November 27, 2003

// May 11th, 2010 // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Our first Thanksgiving without Steve has come and nearly gone. Only a few hours remain. It was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect ~ sunny and warm, the slight breeze traipsing through the house and carrying the turkey’s aroma out into both yards.
Mom, Dad, my sister, brothers and their families made the trip through thick holiday traffic to be here. Dave drove across town to get his Aunt Ada, and we were joined by our good friends Georgie, Burton and their daughter Jessica. Georgie’s one stipulation for joining us was, “We’d love to come, but only if the guys do the dishes.” “Ok! Sounds good to me!” I thought she was joking ~she wasn’t.
Lighthearted conversation and laughter floated in our midst as we worked together to put this biggest meal of the year on the table. Dinner neared and as I stirred the gravy Davey came up behind me, wrapping me in a bear hug. My nephew is so much taller than I am now and he leaned in to whisper “I miss him.” “I know, sweetie. I do too.” I had been alright all day, until that moment. A tear threatened to escape my right eye but I threatened it back. “You have no place here, buddy.” I silently told it.
Once the busyness of preparing the meal was over and the food was on the tables I felt the sudden need to insulate myself from the festivity. The tears were no longer intimidated by my reserve. I sneaked into the back bathroom to try to collect myself. Instead, as I stood there I began to sob. I didn’t want to join everyone for dinner until I could stop crying so I sat on the side of the tub, breathing deeply as I tried to calm myself. I could hear my family’s chatter and the clatter of dishes being passed around tables. I heard someone ask, “Where’s Debbie?” breaking down the last wall of my commitment not to cry.
Don’t they know how hard this day is for me? How I have always loved Thanksgiving and that now there is a gaping hole in the celebration.
I had only been hidden away for a few minutes when Jae and Nett came to find me. The back bathroom is much too small to support three women as they console each other so we adjourned to Jae’s room. We sprawled out on Jae’s big bed where we cried together and talked. We shared some happy Steve memories, a mutual favorite being of Steve and Nick eating their Thanksgiving desserts with one foot out the front door as Jeremy patiently waited for everyone to get on the road to the desert. Even as a grown man Steve was so cute when he was excited about something, like leaving for his second favorite place in the world. He would playfully scrunch up his shoulders and bounce up and down like a toddler. It was body language that shouted, “Let’s Go!”
After a little laughter we all felt ready to join our family and friends for dinner. I was able to fully enjoy the rest of the day with a thankful heart.

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