My husband. What a joker he was.
We were headed down Route 23 on our way to the Circleville pumpkin festival. It's the largest pumpkin festival in Ohio. Or so I’m told.
That's when my husband told me the funniest story I've ever heard.
He told me about this pumpkin. But it's not a normal pumpkin. It's a magical pumpkin. A great pumpkin that rises up from pumpkin patches around the world and blesses children with gifts and candy on Halloween.
Well what if they don't believe in him?
Then he kills you! He screamed as he reached out and grabbed my breast.
I laughed. We laughed. Both of us giggled all the way to the festival.
Just imagine a story like that? A giant pumpkin creature that rises from pumpkin patches. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a Halloween Santa Claus to me.
I'm almost certain that our church group wouldn't approve of the great pumpkin. I wonder if they've ever heard of it? I wonder if I should tell them about it?
My husband and I travel to the Pumpkin Festival every year. It's held a very special place in our hearts for decades. It was here, on the Ferris Wheel, where my husband proposed to me many years ago in October of 1958.
It's also where we took our kids every single year. They're now on their own. Living thousands of miles away from Ohio. In fact, we haven't seen them in quite some time.
Anyway, the whole family would all don orange sweatshirts, hop in our old yellow station wagon and head down Route 23. Just like we're doing today.
Although a lot has changed, my husband and I still wear our orange sweatshirts to the festival every single year. And every single year, my husband always grumps and groans about wearing it. He even makes a joke that he looks like a giant Sunkist orange. Ha. Imagine that. A giant Sunkist orange walking around the Pumpkin Festival.
He's so funny.
You know, I've always savored the small-town atmosphere of festivals. When I was growing up, I remember visiting the Corn Festival, the Betty Zane Days Festival and even the Apple Festival. And let's not forget about all the county fairs in Ohio.
The great thing about all of these trips was the fact that you could always count on a few good crackers from my husband.
What a jokester he was.
But our devotion was always to the Circleville Pumpkin Festival. We haven't missed a year since I can remember. Even when our youngest son died a few years back. We still went.
My husband just loved all the pumpkin-related food. From pumpkin fries to pumpkin shakes, even pumpkin cake. He loved to eat it all up.
I won't lie. I enjoyed it too.
He also liked the Pumpkin beer. Suffice to say, I had a feeling that I was going to be driving home that night. Not that my husband was a heavy drinker or anything like that. But, in my book it was always better to be safe than sorry. You know, with the police and all.
We had the windows down in the car. The fresh, cool air was blowing in our faces. I closed my eyes and imagined that I was a dog lapping up the air with my tongue.
Sometimes I wished that I was a dog. To not have a care in the world.
Then I felt a chill. I knew it was going to be a cold night. I looked in the backseat and grabbed my jacket. I'm told my husband how happy I was that I brought it. Especially if we were going to go on the rides that he always dragged me on. That little adventurous jokester.
We arrived at the festival around dusk and found a particular parking place that was very close to our Ferris wheel.
Before we exited the truck, I grabbed my husband's hand and smiled. Lately, the wrinkles on his face were a lot more noticeable. What with his work and the layoffs at the factory. I was positive that tonight was going to be a nice relaxing break for the both of us.
He smiled back. It was a nice smile. A trusting smile. The same honest smile I've looked at for the past forty-plus years we've been together. It was a smile that told me everything was going to be all right.
If I only knew then what I know now.
The town of Circleville was alive with the colors and sounds of Autumn. Orange lights were strung across the street. A polka band was playing Octoberish music in a tent up ahead. And the crowd was jolly and cheerful. People in pumpkin outfits held hands, celebrated and cheered for the upcoming harvest.
Or did the harvest already happen? I get so confused about that stuff.
My husband grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the concession booth. We purchased some pumpkin cotton candy and a cup of pumpkin beer. I'm not what you call a strong drinker. I let my husband by the beer and prefer to take some small sips from his beers. It makes me feel like we're 20 years old again.
And that suits me just fine.
On our way to the Ferris wheel, we passed a gaming booth filled with orange balloons painted like pumpkins.
Wanna win your lady a little prize, sir?
My husband pulled out a five-dollar bill. I blushed.
Now you would think that my husband would just stand straight forward while aiming at the pumpkin balloons. Oh mercy no. Then you really don't know my unconventional husband.
He turned around with his back toward the balloons and slowly took aim with the arrow while looking over his shoulder.
A young couple chuckled at my husband's goofiness. They soon applauded when he hit the mark and the balloon popped.
That's when I became the proud owner of a fluffy, pumply pumpkin with a sad, sad face. It almost looked like a Ringling Brothers clown, but orange.
I laughed out loud with excitement.
That's my husband. He's always thinking of something creative to do to spice up our life.
We then made a beeline to the Ferris wheel. It was our tradition to ride it every year. He proposed to me on a Ferris wheel just like this many, many years ago.
The operator took our tickets and we boarded compartment No. 13.
Looks like our lucky day.
I laughed again at my husband. What a goof.
The ride operator, or carny as my husband used to call them, tipped his hat like we were in some old movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart.
Enjoy the ride you two love birds.
I blushed again. Then I laughed at the thought of two orange birds flying in the sky with hearts popping around them. Love birds. Ha.
I glanced over to my husband. He was quiet.
And then we were off. The ferris wheel jolted us high up into the sky. We could see the full moon. Or is it a harvest moon? We could see all of Circleville. We saw the Giant Pumpkin that weighed in over 1,000 pounds. We could see the whole majestic pumpkin festival. It's the biggest in all of Ohio. Or so I'm told.
If I only knew then what I know now.
The wind was blowing rather hard that night. The brown and orange leaves jetted and swirled around the dark October sky. They reminded me of first grade when we made little paper airplanes during art class. When I got home and everyone was asleep I would grab my father's matches, light the paper airplanes on fire, then throw them out my bedroom window.
How I loved being a child. The serenity. The honesty. The way we could make something fun out of anything. Sort of like my wonderful husband. The little jokester. I loved him so much.
This was a great time, a wonderful time for us to be together. To forget about the layoff. To forget about our family. To forget about the lawsuit. I gave him a kiss on the cheek.
I told him I loved him. He didn't respond.
We went around and around on the Ferris wheel for what seeemed to be forever. I felt like a happy hamster on a wheel in a cage.
Suddenly, the big orange wheel came to an abrupt halt. I thought of us very fortunate to be stopped at the very top.
The beautiful orange glow of the festival seemed to warm us from the cold, October sky. For a brief moment, it felt like we were on top of the world.
In fact, I decided to make a little joke myself. I held out my hands and yelled like that actor in the movie about the sunken ship.
I'm the king of the world!
I giggled and glanced over at my husband. He was staring straight ahead and frowning. He seemed a bit morose? Is that the word I'm looking for? Morose?
I squeezed his arm and told him that everything was going to be okay.
He gave me strange look. It was a look that I have never, ever seen before. It was a look that I will always remember forever.
He shook his head and wiped away a solitary tear rolling down his face.
I'm sorry my love. Everything's not going to be all right.
I didn't understand.
I lost everything. The house. The boat. The car. Our retiremement. Everything.
He was speaking gibberish that I honestly didn't understand.
His face went white as he looked into my eyes.
I really, truly, honestly didn't understand. Until he reached into his pocket.
My eyes focused. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak.
I will always love you.
Before I could say anything. He pulled the trigger.
Then I started to laugh.
I laughed while others around me screamed. I laughed when the ride operator dragged me from the ride. I laughed as the paramedics wiped the blood from my face and clothes. I laughed until I was given a sedative. I even laughed after that.
In fact, I haven't stopped laughing.
My husband was always pulling pranks. But this one took the cake.
My husband. What a joker he was.