It was October 31, 2018, and my father had a stroke and entered the hospital on October 21, 2018. After spending 5 days & nights in the hospital with him, he was transferred abruptly to a rehab facility where he’d have intense to regain as much of his speech and neural pathways as possible post-stroke. I couldn’t stay overnight with him in the rehab facility, so I was forced to confront my own needs in regard to sleep, food and hygiene, all while still trying to work enough remotely to keep my job, and still spend enough of my day visiting my dad so that he did not feel alone or get confused about what was happening. The balancing act was unbearable. Then, my husband told me he needed to fly back home to New Jersey for work. I couldn’t leave -- my father would have no one. Plus, I needed to make the decision of where he would go next. I couldn’t tell my husband he couldn’t go back home for work, but I knew I couldn’t go with him. I felt like some kind of bizarre blacksmith, trying to mold time, space, my father’s experience, my experience, and my husband’s experience into one harmonious piece, and failing. Ultimately, I thought I would be fine if my husband had to leave. I did not think things could get any worse than they had been. I was so dreadfully, disgustingly wrong.
The first night my husband was absent, the bottom dropped out of my soul. Alone in my mother’s house (she was on her honeymoon), I became inconsolable. I sobbed. I sobbed some more. I couldn’t stop. I was scared that I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping for air in between long, convulsing sobs. I started to scream. I was a wailing banshee. I was seething with anger. So many people had lapses in judgement that led to a forsaken, abandoned girl, who couldn’t cry or scream enough.
I was staring into the abyss, and the abyss was staring back.
It was Halloween. I realized there was no food whatsoever in my mother’s house. There was nothing edible. What would I eat? I couldn’t imagine dragging myself into a grocery store. I couldn’t imagine ordering food. I was so despondent, I had no energy to take care of my needs. Then, I started my period. I realized, to my horror, that I had no tampons and neither did the house. This meant, not only would I have to go somewhere to get supplies, I would have to go there bleeding. I couldn’t fathom how to do this. I had to go see my dad. I went to see him. He woke up, saw me and started to sob. I sat there, bleeding onto wads of toilet paper, a makeshift maxi pad. This was Real Halloween. No supplies, no food, no people spoke to me, and I was staying in some ghost of a house that seemed not even lived-in at all -- almost like a family had lived there once but they were gone, and I was a stranger there, a scavenger. My dad was the only person to whom I spoke and he didn’t speak at all. I was fighting for his survival but had no idea how to do it or if it was working. I was in the Walking Dead. I was in a post-apocalyptic world. I was in a nightmare -- the kind of nightmare that you wake up from and cry tears of joy that you don’t actually live in a world where your whole family is gone or you can’t find them or for some reason, they’ve left you to die. Every time the realization hit me that this was really happening, I would start sobbing. There was no Balm in Gilead.
That night, I sat in the dark as children approached the front door and rang the doorbell. They were Trick-or-Treating. I ignored every single one. If I opened the door, I knew they’d scream. They’d look at me and see the abyss. They’d look at me and feel something they wouldn’t understand until they were much older: sometimes Halloween is Real Halloween, and just like ‘the true meaning of Christmas,’ the true meaning of Halloween lives within you always.