As the van rolls down the winding street, it passes a torso climbing from the gutter.
The torso is topped with a head, its face painted white with exaggerated clown lips and topped with a shock of red hair. It’s holding a red balloon in an outstretched arm.
In the adjacent driveway, a skeleton straddles a motorcycle.
As I head to the library, the grocery store, the Post Office, a row of skeletons lines, our neighbor’s front yard across the street from the elementary school.
As I drive around town, there are bloody severed limbs on porches. There are partially decomposed bodies dangling from trees.
There are bloody mummies. There are blood-splattered tools.
It’s gruesome. Horrible.
In the 11 years that my son was alive, he endured six open-heart surgeries. I’ve seen enough bloody bandages, exposed bone, pools of blood, and thick black stitches holding together skin.
I’ve seen blood-splattered floors. Blood on the machines designed to hold the bloody fluid draining from tubes, leaving my son’s body.
I see these things when I close my eyes.
When I’m trying to fall asleep at night.
When I have another nightmare.
And now they are everywhere during the day when my eyes are open.
When did blood and death and gore become mainstream entertainment gleefully displayed in front yards?
I don’t know how to avoid it because it’s everywhere.
I hate this time of year.
I hate this holiday.
For a society that tends to avoid talking about death and dying and grief, we sure love to slap it around for fun at the end of October.
Should I put my son’s ashes on display in the front yard? Should I scatter his collection of lost childhood teeth on our sidewalk?
Or maybe put them in a small bowl next to our mailbox?
Should I sprinkle his hair — the clippings I snipped after he died — on the grass? Should I hang his t-shirts on a clothesline across the front porch?
I suspect that would be in poor taste.
Because actual death is offensive.
In the meantime, if you pass the middle school in my town, you’ll see a yard with a large decorative — if that’s what you call it — tombstone at the end of their driveway.
In large letters across the front, it says, “RIP Max.”
Max is the name of the child who lives in that house. He is alive.
Is it fun to imagine that your child has died? Even when you know a family whose son has died?
When you’ve been to their house and talked about grief?
Should I put a tombstone in my front yard with Riley’s name on it?
Would it still be fun and festive?
I miss when Halloween was about pumpkins and kids dressed as firefighters or dinosaurs or cows and bunnies or Mario and Luigi.
And the gore was restricted to rentals from the local video store.