How do you explain to the children not to say “Trick or Treat” at a funeral? The house where the wake was at, was where they had Trick-or-Treated for all but one year of their lives. Luckily for Wife and I, they all had a good understanding that we were there for the reception after the funeral. However, #5 was very excited when he recognized the house and announced to us with all the pride due to a great discovery, “Hey mom, hey dad, this is the place we go for Halloween!”
The children were all dressed in their Sunday best to morn the loss and celebrate the life of Art, a very long lived family friend. My children have known Art and his wife Pat their whole lives, but beyond that so did I. But before I knew Art and Pat, my father grew up with them as close as an uncle and aunt. The affections of Art and Pat spanned multiple generations.
Somehow, and I was too young to know how it happened, Halloween became Art and Pat’s holiday. While Halloween for many is a night about candy or alcohol, for us ever since I can remember, it was about Art and Pat; and the same could be said about my children.
Art would meet us at the door in some goofy orange tee shirt that read “This Is My Costume” and would immediately begin to offer his famous chili. You could not turn down his chili. Not only was it that good, but by the time he was done talking to you about it, you weren’t quite sure whether it was the same recipe Lewis and Clark used on their journey across the continent, or if it was carried down father to son from before the fall of Rome. And as you chewed you wondered just how old those beans were. Art’s tall tales were endless.
Pat is just one of the sweetest ladies a person could meet. Art on the other hand, well, I always felt that my children just didn’t know what to do with him. If jokes are a sign of a well formed personality, then Art’s was formed by the most talented sculptor. I remember once, many years ago, when Art introduced a man to me as his long lost twin brother separated at birth and newly discovered yesterday over a scotch on the rocks. I believe I just stood there in stunned silence not quite sure if my silence was rude, or if he was telling one of his tall tales. I have since seen my children react the same when he put the same kind of proposals before them.
My father always loved the two like a second set of parents. To tell the truth, it was years before I realized that Art and Pat were in no way related. Of course it was some time in my childhood before I knew which was Art and which Pat, after all they were both boy names as far as I could tell. My children would have had the same trouble had not Wife made sure they knew who was who.
At the wake, family and friends shared Art stories like those above; and like everyone else, I reminisced too. I think his favorite phrase, or at least the one he seemed to repeat the most was, “Life, no matter how long, is too short to be taken seriously.” As I watched the children play in the yard, I thought that they would help take away a serious mood before it started. They were making plenty of noise running around, and I saw more than a few smiles directed their way. At one point I saw #5 and #6 had a new friend by the hand and were leading her through the yard and into the house, showing her around like they owned the place. Pat was happy with the children, and I know Art would have been too.
It was dark before we left Art and Pat’s house. I don’t think I will ever be able to just call it just Pat’s house, for Art’s memory will always be there for me. And it is a loving memory.