Friday, October 31, 2008

The Mask

It's my favorite holiday. Halloween. Why Halloween? You don't have to stuff yourself with food, sitting around an over-crowded table. You don't have to buy anyone a gift. And, as a bonus for those who have dysfunctional families––all of us?––you don't have to spend time with ANY family members if you don't want to. I don't think anyone says, "but it's Halloween. Our family always spends it together." (Maybe if you're still trick or treating with your kids you'll hear that. But if you've reached puberty and don't have kids, you're free baby!). Yeah, it's your time to spend however you like. And you get to dress up and be someone else. How cool is that?

We have a Halloween party every year––The Freaky Fest, so dubbed by Mr. Rick "Bubba", "Tex", "Rusty" Abel in 1982. Well, we did have a party every year until last year. In 2007, I was at the end of my treatment for cancer. I didn't have the energy or strength to have a party at my house. I wanted so bad to be well. We had a party every year, from 1981 until 2006, in California and Virginia. No matter where we lived, how good or bad the weather was or how bad the economy was, we PARTIED. This was our Mardi Gras.

So instead of bemoaning the fact that The Freaky Fest was not going to happen, I thought how could I still celebrate. How could I keep things as normal as possible, so I didn't have to show my disappointment to my family? After all, I was always the one who wanted to host the party every year, dreaming up new things to do––palm readers, astrologists, dance contests, murder mysteries, Most Disgusting Joke Contest––and generally using the party as an excuse to see people who I don't get to see very often. (And my kids are all grown up now, so they have their friends over too). My Wife & Kids tried to cheer me up by telling that we would have a Halloween Party after I was better, no matter what time of year it was. That was great, but then it wouldn't be Halloween. I am a traditionalist, ya know.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks––I already have a mask. My mask was fitted over my face every day, keeping my head still and the radiation targeted at the tumor in my neck. Five days a week, for seven weeks I had to wear that mask. 20 minutes at a time. It made me sweat. It made me itch. But most of all, it helped me get better. So what's the big deal, right? On October 31, 2007, I was dressed as a cancer patient. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I was already a cancer patient with or without the mask. But it's my costume so I'll do whatever the hell I want.

This year, the party was back on. We had a great time, seeing old and new friends and sharing lots of laughs, stories, hugs and even tears. A full boat of emotions. But there was something that I never knew, until I brought out that mask to show some friends that had come into town for the party––Teresa didn't like the mask. She told me to put it away, she didn't want to see it. I asked her why. She told me it reminded her of all that I had to do to beat cancer––bad memories. Really bad memories for Teresa. To her, it was not a Halloween mask. 

It was much scarier than that.

No comments: