Stay with me now, this is a ramblin’ story… but it does get there.
I don’t remember much about my early Halloweens. Mostly: get candy, eat candy, get sick and go to bed. I don’t remember many Halloweens until I got married…
My family and I seem to have had a strange and close relationship with Halloween, seemingly out of simple serendipity. You see, back in the beginning Ruth and I were lost souls in search of each other a half a planet apart. I was living in Texas and was drafted into the U.S. Army during the darkest days of the Vietnam War. For reasons I have never fathomed I was sent to Bavaria, Germany. “Someone up there looking out for me” is the best I’ve come up with.
The Army, in its own disoriented wisdom, made a medic from an art student and, in the darkest part of the Vietnam War, sent me to patch-up GIs at a European / NATO training facility. Medics went to war with a big red cross on their backs (known otherwise as a target) so Germany was just fine by me. At this same time Ruth graduated high school in a remote part of the Himalayas in India and was sent to Dallas, Texas for nursing school. Through happenstance she lost her living arrangements and moved in with my sister who worked in a doctor’s office. To make a long story short, Ruth wrote to me and I wrote back and after many months of writing back and forth we developed a relationship. Finally, I was discharged from the service and returned to Dallas on my birthday, October 11th. We quickly realized it was the real thing and, in our state of youthful and romantic bliss, decided to get married at the end of the month. That was, of course, Halloween. Our wedding was at my sister’s house and was punctuated by costumed and screaming monsters at the door. What were we thinking? We weren’t, we were in love!
Our friends all thought we were crazy for this impromptu Halloween marriage saying I had been treated and Ruth tricked. Most also said, behind our backs, that it would never work – but it can now be recorded in history that everyone at our wedding, including my sister and the minister, have divorced while Ruth and I are still trucking along together just fine, thank you!
So, for us Halloween was not Halloween at all but our anniversary. For many years we locked our house, fearful it would be toilet-papered by trick-or-treaters, and went for a fine meal and romantic celebration.
During our “Dallas years” Ruth worked as a research nurse at Children’s Medical Center. I worked in cardiac nuclear medicine for the University of Texas Medical School at Dallas in Parkland Hospital. Our son was born and we began reviewing our lives and the future. We were both stressed out by our highly intense careers; we didn’t want to raise Ian in Dallas or any big city and decided to pull the plug on that life. We did a several thousand mile trip looking around the west and settled on Pagosa Spring for our future.
Fast forward several years and I found the true meaning of Halloween. Ian was at the right age in elementary school and I found Halloween joy in helping making his costumes.
Ruth had quickly become Pagosa’s “town nurse” and I was busy building our home and starting my publishing business.
Durango, at that time, held a huge Halloween party closing off several blocks north from the train station and allowing a big-time bash. It was fun to go over, see the party and have our anniversary dinner.
On one memorable anniversary / Halloween we were about to leave for Durango when the phone rang. It was Carl Macht, Archuleta County’s coroner during those years. A series of events, still not understood and certainly a bit spooky, had occurred. A big game hunter driving a forest road at night stopped, got out and removed all of his cloths. Some time later he crawled under his truck, presumably, to get warm. He was later found dead. Carl needed a blood sample to investigate the circumstances and, having a hard time getting it, called Ruth. We finished dressing in our anniversary finery and went to town to help. With a blood pressure of zero over zero and after many sticks, Ruth couldn’t get the sample either. It would require going to the largest pools of blood remaining, either the heart or a major artery. Because of my past work I had done many such deep body sticks on people with little to no blood pressure, so I confessed my past to Carl and helped. I went for the big artery just a bit away from the femur forward of the hip joint.
I hit it and as I stood there motionless waiting for the crimson red trickle to fill the tube, I thought, “here I am on a cold dark night with ghosts, monsters and vampires shrieking just outside the door and I’m sucking blood from a dead man’s crotch.” CRINGE!
It wasn’t Frankenstein or the Headless Horseman or Count Dracula but it was one freaky Halloween and, of course, an anniversary we will never forget.
P.S. Don’t get married on Halloween, it will come back to haunt you.