Category Archives: October glory


moon between trees







Hand-painted pumpkins greet visitors at the entrance to Mom's assisted living. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Hand-painted pumpkins greet visitors at the entrance to Mom’s assisted living. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Erma Bombeck was one of my mother’s favorite humor writers.   Not only was she a good writer, but her books and columns also contained real life truths.   I remember Mom laughing, and then she would read aloud the excerpt and say something like, “I know just how she feels!”

This Bombeck quote perfectly describes my mother:  “A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.”   Mom was the perfect, appreciative audience for her costumed grandchildren…and all children.

Seven years ago, these were the types of trick or treaters Mom enjoyed most--her great-grandchildren!

Seven years ago, these were the types of trick or treaters Mom enjoyed most–her sweet great-grandchildren!



When Mom opened the front door and greeted the young neighborhood kids chirping “Trick or Treat,” she pretended not to know any of them. “Oh my, who is this pirate on my porch?” she might say.   Or, “What a scary ghost you are!” and “I didn’t know we had a real princess living nearby!”   The children would giggle and hold out their sacks, and most of them said, “Thank you” for the goodies she gave to them.   It was a happy time.



Then, as years went by, Mom and Dad started forgetting names and faces—and not just when children were in Halloween costumes—so they began leaving a bowl of candy on the patio table (and eventually they even forgot to do that).   They would turn off the porch lights and the indoor lights, lock the doors and go to bed early. Halloween was no longer fun for them; it was too confusing.

There is a traditional Scottish saying about Halloween that is also a prayer: “From ghoulies and ghosties ~ And long-legged beasties ~ And things that go bump in the night ~ Good Lord, deliver us!”

Based on my own experiences with my parents—and as a prayer for all of us—I’ll add this:   “From confusion and fear and forgotten memories ~ From the losses and sorrows of Alzheimer’s and dementia ~ And from scary things that go bump in the night ~ Good Lord, deliver us!”


Farmers harvest a HUGE smile for Halloween.

Farmers harvest a HUGE smile for Halloween.

Our daughter Molly made these Halloween "teeth" treats for her kids' class rooms: apples slices with peanut butter holding the marshmallow teeth.

Our daughter Molly made these Halloween “teeth” treats for her kids’ class rooms: apples slices with peanut butter holding the marshmallow teeth.


Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, October glory, special quotations


Dear Mom,

What is it about autumn? During my last visit with you, by mid-afternoon I was turning on all the lights in your apartment. Overhead lights, table lamps, the kitchen and hall lights, anything to make the day seem brighter, longer.


October is a month that seems to tell us to slow down, to rest and brace for the winter days ahead. October means shorter days with less light, but also mood swings that match color swings. Leaves change from green to gold, red, orange and yellow, brilliant at first, but then they turn brown and fall from the trees, leaving spindly bare branches.

October is one of the SADD months, when less light causes Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder in many people, which causes problems including making them feel less energetic, creative and hopeful. (I learned that SADD is also actually an acronym for numerous situations and organizations, including Students Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Senior Attention Deficit Disorder, and my favorite now that our daughter Molly found this and pointed it out–Same Accident Different Day–which is a real acronym, too.)

Some adults, and many children, might think that Halloween is the only bright spot in October. But there’s another day coming soon that should make us all smile: Sweetest Day. In 1922 Herbert Birch Kingston declared the third Saturday of October as Sweetest Day. Herbert Kingston was a Cleveland, Ohio philanthropist and candy company employee. To show orphans, shut-ins and the under-priveleged that they were not forgotten, on Sweetest Day he gave them candy and small gifts, and he often recruited movie stars to distribute the gifts. For instance, on the first Sweetest Day in 1922, movie star Ann Pennington presented 2,200 Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy in appreciation for their service to the public.

Mom, you were only four years old when Herbert Birch Kingston initiated the first Sweetest Day, and I don’t know if you ever realized that each year the third Saturday in October was the day of this celebration. But I’ll tell you what I do remember you saying about “blue” days, cloudy or feeling-down days that people complained about.  You said that the best way to cheer yourself up was to help someone else. To make your own day brighter and happier, the best thing to do was brighten another’s day.

I remember gray rainy days, not just in October but also in other months, when I’d come into the kitchen and you’d be kneading bread dough or baking cookies or making jam to pour in pretty little jars. It wasn’t just your regular baking. When the project was done, you’d take a jar or a wrapped loaf or plate of cookies and go to visit someone who was ill or was alone or troubled. And you’d send me out, too, with another treat to deliver to someone. As I got older, I could choose the neighbor or friend on my own, because I’d picked up from you the message of cheer or friendship that would be delivered along with the goodies.

Were you doing it for them, Mom, or sometimes were you also doing it for yourself? Is this why I don’t remember you being discouraged or lethargic or sad…because you encouraged yourself at the same time you encouraged others?

Thank you, Herbert Birch Kingston, for your generosity and concern on Sweetest Day.  Thank you, Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd, for your generosity and concern for others during any other days that needed a little sweetness.

This year, Sweetest Day is next Saturday, October 20th.  Friday, October 19th, is “Evaluate Your Life” Day.  Hmm. Not a bad combination. October is looking better and brighter already.

Smiling llama, North Pole (Colorado) all photographs by Marylin Warner

The Yarn Tree: group project at Old Colorado City Library, Colo. Springs west side


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, October glory

Autumn Homes

Dear Mom,

You and I have always loved the last weeks of October.  In autumn the trees changed from green to brilliant red and orange, bright yellow and gold.  When they were at the peak of their change, we pressed my favorite leaves between books.  They became the “accents” in almost every room, spread out on tables and counters and bookshelves until they crumbled apart.

When I was a child, we raked the leaves into huge piles at the curb,jumped into the center, and then raked them back into piles.  On chilly evenings, all over the neighborhood the children watched in wide-eyed wonder while adults monitored the crackling, burning leaves.  Sunday evenings at our house meant eating popcorn and sliced apples while we watched Gunsmoke and Bonanza.

Things change.  Children grow up, move away, and many have their own children and grandchildren now.  Spouses and friends are gone, and houses hold new families.  The October lawns are still covered in rustling colors, but leaf burning is banned.  And on crisp fall evenings you no longer sit at the picture window, a notebook open on your lap as you pen poems and stories about children jumping in leaves and animals preparing for winter.  Your home now is a cozy apartment on the second floor of Presbyterian Village, and your failing memory and poor vision no longer inspire writing ideas.

So during this visit, as the sky darkened outside we turned on all the lights in your living room.  You snuggled in your recliner, covered with the fluffy bright green blanket.  We shared microwave popcorn and orange slices.  I flipped through some of your light verse poetry, reading the titles aloud until you seemed to choose the one titled “Homes.”

The milk cow sleeps in the barn,

A house is home for folks.

The little birds sleep in a nest in a tree;

In the pond the bull-frog croaks.


The milk cow wouldn’t like my bed,

And I couldn’t sleep in a nest.

The bull-frog doesn’t like the barn.

Each one thinks his home is the best.

Mom, that’s  your charming poem, “Homes.”  You didn’t recognize it as something you had written.  As I reread it, you closed your eyes and took a nap.  I kept reading, just in case…

Things change, but memories remain, passed from mother to daughter to grandchildren to great-grandchildren.  It’s okay if you forget, Mom.  I’ll remember for you, and pass the memories on.  I promise.

Love, Marylin


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for grandchildren, October glory