The most striking feature of my last Halloween in Hutchinson, Kansas, was that I did not go to see my grandparents--something we had previously done every year on this occasion. That particular night endings and new beginnings were vying for my attention. I was 15 years old, so I didn't have a costume to show off. Instead I accompanied a friend and her little sister as they trick-or-treated around what would soon be my "old" neighborhood.
The next morning a moving van was scheduled to arrive. Professional movers would dismantle the only home I had known. We would live out of suitcases in a new house in a new town until our possessions followed us to Michigan.
I didn't go to my grandparents house because I was too young to drive. My parents were busy with their own goodbyes and to-do lists, and plus, we'd be saying goodbye to my grandparents on the way out of town. I was busy with the festivities and with the bigness of what was ending.
The next afternoon my grandparents stopped by our house for a quick visit while my sister and I were at school and the movers made trips in and out of the house. Grandma then drove them home, and a few hours later my grandpa slumped over on the couch, and was gone. Dead. Without a last Halloween visit from his granddaughters.
A friend of the family drove my mom to the high school to pick me up. It was in the school parking lot that I got the news. Our move was postponed for a few days, so that funeral arrangements could be made. I had a few extra days with my friends, which was great. But now I also had a few days to absorb the shock of leaving behind a beloved grandma who was losing her husband and a son and his family in the same week. The pain of THAT goodbye has remained with me ever since.
As Halloweens came and went in the years soon after our move, I grieved the visit I didn't make in 1990. I had to work to keep the guilt of not seeing them at bay. As time has passed and I have the benefit of perspective and maturity, I am convinced it worked out as it should have. In some ways, not visiting them helped keep my memories of them intact. My memories weren't tinged with a quality of "lastness" with my grandpa. They were happy and teeming with all of the wonder and happiness that came with being their granddaughter. Together Grandpa and Grandma infused my first fifteen years with enough treats to last a lifetime.