Part of Me Wants to Escape the Night, Escape the Loss
But When the Doorbell Rings, I Will Answer
I hate waking with this sense of failure permeating my being. I’m sixty-four, sixty-four, and I feel alone and inept and unaccomplished. I ask myself: Is it the day? Is it the October that ends today? Is it that November 2 waits to meet me again in two days?
I remind myself that it is the day, it is the month, it is the prospect of marking thirty long years forty-eight hours from now.
I tremble. My breath comes in rapid gulps. I don’t want to celebrate this Halloween. It’s my first living alone and it takes me back thirty years to a Halloween night when I was home alone, watching my child nearing the end of her own breaths. The house wasn’t lit up, and I asked my husband to leave the outside lights off before he left for his errand. The idea of children—whole in their Halloween happiness—coming to the door made me shrink in fear.
Of course, the doorbell rang. I couldn’t hide from the mother and child waiting outside, knowing someone was home. We’d been on a no-sugar, no-flour, no-treat eating regimen for years, but I did a frantic search and found something resembling a treat. I brought it to the door and apologized for the meager offering. I was met with smiles and gratitude.
When they reached the sidewalk, I turned off most of the lights in the house and went to sit by my little girl’s side.
I wished she were whole, healthy, and running the streets with joy, candy bag filled, and face chocolate smeared. But she wasn’t. We were not mother and child, hand in hand, ringing doorbells and gathering treats.
As I sat by her side, however, we were still mother and child, my hand in hers. Two days later, we were still mother and child as she breathed her last. Thirty years later, we continue to be mother and child—even as I sit here, tears threatening to smear the ink on these lines.
I say to myself: Yes, it is the day. It is the next two days. It is the last thirty years. It is the next however many years.
I will always miss her, and part of me will always yearn for a Halloween night when I could hold her hand and go door to door.
Part of me, this year, as every year, wants to dim all the lights and hole up in a dark room and escape the night, escape the loss, escape the sadness.
But I’ve learned a few things as these years go by. Foremost is that I’m still here. I have life and love to give—and even to receive. So tonight, I will turn on the lights, and when the doorbell rings, I will have real treats. I will open the door and smile and be grateful that, in spite of the greatest loss, I can still share in the joy of a child.
My precious daughter, Alexa Renee Provo, died on November 2, 1986, from brain cancer. She was seven and a half years old. It is my heartfelt hope that in spite of this greatest loss, that I can continue to live with joy and let others know that in spite of loss, they can, too.