I’m going to do something that may shock, bother, or possibly even anger a few people.
I’m going to say this Halloween was better than most of the ones in the last few years with my wife.
I know, I know, that sounds horrible, awful, mean-spirited and sadly pathetic. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s really true.
To explain this, you have to understand what the last few years were like in our house. My wife had gotten ill. Not deathly ill, but . . . sick. The illnesses came with weight gain which caused other problems which caused more issues. The depression, the pain in her knees, the weight . . . all of those things had an effect not just on her but on all of us. It was a daily struggle. Andrea had to take an insane amount of pain medication just to be able to walk – the soft cushioning in her knees had been torn and the bones were literally rubbing against each other. That, in turn, made her very lethargic. That made her move less, which exacerbated the weight gain.
So what is Halloween? It’s walking around and handing out candy and being mobile. That’s not something my wife was in the last 2-3 years of her life. Add to that the fact her job – a pharmacist – had her on her feet all day, no break, every day, and she was in a miserable amount of pain. That pain, mixed with the narcotics, drove her deeper into despair. It made her sad. It made her dark. The light – that shiny, sparkly, twinkle that was there showing so much life – had dimmed in her eyes.
So why would I tell you all these horrible things? Well . . . first, you should realize that the light was coming back. The depression was being managed, both by her attitude and through medication. We’d gotten on a weight-loss plan because the liver and other medical problems were being handled. She’d started swimming, which had far less impact on her body. No, it wasn’t perfect, but the embers were glowing in her pupils again.
But holidays – things like Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas – those were hard. She refused photos. She couldn’t stand long enough to help cook and decorate. She still had amazing ideas but even implementing them fell on my shoulders most the time and I was already doing the basic daily chores.
That’s not to say she was helpless, she still picked up the kids while on disability. She went to the school, did health checks, all of that. But her activity level was just so low… Months before she passed she had become isolated. She was embarrassed, almost reclusive. I covertly got a friend to come visit and her spirits rose.
But the kids, though they don’t realize it, were missing a lot. I didn’t see that until last night.
Hannah had three friends over. They made their own costumes. They got everything together. I raced home late and got pizzas for all of us, the home decorated, pumpkins carved and lit . . . it’s been a hard week for me and the kids. Much as we treat the 30th – Andrea’s birthday – like it’s not as affecting, we know it is. But you know what, that’s okay. It’s okay to be close to friends, or grow close to someone and still be attached to this amazing woman. She was there for half of my life . . . that’s a big chunk of time, emotion and experience rolled together.
We don’t live without her . . . we live with living without her. That’s the big thing.
So tonight . . . we had the home all dressed up. Abbi had on a pink tu-tu with a sweatshirt (she thought I hadn’t noticed) and answered the door handing out candy. One of the kids’ dads and I went out with this massive group – six kids – and walked probably a mile or more getting candy. We had cheap pizza. We drank root-beer. One of the dads talked about how hard it is to find like-minded people: people who know the same movies, music, Monty Python and Spinal Tap and can quote the Dead Parrot sketch from scratch.
We talked until late and then took the visitors home. It was after 10 when the little ones finally went to bed . . . and I sat to write. It was then I realized . . . the kids had a great Halloween. Not a good one – which the last few years had been: walking our small neighborhood, getting some candy and then sitting alone in the house. My kids all shared an experience with friends. Abbi talked college and growing up with myself and other adults.
It’s a hard thing to come to terms with the fact that some things might be better after losing your spouse. But when you have only a single picture from the morning . . . because you were running crazy all day, it’s a good kind of tired. The kids went to bed . . . exhausted . . . smiling.
The lights, you see, may have left Andrea’s eyes . . . but I saw it there . . . in every single one of the kids tonight.