like I have pretty big shoes to fill for my son because of the examples that they set.
You know, I said I’m dealing with my ghosts AND demons tonight. My mom, my dad, and Aunt Amy aren’t all of my ghosts. And there are quite a few demons, as well. My world has ended three times. Each time was marked by my life as it was being completely shattered and rearranged. The first two, well, I couldn’t control that. The third was partly my own doing. My dad’s death would be easier to handle if it represented a fourth, but my situation now is a little too permanent to afford me that luxury. But there is one regret I have, and it’s eating my soul daily. My dad and I talked damn near every day. After he got sick and some of his other issues began to surface, there would be times when we didn’t talk for a couple of days.
My work schedule can sometimes really just suck all the time I have out of the day. On Saturday, I didn’t answer the phone or call back. On Sunday, trying to relax and spend time with DJ, I didn’t answer or call back. I was going to call him on Monday, when I got up and going. Monday rolls around. DJ’s watching TV and I’m dozing on the couch. Mary wakes up and comes in the TV room on the phone. For two days, I did not talk to my dad because I was too busy and had too much other shit going on. On the day I was going to call him back, it was too late to get to talk to my dad again. The next time I talked to him, I addressed his corpse. And the only thing I remember saying to him was, “You know, you’re a bastard for this, but don’t worry, we’ll be alright.”
You know, when he was sick, he told me “If MaryLynn were here, I wouldn’t be this sick.”
Those two days I didn’t talk to him haunt me. Not being able to call him when I’m on the way home from work, or when something happens, when I’m pissed about something and just need to vent, or when I’m excited about something, or when I’m proud and want to share something DJ said or did. I called him almost every day, over almost every little thing. Now? I’ve lost my best friend, the only person I really feel like I could truly talk to about anything. There are only two other people I have felt I could be that honest with in my “adult” life. I don’t know what went wrong with one but I’ve actually had to close myself off because something went wrong there. The other, there is a wall between us. We still talk from time to time, and she knows me like my mother did . . . I’d say it’s more of a screen than a wall. We can still communicate but it’s filtered.
20 years, trying to make it through this, trying to be the dad for my son that my dad was for me, trying to make Halloween awesome . . . As long as I can watch some horror movies, and as long as my son enjoys this holiday, I’m happy, despite the tears.
I do laugh tonight, though, because some people have known me for a long time and are still wrapping their heads around how important Halloween is to me. It’s not just another holiday, a day to go out and celebrate. It truly is a holy day for me. It’s a day to celebrate so much of what I love in life as well as a day for me to remember my mother and to feel like I’m close to her again. I love Halloween.