Archive for the Those Crazy 1980's… Category

My Favorite Mother-In-Law…

Posted in The 1990's..., The 2000's, The present..., Those Crazy 1980's... on December 24, 2013 by henryconley

WARNING: This post may not be easy to read, particularly if you have lost someone recently or are dealing with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.  However, it is also a love story and example of how strong love can make us.

Recently, I’ve had many occasions that made me want to eagerly click away on my keyboard, sharing my thoughts and emotions as I’ve done so many times over the past four years.  However, I just haven’t had the energy, even though it’s always a cathartic experience for me.  I even missed my annual “state-of-the-state” birthday address, which has been a consistent part of my celebration for three of the past four years.  Why did I miss it?  As most of my friends know, my lovely wife’s mother passed away the day before my birthday.  So even though I’m a few weeks late, I want to write this entry and instead of my usual birthday entry, I want to write to you about this special woman.

Margaret or Peggy as most knew her was born in pre-World War England in the city of Norwich.  From the few photos we’ve found and the little she spoke of it, those early years appear to have been a happy time.  That is until WWII hit her city.  The air raid sirens sounded on the very first day of the war when she was just shy of 6 years-old and then no less than an additional 1,488 times throughout the following years.  Historians estimate that these ‘events’ (not each siren resulted in an actual air raid) lasted 1,887 hours and 51 minutes.  When put together that totals to 79 entire days.

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No one knows how many times she was rushed to the bomb shelters, but it left a deep scar on her heart and mind that she rarely spoke of.  One night before Deb and I married she just started freely discussed it with me and mentioned how she often went to bed dressed in her school clothes so if she had to go to the shelter during the night, she would be ready for school the next day.  She shared a few other details of how horrible it was, and then as if catching herself speaking about some forbidden topic, she changed the subject.  Only on rare occasion did a few words slip about the horrors brought on by the war.  However, most of the memories she shared about that time were related to her love of dancing, which was supported by several photos we uncovered recently.

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Sometime in her early teenage years, her mother and her were moved to an American base in Germany where her soon to be step-father was stationed.  Along with her twin step-sisters, they moved to the US shortly after and according to her, she quickly lost the word ‘step’ and they were now a family unit.  Mom, dad and three sisters…

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Fast-forward to 1984… During that summer I met her daughter and if not for Peggy, we might not have had a second date.  When I took out Deb the first time, I was not looking for a long-term relationship.  We had a great night, but I had no idea what would come of it.  A few nights later, I was trying to figure out how I wanted to spend a night off from work.  Rather quickly, I realized I wanted to take Deb out to the movies, so I went by their pizza place to see if she was there.  Her mom informed me she had just left but told me to have a seat and she would try to reach her.  In those pre-cell phone days, it wasn’t always an easy task.  She could reach Deb but left a message at home telling her I was there.  As we waited, we chatted, laughed and formed a real bond.  Before you know it, well over an hour had passed when Deb walked back into the restaurant.  She wandered back by chance as she had been out and about.  She hadn’t even gotten the message.  I said goodbye to my new friend and off I went with her daughter.  If she had not been so engaging and fun, I may not have waited for Deb (as I said, I wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship yet) and may have moved on.  Probably not as Deb was already embedded in my mind, but I can tell you that the conversation I had with her mom and the ease with which we spent time together, set the scene for our relationship.  We spent countless nights playing board games with her mom in those early years and had many laughs.  A trust was built that played a key role in her later years.

In those early years, I quickly learned that Peggy loved all things shiny, glitzy or that actually lit up.  If it lit up and played music, it was a double win in her book.  The beautiful thing was that although her love of shiny things extended to jewelry, the actual value didn’t matter.  Costume jewelry, plastic light up necklaces or a real diamond all gave her an equal amount of joy.

On April 23rd, 1988, Deb became my wife and Peg, my mother-in-law.  She (and Deb’s dad) saw that our wedding was the event of a lifetime and it was a celebration of our families joining.  Soon there were no dividing lines marking where my family ended and Deb’s began.  Both families spent the holidays and special occasions together.  It became a running joke that I was her favorite son-in-law (I was her only son-in-law) and she was my favorite mother-in-law.  It may have been a joke, but it carried a lot of affection.  Oh by the way, her love of light-up things was even present at our wedding; with our full approval and excitement, Deb’s bouquet and all the flowers on the head table had tiny, intricate lights woven in.  It was spectacular and very rare back in 1988.  We loved it.  (Note: Per her wishes, she was buried in the dress she wore to our wedding)
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As the years went on, she began to change.  She went from a fun-loving outgoing lady to one that was afraid of her own shadow.  She was so claustrophobic, that even nail polish could be too much at times.  Was this a remnant of those nights in the shelters?  We often wondered, but could not find answers.  In hindsight, we now know that Alzheimer’s disease was starting to grab hold of her.  The change was slow at first, with her becoming forgetful but hiding it well.  It took years for us to realize she was having major memory lapses.  It was only three and a half years or so ago that we started to suspect Alzheimer’s was the cause, but now suspect it plagued her for well over a decade.

If I had to draw a line in the sand to mark the beginning of her decline, it would be her final visit home to Norwich, England.  She often went there and would stay as long as a month some times.  If she could find an excuse to stay longer, she would take it.  Something happened that scared her during that trip.  Was it the return of a childhood memory and the truth behind the horrors she had faced or perhaps seen?  Was it not recognizing her old hometown?  Or perhaps, not remembering how to get from point A to Point B?  We will never know, but she changed and was never the same.  She came home weeks early blaming volcanic activity that was threatening air travel across Europe, but in the past that would have simply made for a great excuse to stay longer.  Not that time though.  Instead, she came home afraid and showing more severe signs of the disease.

A major problem in getter her diagnosed was that she outright refused to go the doctors.  She always had.  That and taking pills were strictly off limits for her.  It took well over a year or consulting with doctors and the Alzheimer’s Association to finally find a way of tricking her into going.  The details don’t matter as to how we did it, but as her “favorite son-in-law” I hated having to trick her.  However, I was by her side for that first appointment and then with her at the Neurologist as she diagnosed my “favorite mother-in-law” with Alzheimer’s.  During that visit she was struggling with the memory test and half-jokingly asked me to help her with the answers.  I laughed and told her I couldn’t help her.  I couldn’t help her.  That sums up the diagnosis of a disease like this.  I couldn’t help her make it go away.  I could only try to comfort her and along with my wife and father-in-law (and the rest of the family) and be there for her.  So that’s what we did.

At times the Alzheimer’s worked to our advantage.  She forgot she disliked doctors and even forgot she hated taking pills on occasions.  She would even ride in an elevator; something she refused to do the entire time I knew her.  It was certainly not an even trade for losing one’s memory, but a small blessing in some ways.

The true point of no return occurred April 14, 2013.  While entering her home she tripped and fell, breaking her hip.  By the time we visited with her after surgery on April 15, the end had begun.  That afternoon we watched the television in her room in pure horror as the events at the Boston Marathon were played out.  At some point she woke and was confused, which can certainly be expected after surgery.  Shortly after that, she refused the meal they brought her.  She would never eat an entire meal again.  As she went through rehabilitation for her hip her body healed rather quickly, but not her mind.  In the early days of her almost eight month hunger strike, we thought it would pass.  She would begin to eat, regain strength and perhaps some of her faculties.

Soon she was back in the comfort of her own home and we hoped this would help her.  It did not.  The confusion grew and she continued to refuse any type of food.  Some days she would not even drink anything.  We visited daily and did our best to try to encourage her to eat.  From that point in late April, communication with her was hit or miss.  She would start a sentence, but stop mid-way through and say never mind.  The fragments she did say seemed (at that point in April and May) to return to her final trip to England.  She would state how she should never have come here (she was safe in her own home) and didn’t know how she was going to get home.  Of course, not all in one sentence; just fragments ending with “never mind”.  I suspect that at this point in her decline she still knew what she was saying wasn’t correct, and on occasion her comments indicated this.

As spring turned into summer, no real improvement came for her.  There would be moments and sometimes days of a somewhat clear state of mind, but she still refused food.  The doctors said to offer all types of food and drink, but she wasn’t having it.  When asked why she would not eat, her reply often was that “they told her she should not eat”.  Who was this “they” that gave such advice?  We tried and tried to find out what was going on to no avail.  Was she remembering her childhood in the shelters when food was rationed?  We don’t even know that she experienced that, but it sounded plausible.  Whoever “they” were, real people from the past or simply voices in her head, “they” were persistent and she repeated their instructions whenever asked.  How do you fight an enemy that only exists in another person’s mind or memories?  We learned we couldn’t.  Her disease had short circuited the part of her brain that should have let hunger overpower imaginary voices.  (I need to mention that a feeding tube was not an option.  Her Living Will was quite clear on this.)

Fall approached and so did another defining point, a massive infection.  She was hospitalized and given antibiotics that required her transfer to a nursing home while she finished the regiment.  We had been discussing hospice care for some time, but my father-in-law wanted to wait.  Now the waiting was over.  So many doctors, nurses, case workers and staff at the nursing home reassured him it was a good idea that we finally had a meeting with them in early September, while she was still at the nursing home.

I cannot say enough good things about the hospice workers.  That very first meeting lasted almost two hours and all our questions we answered.  My father-in-law felt comfortable with the decision to enter her into the care of the hospice workers.  Then he made the bravest, least selfish decision I have possibly ever had the honor of seeing first-hand.  Honoring a promise made years ago that she would not be put into a nursing home, he stated he wanted her to come home.  So that Saturday in September, we moved her back home and started meeting all the members of the hospice staff that would be visiting.  We were told she most likely would pass within three weeks based on her condition. Hospice quickly had her anxiety medicine turning into a strong liquid compound that required only a small dose be squirted into the side of her mouth to be effective.  Finally, she began to have a calmer demeanor.  However, “they” continued to win the battle and she did not eat other than a mouthful here and there.

She was never alone.  Her husband of 59 years stuck by her side literally by lying in bed with her for hours on end during the daytime watching television.  Despite the fact that her restless nights would surely mean no sleep for him, he still shared a bed with her and did his best to comfort her.  Deb and I stopped by daily and her son came home as many weekends as he could.  Everyone did their best to see that she had plenty of company.

The three week window came and went without any major developments.  As October passed, she became confined to her bed and was moved to a chair on rare occasion.  “Death is imminent”, was the prognosis repeated over and over.  While I sat with her one October afternoon, she was quite upset and I asked her why.  My suspicions were finally confirmed as she looked at me and said “I have to get to the shelter, but I can’t”.  She was trapped in a childhood nightmare.  Now, let me be clear about the fact that we were very careful to NEVER discuss our suspicions or say anything in front her that could trigger these memories.  In our non-medical, non-scientific opinions it made sense.  We had watched as any recent memories became erased and seen how she hardly ever recognized us in her final months.  Yet the longer you had known her, the more likely she was to remember you.  For example, in the middle of a bad spell she recognized her sister whom she had known most of her life, but no one else.  Additionally, when asked about things from several decades earlier she could recall things details, but not remember what occurred five minutes previous.

November came and Deb, my daughter and me travelled to our son’s wedding in Florida and the Bahamas, with much nervousness.  By the time we left she was completely confined to her bed and barely ever spoke.  Midway through our trip we were told again that her death was imminent and we came home a week early.  She was strong and held on though.  They told us we needed to tell her it was okay to let go.  My father-in-law, bless his soul, could not do this.  He had been with her 24/7 (literally) for three months and didn’t complain once.  He said he just couldn’t be the one to tell her that.  I tried.  Once.  Only once.  While I was alone with her, I looked into her eyes and told her it was okay to let go and move on.  Although she no longer spoke with any regularity, she made her reply clearly known by shaking her head no, quite emphatically.  I asked her if she was afraid to and she rolled her eyes and made a face that I fully understood as an “Oh please” as she shook her head no again.  I don’t know why she wasn’t ready, but she wasn’t.  She had been literally skin and bones for weeks (I don’t say this casually, it is the horrific truth and an example of what this disease can do to a person), yet she felt it wasn’t time yet. Death could not have her until she was ready.

The hospice nurse worked on assuring her that everyone would be looked after and taken care of once she was gone.  We all continued to comfort her as she lost control of her arms and they flailed about any time she tried to move them (again, I apologize if this is disturbing, but I want the ugly face of this disease exposed for those that haven’t experienced it).  December came and winter approached.  Her winter approached as well.  On December fourth, our daily visit found her breathing irregularly and her focus pretty much gone.  After reading all the materials hospice had provided, I was sure that the end would come within 48 hours.  We told my father-in-law to call us if he saw any change that raised his concern.  He seemed to know the end was near, but still wanted to hold on.

In the early hours of December 5th, everyone in my house was awoken by a loud banging noise that stopped as quickly as it had started.  Deb jumped up and sat on the side of our bed to listen, after hearing no further noises she laid back down.  Brittany had the same experience.  I wasn’t sure what had happened, but knew I was awoken by something.  Within minutes, the phone rang.  We knew why.  My favorite mother-in-law had just passed.  My father-in-law said he had known she was a short time earlier, as he had heard he labored breathing.  Then he had woken up, gone to the bathroom and when he returned, noticed she was silent and called us right away.  Before I go any further, let me say that I will make no claims as to what made the noises that woke us, but I will say I am thankful for the fact it happened because we were all awake and somewhat clear-headed already.  This made it much easier to rush over to their home.

Upon arriving there, I went in and checked on her.  When no one else was in the room, I put my hand under her nose to see if she was breathing at all.  She was not, but she did look at peace.  More at peace than I had seen her in a long time.  She died with dignity in the comfort of her own bed thanks to a loving husband, supportive family and the unbelievable support provided by the people from Beacon Hospice.

We waited for the on-call nurse from hospice to come.  My daughter and her boyfriend arrived first, about five minutes behind us.  We all gathered in the front room and continued to wait.  When the nurse arrived he was shaking.  It was his first call so he had never done this before.  In a moment of brief levity that my favorite mother-in-law would have surely appreciated, as the nurse leaned over her taking her vital signs his cell phone went off blaring “The Cupid Shuffle” at top volume.  Lesson learned… when verifying if someone is deceased; make sure your phone is on silent.  When he was done and had made a call to the funeral home, he quickly left.  Poor guy…

Soon the gentlemen from the funeral home arrived and after a few minutes we all watched as they drove away with her.  All my father-in-law could say was “poor girl, she never did nothing to deserve this”.  Truer words could not have been spoken.  Alzheimer’s steals so much from its victims before ultimately stealing their very life.  No one deserves that fate.  No one should be tricked by their own mind that starving to death is the only option.  It’s an awful death.  She was strong though and did not go easy.  It took just 10 days shy of eight long months for the infamous “they” to win.  Almost eight months without food and very little drink.  Doesn’t seem like one could survive that, but she did.

I will miss my favorite mother-in-law and the holidays will be very bittersweet as they were four short years ago when my great aunt passed on Christmas day.  Terrible time to experience such loss, but surrounded by family, we will be fine.  She will be present in every shiny light or glitzy decoration.

In closing, let me bring up a few things… One, Alzheimer’s is an evil, evil disease that I pray we learn more about soon and find a real cure.  Two, hospice workers rock!  Without them we could not have made it through the past several months.  My last point is almost as sad as the disease that took my mother-in-law’s life; we are too quick to forget the children of war.  Personally, I never stopped to think about what it must have been like to live in England during the Nazi bombings.  I’ve heard all the well-deserved praise for those that fought against the Nazi regime, we even call the Americans that made sacrifices to support the war effort “The Greatest Generation”.  I don’t disagree with that at all, but think it should be broadened.  We need to give special recognition to those children that grew up under such horrifying circumstances, yet carried on.  Unfortunately, I think many of them are/were like my mother-in-law and never really spoke much about it.  They never got the help or right psychological tools to deal with what they had experienced, and move on.  I firmly believe she suffered from post-traumatic-stress syndrome that went unchecked and untreated all these years.

So as you gather this holiday season, think about the families dealing with Alzheimer’s, cancer or other horrible disease and say a pray for them.  Then take a moment and add another prayer for the children of war.  All of those, that after watching their cities burn and experiencing more death than anyone (never mind a child) should, still have the courage to get up and move forward and live their lives.

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“It is this way for each of us
We all need to be held, at least twice
Once upon the day we are born
And once more when we leave this life…”

Lost Christmas Eve Narration – Trans Siberian Orchestra

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As American as apple pie, but always a proud Brit at heart…

Looking Back… Part 12: Poser…

Posted in The 1970's, The 2000's, The present..., Those Crazy 1980's... with tags , on November 26, 2010 by henryconley

I think the first time I heard the term was back in the eighties when their were so many musicians that were getting a contract based on image or stage show rather than musical talent. Obviously, it wasn’t an endearing term. Real musicians frowned upon posers as they did not understand their place in entertainment.

I’m a poser, plain and simple. Therefore I understand their role and think they serve an important purpose. I was never a great musician. I was a decent drummer, but never put the time, effort or had the discipline to be a great one. I do think I was a pretty damn good entertainer though. I put so much into the time that I was onstage and know that I was not a boring drummer. The thing is, I’m fine with this now. I like to entertain people and as I confessed at the very start of this blog almost a year ago, I love the limelight. I’ve sought it out throughout my life and when I’ve been blessed enough to bathe in it for a brief moment here and there, I can’t say I put in the time or effort that others around me did.

At this point in my life I view things a bit differently. Whereas, back when I was a younger man I had no place for the highest level of posers… Teen idols. I still cringe at the sound of the likes of Justin Bieber, but I do understand his role. The kids need ‘safe’ entertainment like him. It’s just another form of poser, but as a poser I tip my hat to him and others like him. I hope they enjoy their time in the limelight. This is nothing new to the entertainment industry and the powers that be have always understood the role of the poser. I only wish I could have been an industry-backed poser…lol.

I was a poser in the world of wrestling as well. The very brief time that I spent in the ring (or more appropriately, on the outside of the ring) was not based on hours of training and hard work. I acted as a manager and did what comes natural to me. I entertained. I let people boo me, throw things at me and I scared many a young girl with a growl. I am perfectly comfortable with this fact. Some of the wrestlers may not have been and I can’t blame them. They put it all on the line and train extremely hard to do what they do, but as far as my role… no apologies here. The opportunity arose and I snatched it. To get to play a role in my sons brief stint in the world of wrestling was an honor. Once again, I may not of put in the time that even other managers did to polish their craft, but hell, don’t tell me I didn’t play my part well. I know I did.

So there it is… I am a poser and I’m proud of it. Although, instead of poser I’d prefer to be called an entertainer. However, that probably won’t happen, so I’ll settle for poser and wear that moniker with pride…

Looking Back… Part 4: True North…

Posted in Ramblings..., Those Crazy 1980's... with tags , , on November 17, 2010 by henryconley

If you read my entries on True North, you know how special that band was (and is) to me. I feel like we really had something there with both incarnations of the band. We created some great music and put on some pretty decent live shows. The band was my first band that really played on the local scene and had any success. That makes the memories special, but there’s more to it than just that.

True North represents a time that I followed a passion and fought against odds to make something happen. I’ve alluded to the prior band I was in, Glassworks and how I had been kicked out of the band for taking too much time to deal with some family issues. I had invested almost two years of my life in that band and thought it was going to really go somewhere. When I was kicked out, it was like breaking up with a girlfriend. The band had been my life and if I hadn’t had Deb there to support me, I would have truly been lost.

True North represented a re-birth for me. I decided I wanted to continue to pursue my dream and as I’ve written about before, Kevin and I had the audacity to try start a band with just a singer and a drummer. I firmly believe God sent Jim our way and things just took off from there.

Then we rose up again after Jim’s departure. Jim did what he had to do when he left and I never faulted him for that, but we really didn’t have much of a band left without him. He had written the songs and gotten the gigs. Yet somehow we wrote new material, I stepped in as the booker and it actually worked. Lightning struck twice for us and we enjoyed even more success than we had before.

The fact that there may be very few people out there that remember us doesn’t matter. Those that were part of it do and still remember the magic. I just heard from one of our guitarists, Tim for the first time in over twenty years. He recalled how special those times were for him as well. I get the same kind of feedback from other past members as well.

Having been allowed to chase that dream and receive the full support of my family and soon to be wife, meant the world to me and has influenced me as a parent. When either of our children have expressed an interest in chasing a dream, we’ve supported them without wavering. This was a major take-away from those True North days for me. Chase your dreams, do what you can to make those special memories while doing it and then support those around you when they chase thiers….

Looking Back… Part 2: The Bizarre…

Posted in The 1960's, The 1970's, The 1990's..., The 2000's, The present..., Those Crazy 1980's... with tags , , on November 15, 2010 by henryconley

Over the past year, I shared many stories about some of the stranger things in life. Bigfoot, UFOs, my attempt at being a rock star… I wanted to revisit this and explain a little further. First, I want to reiterate that although I love vampire stories, a good visit to a historic graveyard or a good show on Bigfoot or UFOs, I have no desire to dabble in the dark side. It’s unfortunate that so many things that are mysterious or misunderstood get labelled as ‘dark’ or bad.

My interest in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and other cryptozoological creatures has nothing to do with wanting monsters or sinister creatures to exist. My interests are part nostalgic and part scientific (well pseudoscientific). As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a time when stories of Bigfoot and UFOs made the news on a regular basis. The memories of being intrigued and yes, afraid of these things kept my interest alive. However, I also love the thought that some unidentified species or one that was thought to have become extinct could still exist. I would absolutely love to see the scientists that automatically dismiss these things proven wrong. I know that I’m not alone in this fascination because the recent explosion of shows like MosterQuest, Destination Truth and similar shows indicate that others have the same interests.

What about UFOs? Well, UFOs exist… Wait a minute before you write me off… UFO stands for unidentified flying object. So if you someone sees something that can’t be explained or identified, well it’s a UFO then, isn’t it? Do I believe we are visited by little green or gray men on a regular basis? Well, I can’t say I’m in any way convinced of that, but I also wouldn’t close my mind to the concept either. My fascination is once again nostalgic. I grew up watching shows like Project Blue Book (a show about the government’s only serious investigation of UFOs) and reading books like Chariots of the Gods. Throw in the many strange things I’ve seen in the night sky over the years and I get a kick out of the subject. It’s just that simple.

My interest in vampires and things like that? Well, I’ve explained it before. They’re just cool. Nothing more to it. I’ve learned that these topics also make a good temporary escape from the day-to-day tedium of being a banker…

Looking Back… Part 1: All Those Photos…

Posted in The 1990's..., The 2000's, The present..., Those Crazy 1980's... with tags , on November 14, 2010 by henryconley

I figure as I start to look back over the past year and muse about what I’ve done with and learned from this blog, I figured I’d start with all those darn photo entries I made over the past few weeks. Yes, a lot of it was me putting off writing my final entires, but there was more to it. A lot of what this blog has been about is capturing and relaying stories and moments from my life. Well, photos tend to do a really good job of that.

Why all the Disney photos? Well, the easy answer would be that it’s one of our favorite places to visit. However, a more honest and direct answer would be that it’s my favorite place to escape the real world. Looking at those photos brings me back there and allows brief mini-escapes for me.

As usual, I want to clarify what I’m saying. It’s my favorite escape, but that doesn’t mean that I run from the challenges that life presents. Tried that before and it doesn’t work. It’s just that when we visit Disney (and even Universal Studios for that matter) they do such a good job of transporting you to another world that it’s easier to put aside your problems for a while. What can I say, it works for me… well, most of the time it does.

Many of the other non-Disney photos that I’ve posted have a lot more meaning to them than just pretty pictures as well. I don’t think I need to go into detail on each one for you to get the idea.

So what did I learn from this part of the exercise? Pictures are powerful. I can get lost in them. As I’ve mentioned so many times, you can’t live in the past but there’s no harm in visiting it from time to time. Photos are a great way to do that. I cherish my collection of photos. They’ve become my souvenirs from many a day well-spent. I wrote about my love of gift shops and picking up trinkets to remind me of my various adventures, well my photo collection are the best trinkets I’ve gathered. I hope some of you enjoyed my sharing of just a few of the thousands of pictures I’ve collected over the years…

Halloween Parties Rock…

Posted in The 1970's, Those Crazy 1980's... with tags on October 27, 2010 by henryconley

I’ve always loved a good Halloween party. My mother has always loved a good Halloween party as well and we had many while I was growing up. A personal favorite at these parties has always been a family tradition… witches brew. A combination of Hawaiian Punch and ginger ale. Throw in some fruit of sherbet (sometimes both) and you had perfection in a glass.

As I got older, my mother helped collaborate on some kind of twisted parties. We decorated the house to the max. Cobwebs, green and red lighting for an eerie effect, lots of pumpkins and twisted snacks always made for a memorable night. She even allowed my off-color (read dark and twisted) antics on occasion…

One night we probably pushed it too far. My costume that year was a werewolf. I was using a kit called ‘The Face’. It was a series of latex pieces that were attached to my face with spirits gum and then covered with makeup. The final product was a pretty decent looking werewolf. The kit came with a clear plastic face that help the latex pieces when they were not being used. It looked exactly like a person wearing the latex applications. This got my twisted wheels turning. I applied makeup to the plastic face and made it match my face. My mother had made my costume (a monks robe) and I convinced her to create a second one. I was in need of a haircut, so I enlisted Aunt Peg to cut my hair. Like the sick little teenager I was, I saved the hair… So where is all this going? Only a very disturbing prank that I played at that year’s party.

The night of the party I created a realistic version of me as a werewolf in the bathtub of the downstairs bathroom. I then covered it and the bathtub walls with fake blood. I then closed the shower curtain and waited. I then enlisted the help of a dear friend, Terry to be my accomplice. She was dressed as a psycho nurse. We arranged to argue loadly in the kitchen. She was strutting around with an axe and after an outburt in the kitchen, she followed me into the bathroom. As we loudly argued, I snuck out the bathroom window and she pulled back the show curtain. She continued to yell and make noise, drawing attention. As a crowd gathered at the bathroom door, there were many ‘ugh… gross’ and other comments as they were all convinced that I was laying there covered in fake blood. After a few ‘come on get up’ comments and such, I snuck in the house and came up behind the crowd and screamed, scaring the crap out of them.

Granted, it was in pretty porr taste, but hell the look on their faces were worth a million bucks….

RIP Terry… Miss You.

Halloween Costumes…

Posted in The 1960's, The 1970's, The 1990's..., The 2000's, Those Crazy 1980's... with tags on October 11, 2010 by henryconley

Usually, I’d put an entry like this under “The Simple Things…”, but there was nothing simple about picking out the proper Halloween costume. From a very young age, the process of picking out a costume was a huge deal. Second only to making my Christmas list. In my younger years, the costumes were primarily from the Ben Cooper costume line. These costumes consisted of a vinyl smock and a plastic mask. The mask was held on a by an elastic string that often broke or popped out-of-place. The Ben Cooper company made costumes for everything from Disney characters to classic movie monsters. They came in a cardboard box with a clear plastic window that allowed you to view the mask. Of course you had to read the side of the box to make sure you got the right size. I could wander the aisle at Grant’s department store for hours. Looking at all the boxes trying to figure out which one was the ‘coolest’ one that year. It was a process that took a while. I would start with multiple possibilities, narrow it down to two or three then finally determine the ‘winner’ for that Halloween.

As I got older, the Halloween industry took off and there were more options to choose from. Lots of cool masks, more elaborate costumes and even latex prosthetics like they used in Hollywood. The whole market exploded. Now there were Halloween stores that opened for a few months every year and so many props and costumes to pick from that the process became even more complicated. But what fun! I still get a thrill out of putting together a costume when we have a party. It’s a chance to take on a different identity. When else can I pretend to be a vampire and get away with it? Not too many, I’ve tried…