Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Tradition

Picture 369

My oldest sister, Patty, died on Halloween.  Leukemia.  She was eight.

This was four years before I was born. 

When you come into a family with History, it's not like you're handed the memo at birth. It takes awhile to find out the important details.

On Halloween night, we kids would put on our costumes - witches, hoboes or the ever-popular gypsy.  Grab an old pillowcase and be taken trick or treating by my Dad.  After a couple of blocks, I would be brought home to pee.  I was the youngest in the family and not thought to be entirely reliable in my view of whether or not I had to go.

I would run upstairs to the bathroom, screaming for them not to leave without me.  "Wait!  Wait! Wait!"  Out of the bathroom, back down the stairs. 

And they were gone.  Dad and the older kids out completing their rounds till what seemed to me to be the wee hours of the morning.

Mum would take me back upstairs to get cleaned up and ready for bed.

And, as she was wiping the make-up off my three or four or five-year old face, she would break down, sinking on to the side of the bathtub, resting her head on my chest and sobbing.

I had no idea why.

Feeling the panic and the guilt that a young child feels when a parent is in trouble, I would ask what was wrong.

"Oh," she'd say.  "Sometimes Mummies just feel sad on Halloween."

Even then, I knew she wasn't telling me the truth.

I don't remember exactly when I found out I'd had a sister.  My parents never sat me down and gave me a talk.  The story just came out in bits and pieces, over meals and cups of coffee.  And Mum would cry sometimes.  And sometimes, so would I.

Halloween has never been entirely comfortable for me.  It was always there in the background: my mother's tears, my parents' sadness, my family's loss. 

When I grew up and had a place of my own, I took to calling my parents Halloween night, just to see how they were doing.  We never really talked about it on those occasions, but I know they knew why I was calling. 

At least, I think they knew.


Alda said...

What a moving story. Thank you for sharing it. Hope you and your parents are doing OK.

Barb McMahon said...

Thanks so much Alda.

I just found your site - have added it to my favourites!

What Now? said...

Barb, what a beautiful and sad post.

margaret atkinson said...

beautifully written...