My dad was really never into Halloween.

Mom took us out trick or treating. He didn’t dress up. He did pumpkins, probably out of obligation, and passed out tootsie rolls or dum-dums to the few kids that came by, but he’d often be doing laundry that night.

A toddler in a clown costume
Halloween 1982

My dad’s mother died on Halloween; just days before I was born. I can’t imagine losing your mother, her funeral one day, your baby arriving early the next, but that was his reality. My parents found out she was sick when they returned from their honeymoon. I know my dad was eager to have a baby while she was still around. She made it 18 months after her diagnosis if I remember right, but they didn’t try immediately and then, I know all too well that sometimes babies take tim

As a kid, you can’t wrap your head around death, even if you have people you’ve lost, like grandparents. It’s too much maybe, or too worldly. I never met her, so I suppose I only gave her a little thought because she wasn’t as real as my other grandma. She was just someone in stories and photographs.

My mom and dad told me she’d joke that everyone would sing “ding-dong the witch is dead” from The Wizard of Oz when she was finally gone, so the irony that she passed on Halloween is rather striking.

I miss him today. He wasn’t a huge part of this holiday but maybe because of that, I thought of him this weekend. I understand now, I’m a way I never could before, that this day held so many feelings for him. He was incredibly close with his mother, and she passed at 60, before he had any of us kids. There’s so many stories I know by heart about her, that he passed on, because he wanted to keep her a part of our lives in some way.

I hope I can do that for my niece and nephews. Telling about how grandpa always ran the bobbing for donuts station at the autumn adventure at school. Coming home with powdered sugar all over him, but enjoying getting to be a part of that fun.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I flew back. I stayed in Buffalo last year for so long, and time is so strange in the world with everything going on. It seems surreal that we’re about to go through another round of holidays without him. This time, also without my parents best friend. I’ll be home this year, a change from 2020 pandemic times, but I’m not ready for how that might feel.

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