Trick or Treat

by Paula Kiger

Trick or treat!

This year, our Halloween was occurring in reverse. Six-year-old Layla was isolated in a hospital room in preparation for her bone marrow transplant. Halloween would come to her.

The hubris of previous Halloweens taunted my memory cache. Grimy nights marked by costumes grass-stained from tripping through dark yards, candy that I had to wrest out of little hands to give at least a cursory inspection before it was consumed. The time Layla was a princess and her toddler brother (who couldn’t protest) was a frog.

When I had driven to the hospital this morning, the heat did register in my mind, somewhere between the continuous prayer loop in my mind (please God let the transplant work please God let the transplant work please ……) and the mundane list of “to-do’s” necessary to retain some modicum of order in our everyday life (renewing the overdue automobile association membership would come in handy next time we needed a tow). I was not surprised that I had to crank up the car’s air conditioner at 7 a.m.; October heat is the price we pay for cap sleeves in January.

Tulips, though, will not be convinced that winter is occurring if the planter blithely plops them in dirt and showers some hope on them. Central Florida tulips must be coaxed. That is why, somewhere between the pleading prayerfulness and the robotic response to the mundane, I stowed my bulbs away in the refrigerator, between the butter and the Neufchâtel cheese that was used on some lovely canapé in an earlier lifetime, back when a “de gustation” menu involved gourmet food instead of ice chips and puree.

Knowing how much Layla loved tulips, Grandma arranged for a fresh shipment of tulip bulbs to be flown from Holland , Michigan , each year in time to be planted behind the butter months before encountering humus.

My friend Ann had also incorporated tulips into the mural that she had painted on the glass separating Layla from the germy world. The mural, painted with the knowledge that many children after Layla would stare at it while ensnared by disease, gave the illusion of being outdoors. Ann and Layla had spent time designing the mural prior to the procedure to decimate Layla’s immune system so that it would not reject the bone marrow transplant. Verdant green stretched as far as the eye could see; vibrant tulips spread through the field, and (since Layla recognized that not only little girls got cancer) an active soccer match was underway, the ball flying through the air and appearing to smash the glass.

I was so dazed with the physical and emotional exhaustion of dealing with Layla’s detested illness that I completely failed to nurture my son, Joey. He had just started kindergarten, and was pouring monumentally energetic efforts into each piece of artwork. He was proud; I was drained.

When I went to the online “caremonitor” site to update Layla’s condition for the inquisitive world (I had learned that individual emails were not time effective), I had a choice of “radio” buttons to indicate my role on the site. I could click the button for “visitor” (nope – not me, not this lifetime) or author (yes, although I would never have willingly written THIS book).

When Layla’s site came up, I was surprised to see that my husband, Doug, had beat me to it. I didn’t even realize he knew our password.

Oh, Joey.

Doug had scanned in Joey’s latest, a five year old masterpiece with four tulips, each with an initial on it: D(ad), M(om), L(ayla), J(oey).

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