One year ago today, I helped G into her Evie costume and H into his storm trooper costume and sent them both to school for a day of parades and Halloween class parties. After the bus arrived, I walked back into the house and texted a friend to tell her about the conversation we’d had while waiting for the bus.
H had asked whether Daddy would be going trick-or-treating with us this year. G answered before I’d formulated an answer. She’d told him that Daddy couldn’t trick-or-treat with us because he was too sick. The frankness with which she understood that truth was a reminder that they were not oblivious to all the changes around them.
But Matt and I were determined to chase normal, however elusive it might prove to be. We agreed walking the hills of our neighborhood in the bitter cold, trailing after a gang of 7- and 5-year-olds would be too physically difficult for Matt, and keeping an eye on two sugar infused children and Matt would be too emotionally difficult for me.
Instead, we decided that Matt would take a pass on the group trick-or-treating, but we (our family of four) would do a second, small round of trick-or-treating around our neighborhood afterward. (G and H thought this was a fabulous idea—more candy for them.)
In an effort to ensure that Matt wasn’t walking around too much while I wasn’t home, I set out a bowl of candy by the front door with a note—please take two. I didn’t have high hopes for the candy making it until we got back, but I thought the empty bowl and note would at least deter kids from ringing the doorbell while I wasn’t home.
A few minutes before G, H, and I were ready to head home, I received a notification from our Ring doorbell. Someone was at the door. And Matt had answered.
I came home and tried to make sense of the scene. Candy littered our front steps. The pumpkins G and H had decorated were missing. The plastic orange Jack-o-Lantern bowl was gone. The story I pieced together from Matt sounded a little like this: A group of older boys rang the door, expecting no answer. When Matt answered—in his orange Jack-o-Lantern shirt—they panicked and started throwing candy. They fled the scene, grabbing the bowl and pumpkins.
That story is mostly irrelevant to our year of Hope, except in how it resonated with G and H into Post Hope. This year, while we debated which bowl to buy at Target to replace the missing Halloween bowl, Gab reminded us all that if Daddy hadn’t been sick, he would have scared them off. If Daddy had been himself, we wouldn’t have needed a new candy bowl.
The story of today is a last—Matt’s last Halloween—and a first—our first Halloween as a family of three. I’m sure we (or at least I) will flash back to a decade of Halloweens spent together, many of them featuring that orange Jack-o-Lantern t-shirt. I’m sure G and H will pose for pictures in their costumes and it’ll hurt to know Matt won’t see them dressed up. I’m sure we’ll be hit by a grief wave at some point in the day. But I don’t know what that grief wave will look like.
Because one year ago today, I’d already lost the version of Matt that was my co-parent. One year ago today, I was already missing that person who would have walked beside me in the bitter cold while the kids ran ahead.
That’s the cruelty of brain cancer. We didn’t get a proper last Halloween. This isn’t a true first.
One year ago, after the group trick-or-treating and the bowl heist, we went out to trick-or-treat as a family of four. (Well, four plus a very loud 9-lb maltipoo.) We went up and down the street to our neighbors’ houses. We chatted with others who were also going to just a few more houses before calling it a night. We found a way to make it work. And maybe that’s the only story that matters.