The scariest, yet funniest, Halloween of my long life happened just three years ago, and every year when Halloween rolls around my memory banks fill my head with that day and evening.
We’d made a difficult decision to move my dad, just short of his 101st birthday, into a care facility where we knew he’d be better cared for than we could any longer manage. In the turmoil of making all the arrangements, meeting with doctors, nurses and caretakers, moving some things into his room, etc., I’d simply not noticed that the day we’d arranged to have him moved happened to be Oct. 31, Halloween.
The van from the nursing facility arrived to pick him up, and imagine my surprise when it was being driven by a stunningly dressed Cleopatra, and when her assistant got out to help my father into the van, it was a tutu-clad Blue Fairy smiling at my dad, the golden halo attached to her head bobbing as she nodded and spoke softly about where they were going. To say he looked confused would be a major understatement. Yes, everyone from the facility was dressed in costume and Dad was about to attend their big Halloween party.
We entered their large community hall and were greeted by a nurse wearing a chicken costume with a large red rooster comb on her head. She got my dad comfortably seated where he could see and hear the planned entertainment, and gently placed a large plastic Jack-o-Lantern filled with wrapped candies in his lap. It was for him to pass out when visiting school kids came around to trick-or-treat. He smiled at her, looked into the pumpkin and proceeded to slowly pull out the candies, one by one, unwrap them and pop them into his mouth, grinning at me. I tried to explain, but I could tell he thought it was a very nice welcoming treat for him.
The scheduled visiting school kids, all dressed in various costumes, arrived and began moving around the room from person to person, smiling and saying “trick-or-treat” and getting a piece of candy from each, except from my Dad, who continued to slowly suck on and enjoy each carefully unwrapped piece. The little kids would walk up, looking at Dad expectantly, and he’d smile and say, “Hello, and who are you supposed to be?” They’d quickly move on.
After some sing-along entertainment and one or two other short skits about Halloween, it was finally time to take Dad to his new room, the room in which he would spend only another couple of months before quietly leaving us. He was escorted to that room by a male attendant, dressed in costume, who would stay with him for a time to be sure he got settled, knew where things were and how to find his way around. It was time for me to be on my way. I kissed him and told him I’d return soon.
When I left the room, Dad was sitting in a large reclining chair, his big hand being held in the two hands of The Devil, who was talking softly to him, smiling and nodding his horned head. I could only wonder what was going on in Dad’s head on that, his last, Halloween.
Halloween is, for most kids, all about the treats, and if you’re inclined to make some of your handouts for the little doorbell ringers, you might consider these delicious treats. But you may be reading this after Halloween, so let me assure you, these are welcome any time, whether you’re a kid or an adult.
PEANUT BUTTER FINGERS
1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 ½ cups creamy peanut butter, divided (see instructions; don’t use reduced fat p.b.)
1 ½ t. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
½ t. salt
For frosting: 6 T. butter, softened
4 cups confectioners sugar
½ cup powdered cocoa
1 t. vanilla
6-8 T. milk
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Add 1 cup peanut butter, the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture. Spread into a greased 15×10 baking sheet or pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 13 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack, then spread with remaining peanut butter and allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting: In a bowl, combine butter, confectioners sugar, cocoa and vanilla; add enough milk to bring the mixture to spreading consistency. Spoon over the peanut butter layer of the bars and spread evenly. Cut into bars after the frosting sets a bit. Makes about three dozen bars.
The perfect combination of salty and sweet; these won’t last long whether it’s Halloween or just a treat for the family any day or night.
1 cup chopped salted peanuts
¾ cup flour
¾ cup quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
½ t. salt
½ t. baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup cold butter
Topping: 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
2/3 cup caramel topping
1 ¾ cup salted peanuts
In a bowl, combine the peanuts, flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and baking soda. Stir in the egg. Cut the butter into the mixture until crumbly. Press the mixture into a greased 9×13 pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Spoon marshmallow creme over the hot crust, then carefully spread evenly. Drizzle with the caramel topping and sprinkle with peanuts. Pop them back in the oven and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack and then cut into bars. Makes three dozen.