You’re never too old for Halloween

I love Halloween. Ever since I opened my bag and uttered the magical words, “Trick or Treat,” for the first time, I was hooked.haunted house

No matter if it was raining or snowing or blowing like a typhoon, I was determined to go trick or treating every year. For a little kid who was addicted to candy, it was a holiday that ranked right up there with Christmas.

The year I turned 13 was a little disappointing one. True, becoming a teenager should have been thrilling enough, but the way I saw it, it meant I had to grow up. And when my mom told me I was too old to go trick or treating, I was beyond disappointed. I got over it, though, when I realized I was now old enough to do other fun things on Halloween, things like terrorizing little kids, TPing trees, and ….

Haunted Houses!

Every year for as long as I can remember, Cedar Rapids had at least one haunted house that would terrify the pants off me. But as I got older, the thrill began to wear off.

But there was one time when I realized I wasn’t as brave as I thought. It was 1980 or ’81, and my boyfriend  at the time took me and his little sister to a haunted house, which was said to be the best yet.

“According to who?” I asked in defiance.

“Everyone I’ve talked to,” he said, trying to build it up as best he could.

“Well, I’m not afraid,” I told him as we stood in the line for our turn to get in. After nearly an hour, it was our turn. We stepped into the purplish-green light and came face to face with a mummy (with a horrible make-up job).

I turned to Bruce and said, “Told you it would be lame.”

He didn’t answer, but walked ahead me. I grabbed his hand, and then Deanna’s, and we made our way through the dark rooms, lighted only by occasional grim scenes, played out by bad actors. Fake, fake, fake, I said to myself as we wandered through the rooms.

As we went through one door, the lights suddenly went out.  I felt Bruce pull me along, but then he let go. I could hear people upstairs and in the next room banging on the walls, chains rattling, moans and shrieks sounding throughout the house.

Deanna grabbed my arm with both hands and screamed, “I need to get out of here!”  And then she screamed as loud as she could, “Let me out! Let me out!”

She pushed past me, though the door, and shut it on me.

“Wait!” I called to her but she was gone. I was on my own.

Okay, don’t panic, I told myself. My heart started to pound in my chest, as I felt my way along the wall in the dark, not really sure where I was going. I called for Bruce and Deanna but they didn’t answer.

I saw light flicker in the shadows, and I knew I was almost out. I finally found the door and opened it. But as I did, I came face to face with an ax-wielding monster!  He was about ready to bring the ax down on me when I pushed him as hard as I could, screaming so loud I could feel the muscles in my throat being stretched. For a split-second, I lost my grip on reality, and shut my eyes to the horror I was experiencing.

I could feel myself fall but couldn’t catch myself. With my eyes clenched shut, I landed on top of the would-be ax murderer. Suddenly, I heard squeals of laughter. I opened my eyes and saw Bruce and Deanna standing over us. Realizing I would live another day, I stood up and smacked Bruce on the shoulder.

“You jerk,” I told him, but I knew he got me.

The monster, who happened to be a friend of Bruce’s, stood up and took off his mask. I had to admit, they played a pretty good joke.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a really good haunted house, but there was always at least one haunted house in CR, where people could find a few thrills.

Until this year.  This is the first year in a long time since Cedar Rapids won’t have a haunted house within its city limits. Circle of Ash, located at 412 7th Avenue SE, has been around for the past 14 years, but won’t be in operation this year.  However, the website promises that it will return next year, “better than ever.”

But never fear-there are haunts that still close enough to drive to … if you dare.

Bloomsberry Farms, 3260 69th Street in Atkins, offers a variety of family activities by day and Scream Acres by night. At Scream Acres, which includes two indoor haunts-Curtain Chaos and the Slaughterhouse-and a Haunted Corn Field.

A few haunted houses are the north of Cedar Rapids, and might be worth the 45 minute drive.

Garrison’s Haunted is located in Garrison, halfway between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, but only opened on the weekends till Oct. 24.

Harris Haven Funeral Home, 3767 Lafayette Rd., Evansdale, is just outside of Waterloo. (I don’t know about you but the thought of a haunted funeral parlor is extremely tempting!)

The Heart of Darkness, 5111 Osage Road, Waterloo, is a haunt through a 22,000 square foot field.  It features a monster midway with games and entertainment, and tickets can be purchased online.

Panic Park Haunted House , 5932 North Union Road in Cedar Falls, which is home to UNI.

Dark Chambers is located at 121 E. 4th Street in Dubuque, northeast of Cedar Rapids. It also offers a lighted haunted house for a cheaper admission price.

Halloween isn’t even close to what it used to be, but it can still be pretty fun for the kids, and kids at heart, like me. And even if haunted houses are rare in your neck of the woods, you can still curl up with a great Halloween flick (many come to mind) and scare yourself silly.

A brother, like no other

Meis-McAnally family, (minus Dad, who was taking the picture) 1965

The Meis-McAnally family, (minus Dad, who was taking the picture) Easter 1965-Steve is the tall guy in the back. I’m the littlest girl in front. Jamie is in the red jacket.

My brother Steve, died a few weeks ago from cancer. He was diagnosed one week and died the next. I prayed, as many of us did, that God would spare his life, but I added a little footnote; if God had to take him, please make it quick.

I’ve learned that God has his own plans for us, and all we can do is appreciate the time we have. I have so many wonderful memories of my brother, he will always be with us.

Steve, who leaves behind his wife, Mary, 3 sons, and a daughter, would have been 66 on Nov. 3 this year.

He started his own a surveying business in Colorado a while back, where he has lived for past 48 years. Steve fell in love with the mountains while he was stationed at the Air Force base in Colorado Springs, and stayed after his time with them was done.

Steve was someone I looked up to my entire life, literally. At 6 foot 8 inches, he was the tallest guy I had ever known. The Air Force had to order special shoes for him; size 13, extra narrow.

I learned a lot from him, including not to trust anyone who hands you a $20 for no reason (he snatched it back, laughing his head off. Are you kidding? he told me. What did I know … I was 4), or listen to someone who dares you to do something you know you shouldn’t.

Steve saved my brother, Jamie, and I from drowning when we were little. Our family was visiting Steve in Colorado Springs and spent a few days at a little motel outside of Manitou Springs. I was a novice swimmer, being 7 and all, and Jamie, who was three years older, already had lessons.

I saw Jamie swimming in the deep end and he convinced me that he could teach me how to swim in one lesson.

“Come on! Jump in! I’ll catch you. You’ll be swimming like a pro in no time!”

I should have listened to my gut when it told me (or screamed), “No, don’t! You’ll be sorry!”

I looked around. We were the only ones there. I could have backed out, but Jamie was my hero. I didn’t want him to let him down. So I jumped in … right on top of him!

This happened 45 years ago, but I still remember how it felt as the water tried to drag me down, the struggle to hang onto my brother, the taste of the chlorinated water as I sucked it into my lungs.

I was terrified, and though I knew I was taking Jamie down with me, I couldn’t help myself. I swear I saw my entire 7 years fly by.

But then an angel appeared. Steve saw us struggling and dove in to save us. He led us to the side of the pool, me coughing, and Jamie already screaming  at me, something about trying to kill him.

If it weren’t for Steve, we might have drowned.

I don’t think Steve and I ever talked about it, but I know if I had brought it up, he wouldn’t have taken credit for it. Most likely he would have waved it away, like it was no big deal.

But it was to Jamie and I.

It’s funny how life works. If Steve hadn’t been there, Jamie and I would have most likely drowned. Maybe he was put here for us, maybe us for him. Who knows? I just know that my life is much better because Steve was in it.