All that distinguished October for so many years, was Halloween. The last day was the goal, the prior thirty spent considering and concocting a costume. The day itself an exuberant tumbling of rules…out in the evening, collecting candy, school-night expectations on pause. It was an event for the children, and back then, a fun and benign one.
But benign isn’t how I think of October now. Almost forty years ago when I met Jan, it changed. Her mother had died on a Halloween; her discovery not benign. Since then, the ghoulish apparitions of the season have always felt cruel. And since then, more deaths. Of course, those happen in other months, as well, but the tenth month holds the sad record. My father; our nephew; our Norwegian Viking; my mother-in-law; Jan’s mom.
This year, it also claimed Jan’s Gracie. What a harsh echo, this through thick-and-thin curly-furred companion felled by malignant cells. They were discovered almost precisely two years after Jan’s own diagnosis. An unwelcomed symmetry. She has been through much, my friend Jan. This year the father of her sons died…a hundred years to the day her father was born. Further symmetry.
But there is more to October. Against all odds, Jan lives, survives, thrives. Her chapter, she dares imagine now, could become a book. And she has achieved goals, roles she couldn’t imagine two years ago. There are two more men in her life to cherish: her husband as of a year and a half ago. Her grandson, as of a week ago. Birth in October. Living.