Another day in the country: Meeting something new

© Another Day in the Country

We were cleaning up the kitchen after supper when my daughter said, “Dagfinnr’s already decided what he wants to dress up like on Halloween this year.”

Six months early, he’d found some old mask with a hood that blanks out his face, but he could see through it and thought it was the greatest prop ever. When he found a stick with a crook in it for walking, he was set with what he calls his “death” costume.

I’d never seen it. I didn’t know what to expect, so my daughter said, “Imagine the Grim Reaper and prepare to act very surprised.”

I could do that, however it didn’t take a whole lot of expertise to jump when this figure, masked in black, suddenly appeared at my elbow.

“Oh death,” I chattered, “What do you want?”

When this four-foot figure didn’t answer, I didn’t know what to do except keep asking questions. I felt strangely out of control because I didn’t know how to play this game, so I just kept babbling on, “Am I supposed to come with you, or are you just intent on frightening me? Do you have a message? If I see you, am I dead? What?”

Death shrugged his shoulders in exasperation and finally peeled back the mask. Two very serious brown eyes looked at me.

“Death isn’t used to answering so many questions, Baba.”

I finally got the hang of it. When the lights would go out in the living room, death was on his way. Figures. Instead of asking questions, I was supposed to just follow death to wherever he was leading me.

“This isn’t really a game,” my grandson intoned, wearily removing the mask.About the fourth time that I insisted on asking questions, the mask came up.

“Death just wants to make you happy. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Obviously, he was trying to ease up a bit so I’d keep playing.

“Death takes you to one of two places,” he explained. “Either you are happy or you’re not.”

I could tell he was making this up as we went.

“That’s it, or you grow up.”

That explanation made a certain amount of sense to me. That’s about as much as we really know about death, although we tell each other we know more. We’re either going to be happy or not, and whatever the outcome we have to grow up.

Just in case I was getting too spooked by the sinister looking hooded figure with the directional crook that steered me through the house, periodically the lights would come on and a smiling mischievous-looking boy would appear proclaiming, “Hi, how are you doing?”

The next day we went to an event in the park straight out of medieval times. A “heavy metal” club, dressed in fancy armor were practicing their fighting techniques. Death came with us, strangely fitting right into the scene. It didn’t take long before our costumed kid got tired of standing around in a hot hood waiting for something to happen. He stripped the costume off his head and ran to play with his cousins.

When I leave the sameness of home, there are so many new encounters, so many new things to get used to, and so many strange experiences. I guess that is what vacations are all about.

“California seems different than I remember, even though I’m back every year. It is busier than ever,” I say to myself.

The traffic is non-stop and there seems to be a high percentage of women who are slender and fit. Here in Kansas, I rarely see men walking around in suits other than at funerals. Not so in Napa Valley. Neither are there smooth sidewalks in Ramona or reserved parking spaces. These are some of the things one notices while you’re waiting in California, which rarely happens in Kansas unless a train is blocking the tracks into Ramona.

Of all the unusual things I’ve seen however, my encounter with death was the most poignant. There were so many metaphors in our pretend game, and I learned something. Someday when I encounter the real thing, on some day in the country, I’ll be a little more cooperative. After all, as my grandson says, “He just wants you to be happy.”

 

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