Halloween

REMEMBERING HALLOWEEN PAST – AND ALZHEIMER’S

October 26, 2012 –

Carved Halloween Jack O'Lantern

Halloween:  I wonder if it’s the candy or the make-believe that kids like most. 

My parents moved to San Francisco when I was six and we celebrated Halloween, but it was very different from the costumes and candy of today.

WHAT — NO TRICK OR TREAT?

Our family occupied the 3rd floor flat in one of the twin buildings which had sunny bay windows and a very long flight of stairs.  The flats were located on 17th Street just a half block off Mission Street in San Francisco. It was Mission Street, after dark, where my sisters and I, as children, celebrated Halloween at the tail end of a parade.

We didn’t wear our costumes to school.  Nor were there any room-mothers to furnish us with frosted cupcakes covered with orange and black sprinkles and a decorated holiday cup filled with apple cider.  It was just another day without any fanfare, but every kid in the neighborhood could hardly wait for the Mission Street parade. 

With one of our parents (usually moms) we lined the sidewalks as marching bands led by a strutting drum major tossed his baton high into the air, a limited number of police officers and firemen in full uniforms walked behind young dancers and acrobats wearing tutus or leotards; all representing their respective studios.  My sisters and I were downright envious of their glitter, glamor and shine as they danced and cartwheeled up the street.  A few cars advertising local furniture stores drove by while the owners handed out all-day suckers and balloons.  Much to everyone’s delight a group of colorful Gypsies was also a part of the parade.  Their music and dance collected circles of admirers while the parade marked time for the special show.  

The evening was pretty well spent, and we knew the end was in sight when the last school traffic patrol dressed in crisp, white trousers, shirt and kerchief, and topped off with a campaign hat boasting their school colors marched past the lingering observers.  That’s when we who were left fell in behind and became the tail-end of the parade. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-10-28 04:25:22.

HALLOWEEN AND MY SUPER FUN DATE

Halloween pumpkins

Carved pumpkins a sure sign of Halloween

I have often said the bonus part of being married to Ken is that he was a fun date. Not only was he a fun date before marriage he continued to be a fun date after marriage, but then many of our friends remained okay dates after marriage until the tube took over, turning them into the well-known couch potato. The difference between Ken, who did watch his share of ball games, and our friends was that he continued to be a fun date up until AD became a third wheel in our lives.

Our early neighborhood was mostly made up of young couples with small children, and all but a few budgets were pinched tighter than a size eight foot in a six shoe. Consequently, nights out on the town, or even a movie, were few and far between. However, to keep our social appetites fed, kids in tow, we entertained one another at our various homes taking turns hosting: we bar-b-cued, planned picnics in the parks, or at the beach, and enjoyed Sunday summer band concerts by our city’s Municipal Band – all without spending any money. In addition, a couple of nights a month the neighbors got together for a game of penny-ante with no one going home richer than he came. It was for fun not fortune as all of the winnings went into a kitty until there were enough accumulated funds for everyone’s dinner, plus a tip, which happened every year or so.

And there were parties and celebrations according to the calendar, but perhaps none so outlandish and memorable than Halloween, with costumes required. The 31st, of course, was kids’ night so the adult party was usually held on Friday or Saturday night before Trick Or Treat, but not every year. For those less willing than Ken to dress up as someone-something else was much too much to ask of some husbands on even a yearly basis.

Prior to our just-across-the-street friends Fred and Phyllis adding a family room, all parties were held in the host’s garage. Once we found their new room to be a warm and cozy place without a draft their home became the gathering place during the colder fall and winter months.

So it was that Phil donned in black shorts, black shirt, a cowboy hat and toy six shooters hanging from her hips became a female Paladin (Have Gun Will Travel, a popular TV series at the time). Laughing, she opened the door to let in the party revelers. Fred put on two arm bands, a bow tie and took his place behind his bar as the in-house bartender, which was the costume for many of the men. Ken wasn’t much different that first year matching my Roaring 20s flapper dress with gangster-looking attire, including arm bands.

Other years, and good sport that he was, he agreed twice to wear the other half of Raggedy Anne: Andy with a sailor hat and sprouting red yarn hair. Our faces matched with cherry-circled cheeks, smiling mouths and exaggerated eyes. We wore it to Fred and Phil’s second party and a few years later our duo costumes appeared at other events. There were times when I couldn’t believe he was still such a fun guy and so willing to throw caution to the wind and be just plain silly.

Several years later we had occasion to attend a fund-raiser for a local community service organization. I made Ken a white sports coat out of a piece of left-over polyester knit from years gone by, painted a black mustache on his upper lip and handed him a baton. As Xavier Cugat, he matched my Carman Miranda outfit topped off with a turban headpiece filled with an assortment of fake fruit, including a cluster of purple plastic grapes. We were a hit with friends, but didn’t win the grand prize – not even runner up – which was all right. It was a good time because I had a special evening out with my fun-date husband. I sure miss him.

Even as Ken succumbed to Alzheimer’s, I continued to decorate for the holiday, and the second year of Ken’s illness he remembered about the little ones coming for Trick or Treat. Together we put out decorations making our house look spooky without being scary. Every morning, though, I would find the pumpkins, scarecrows and the friendly, smiling ghosts on the kitchen table. More of a morning person than I wanted to be, Ken busied himself getting the house in order while I slept. “Why did you bring in all of the decorations,” I asked him. “Halloween is over,” he replied. “Let’s put this stuff away.” Explaining that the holiday wouldn’t be over for two more weeks, I asked him if he wanted to help me put the things outside. “Of course I’ll help,” he said, ready and willing to have it all in place when the costumed children came for candy.

We went through the same routine every morning until November 1, when I agreed that we could put Halloween away for another year. It would have been easier for me to just give in the first time he brought the whole array into the kitchen. But I wanted our life to be as normal as possible even if it meant doing the same job over and over, and for several years it worked.

This year in front of our house there is a seven foot happy-faced ghost – possibly a distant cousin to Casper — hovering in the midst of our juniper bushes, surrounded by candy corn lights and spider webs. Ken no longer brings in the decorations during the early morning hours. Sleeping in a hospital bed with full rails his morning activity is limited, as is his walking ability.  He isn’t even aware that Halloween is fast approaching. Actually, I doubt he notices what’s outside, much less the passing of days, one being much the same as the last. Neither is he aware of the leaves turning gold and the hint of another year soon to pass. Alzheimer’s, like a thief in the night or a mysterious, ghostly intruder has stolen away my fun date, and the demon disease didn’t even ask, “Trick or Treat?”

Originally posted 2011-10-29 18:14:30.

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Haunted House

When an old house creaks, it may be haunted or not.

“Your house is spooky, Grandma.”  The statement did not come from one of our younger posterity but from our 23-year-old grandson Brian.  Several years ago, before Ken contracted Alzheimer’s we had asked Brian, recently returned after a four-year stint in the Marines, if he would stay in the house while we were on vacation; look after the dog, take in the mail, water and cut the grass and keep everything ship-shape until we returned.  We also agreed to pay him a tidy sum for his efforts.  He happily accepted.  When we arrived home we found that he had been more not here, than here.

“I just couldn’t stay in your house after the first night,” he explained, expounding on every creak and groan he heard or imagined. “I think it’s haunted!”  I turned to this brute of a man and asked, “How old are you, Brian?  How tall?  And how much do you weight?”  If he looked a bit chagrined, it didn’t change how he felt.  “You house is spooky,” he repeated “really spooky.”

He then proceeded to detail his night in our so-called chamber of horrors.  “This place has bumps in the night, stuff moving in the shed next to the house and in the wood pile and in the backyard,” he confided.

“Probably a cat,” I explained. “Or it could have been a rat – or a possum,” none of which eased his mind.

“The floor creaks,” he continued, “like someone is walking.  So do the walls and I can hear the roof in the family room going snap, crackle, pop, and I believe there is something living in the attic making a rasping sound.”

Reliving his night of terror seemed to add to his vivid and out-of-control imagination.  He had verbally tagged everything except the foundation and windows, but I couldn’t really remember any of the strange sounds except the time when we did have mice in the attic.  Explaining to this gentle giant that our house was an older home and no doubt had settling noises, I also acknowledged that after a hot day the flat roof on the family room addition contracted making it sound like the bowl of Rice Crispies he described.   That wasn’t enough.  Unconvinced, Brian insisted the house was haunted even though I pooh-poohed the whole idea.  He did, though, express regret for abandoning his house duty, but assured me that the dog had been cared for as were the yards and mail – all accomplished during the safety of daylight.

Perhaps the sounds were there and Ken and I had just grown used to them so we didn’t notice, but our conversation reminded me of another dark night and an unexpected noise from long ago when our children were young, the house was fairly new and there was no Emergency 911.

I believe both Ken and I were awakened at the exact same moment by the click of a door latch as it snapped into its slot, and then nothing.  That one sound had brought me into wide-eyed wakefulness.  Lying in our bed I could feel that he too had heard the noise and was no longer sleeping – hardly even breathing – yet I managed to murmur, “Did you hear that?”

“Someone just closed the kitchen door,” he whispered back.  “We have a burglar in the house.”

“Call the police,” I uttered.

Quietly, he reached over and picked up the phone setting it on the floor to muffle as much sound as possible.  Feeling the rotary wheel he placed his forefinger into the “O” and pulled it to near full circle until it stopped, and then he let it go. The clicking as the dial returned to its place almost matched the thumping of our hearts.  “Operator,” a woman answered.  “Someone is in our house.  Call the sheriff,” Ken said, barely audible.  Within seconds a man’s voice was heard, “Sheriff.”  Ken quietly explained our situation and gave him our address.   We were assured that a squad car was on its way even as we spoke.  Ken hung up the phone and we lay there staring at the shadowed ceiling.

On the clock possibly a minute and a half had lapsed since the kitchen latch had pulled us both from our slumber when suddenly I exclaimed, “The children?”  Leaping silently from my bed I rushed to the boy’s room.  From the light cascading through their window I could see that all was well.  Slipping down the hall with Ken close behind I opened the door where our girls slept.  One bed was empty.  “Julie is not here,” I declared.  Adrenalin pumping and as quiet as the proverbial mouse Ken cautiously opened the kitchen door and tiptoed into the darkness armed with a baseball bat which he had picked up from the boys’ room.  Bravely, he called, “Whose there?”

“Daddy?” a small voice returned.   “Julie?” Ken questioned, “Is that you Julie?” he repeated placing the whiffle-ball bat on the seat of an adjacent chair.

Snapping on the light we saw our frightened little girl, ghost-like in her nightgown, peeking around the darkened corner.  “I had to go to the bathroom,” she explained.  “Why didn’t you use this one?” Ken asked pointing to the one right across from the bedrooms.  “I didn’t want to wake you,” she continued, “so I used the one in the laundry room, and then I heard noises so I stayed in there.”

Tucked back into her bed with an extra kiss, we said goodnight to our sleepy child and returned to our bedroom.  Ken picked up the phone a second time and dialed the operator who connected us once again to the Sheriff’s department.  Apologizing and asking that the car racing to our house be canceled, Ken explained, “There is no intruder.  It was a child.”  “Whose child?” grumbled the officer.  “Ours,” said Ken sheepishly, “and she’s fine.”  With that I could visualize the sheriff smiling as he said to Ken, “Have a good night.”

As the fall of another year edges its way into earlier darkness causing the evenings to become longer and longer – especially after the caregivers leave –I find that it’s really a good time for me.  At the end of the day Ken is very tired.  Alzheimer’s seems to sap his energy so he is soon asleep and I have several hours of free, uninterrupted time.  I write, or catch up on bills, or do other busy work, or treat myself with a CD to watch.  Then it’s off to bed where I read until sleepiness blurs the print. I can lose myself in a good book.

The house is silent.  Every so often one of the cats will gallop down the hall before jumping up on the bed – a familiar thumping.  Turning the page I hear another sound.  Pausing to listen I ask myself about the bumping coming from the shed, a thud as a log tumbles onto the bricks from the woodpile.  “It’s probably a neighbor’s cat,” I say to me, “or a rat, or a possum.”  I listen to the relaxing of our half-century old house as it yawns and settles in for the night.  If Brian were here I would say, “No, Brian, the house isn’t haunted; like me, it’s just tired and our joints creak.”  But if I do see an apparition I will take the advice of psychic Silva Brown from one of her books, “Just tell the ghost to take the first door on the right and go home.”  Then I’ll add, “And on your way, please don’t let the latch click.  It might wake up Ken.”  That’s when I close my book, move the cat, turn off the lamp, snuggle under the covers and go to sleep.

Photo courtesy of  country-boy-shane http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanegorski/

Originally posted 2011-10-22 02:54:49.

THE HALLOWEEN FACE IN THE BATHROOM

Carved pumpkin

Pumpkin carving, a Halloween tradition.

When my kids were at home it was their job to carve the scary faces on the pumpkins.  I also had them scoop out the “flesh” of fall’s bright orange squash so I could make pumpkin pies.

Now I cheat.  A couple of ceramic pumpkins already wearing carved faces and placed on a plate with a candle inside does the trick.  What’s more they look every bit as Halloweenish as did the real thing.  Well, maybe not quite so much.  As my in-house experts advanced in years their talents increased exceedingly.    Using the most humble of kitchen knives and scoops with utmost proficiency the more ghostly the carved pumpkins became as the artists scraped out more and more of the pumpkin flesh making the shell creepily translucent.  While I do miss the activity and the main fresh ingredient for pies I get along very nicely using the old standard:  Libby’s pumpkin in a can.

Meanwhile, I find I enjoy this holiday more now than when the house was filled with our children.  There was always so much hubbub in getting costumes ready – not only for the big night – but for school and other celebrations:  costumes on – costumes off, this party that party, costumes on – costumes off.  Then it seemed, in the past, that day-light-savings time never cooperated, switching back to standard time the week before Halloween making it really dark at dinnertime (even when eating was bumped up to 5:00 p.m.).  Chaos reigned trying to feed kids a bit of real food before they hit the neighborhood for candy while we ran back and forth answering the constant demand of the bell as early trick and treaters opened their pillow cases for the required ransom.

Kristina, the granddaughter who lives with us, loves Halloween.  At 22 her sites are no longer on dressing up for treats.  It’s been fun for me watching her get ready for this bedecked and bejeweled holiday.  She found a saloon girl dress at a vintage shop in Santa Curz and spent the last few weeks acquiring the accessories to make her costume complete.  Her young man, also Chris, found chaps transforming him into the needed cowboy to escort his “Lady in red” to various parties.  A really fun holiday and I didn’t have to do anything but watch, although I did help her with a minor alteration.  And I am totally prepared with a cauldron full of candy for the night visitors.

Living with Alzheimer’s I am determined that life will be as normal as possible, so I continue our celebration of All Saints Eve.  Decorating is simple, but effective.  I like the orange candy lights which I scatter over one specific juniper bush.  Towering above, is a ghost made from two sheets ruffled over a couple of pieces of wood stuck behind the lights in the same bush, and for the head a very large,  round light globe salvaged when an outdoor fixture was replaced.  Easy up, easy down.

For a few years, even with his disease, Ken helped, but often took down the decorations each morning not remembering the holiday was yet to come, so together we would put everything back in its place. This year there isn’t much notice from my husband.  It’s almost as if he looks, but doesn’t see.  A tall ghost surrounded with small orange lights means nothing to him as he gazes out of the front window, but I continue with tradition not only for me but for our numerous great grandchildren and Jessica, our youngest granddaughter who is 11 and blends right in with her cousins of another generation.

This morning as Ben and I were getting Ken ready for the day he looked at me with disdain as I held his restrained hands while Ben did the cleaning.  “You don’t know anything,” he growled giving me a “duh” expression.  His contorted face made me laugh out loud.  Ben looked over and laughed as well.  Ken continued making faces finally sticking out his tongue like a naughty five-year-old boy.  “Why are you making those funny and scary faces?” I asked, still laughing.  Ben looked again and said, “Faces he probably made as a young boy.”  Stopping my giggles I asked my husband, “Are you getting ready for Halloween?”

On Halloween night, later in the evening, Jess will pay us a visit with her mom and dad.  She will be wearing a surprise costume which her mother made especially for her.  Perhaps Ken will show her his little-boy faces even sticking out his tongue, and then add a few scary ones – or not.  More than likely he will be unresponsive.  However, in a pretend perfect world he would be just Grandpa looking at her with love in his eyes – remembering who she is, who she was and anticipating, with all of us, who she will become – saying something like, “You are a beautiful fairy princess, Jess (or an awesome Darth Vader — whatever the costume) and  I love you.”

So this Halloween when unseen visitors from the past make their presence known, when witches fly through the air on  broomsticks, or  ghosts and goblins dash about the streets disappearing over the hills and unexplained apparitions appear from no where, perhaps the real Ken will be allowed to sneak away from the prison of Alzheimer’s and be just plain Grandpa – for a time.  Stranger things have happened.

We can only wish.   Maybe someday we can catch that very first magical evening star to wish upon.  If it’s the right one, wishes are  supposed to come true.

Originally posted 2010-10-30 21:44:16.

HALLOWEEN MUSINGS:DO I REALLY LIVE IN A HAUNTED HOUSE? A CAREGIVER’S ADVENTURE

GRANDSON BRIAN AND MY HAUNTED HOUSE.

 

ghostly Halloween decorations

Despite evidence to the contrary, I really don’t think my house is haunted.

October 31, 2013 — Last year I related an experience Ken and I had with our grandson Brian, and our haunted house.  He was at least 23 years old at the time.  We had asked him to house-sit and care for our dog while we were away for a week and it was still summer with no ghosts in sight.    But after the first night the dog was on his own because Brian insisted our house was haunted. After listening to the roof creak and hearing  strange movement sounds and spooky noises in the shed he was certain he was staying in a truly haunted house.

COULD WE HAVE HAD AN ILL WIND BLOWING?

 Recently I wondered if he might be right.  He should have been here last week when we had winds from the north-east and this one really did strange things.  My bedroom window was open.  The air actually felt good coming into the room until I heard a crash which made me bolt up in bed crying out in my my deepest Ken voice, “What’s going on over there?”  I am sure the occurrence would have shattered Brian.  As the wind blew through the open window it also blew at the closed mini blinds. With each gust the wind pushed the loose blind into whatever was in front of it.  That’s when I heard the crash.  Little by little the glass lamp which had been on the desk moved closer and closer to the edge until finally with one last gust the blind pushed the lamp onto the bare floor.  Yes! The crash sound spooked me out as well as it would have spooked Brian, but he would have claimed ghosts had done it.  Back east when they have a nor-easterly it means being barraged by tons and tons of snow.  Here in California is just means you have a strange wind blowing,perhaps an ill wind.  In any event it was being naughty and breaking lamps.

 IF YOU DO SEE A GHOST, THEN WHAT?\

Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-11-03 04:57:39.

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