“What time do the kids come?”
My father-in-law asked that same question every year on Halloween.
“Good. I eat at four. I’ll have time to get ready.”
I wondered what he did to get ready for when he did come down from his room at precisely 5:45 he looked no different than he had earlier in the day. He’d be wearing the same brown flannel shirt tucked into brown pants along with the black shoes and white sox he’d put on when he got up in the morning. He would have shaved that day so his grey stubble wasn’t as pronounced as the day before, but not because of the holiday. He shaved every three days and had for years. His hair would be slicked back as always and his face would hold the same dour expression that greeted me every day.
“I hope I don’t get too tired. I’m not as strong as I used to be.”
“You don’t have to give out the candy. I can do it,” I said.
“No. I have to. It’s my job,” he insisted.
“Why? I did it before you came to live here. I can do it now if you want to stay in your room.”
“I do it!” he snapped before moving a dining room chair close to the window and peering out to see if any young ghosts or witches were coming.
Seeing the street was still clear of trick-or-treaters he peered into the large wooden bowl full of candy and started to mumble.
“I hope this is enough. She didn’t buy enough. Oh no.”
“I have more. That’s all that will fit in the bowl for now. I can add more as we need it.”
“I can add more. It’s up to me. What time do the kids come?”
“Six o’clock. If you get tired before they stop coming let me know. I’ll pass out the rest.”
“I have to do it. I give them each one piece, right? What time do they come?”
“They should start coming at six o’clock. Give them more than one piece, we have plenty.”
“Two pieces. I give them each two pieces. What time do they stop coming? I hope I don’t get too tired. I’m not strong like I used to be.”
“You don’t have to do this. I can do it if it’s too much for you.”
“I told you, I have to do it. It’s my job”
“Because I’m the oldest and the oldest gives out the candy.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. In his mind that’s the way it should be. Every year, as long as he was able, I let it him pass out the candy. I kept an eye on him and when it was clear he was tiring I made sure the bowl emptied quickly, turned out the light and helped him back to his room. He always slept late in the morning and woke proud that once again he had done his job.
The kids still start coming around six o’clock and the big bowl still stands ready at precisely 5:45. There is plenty more to refresh the bowl at least three times. So many things remain the same. Something very important has changed. Now I’m the oldest and I give out the candy. I miss him.
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