Today is the second Thanksgiving since Leif died, our second one without him. Last year we went to the DC area and spent Thanksgiving surrounded by Lannay's family, Peter A's family and Rick's family, a large group of warm and loving relatives that made the holiday special and took away the sting of our loss, though it was ever on my mind. I didn't think I could bear to face Thanksgiving here without family last year and I am grateful we had the possibility of so many of us being together. I needed that and they were all so good to us.
We stayed with Rick and Mac, had such a good time with them and their daughters, enjoyed Mac's wonderful Thai food. We celebrated Marcus's eighth birthday there, spent time with Peter A. and Darlene, too, briefly, as they were engrossed in packing to move to India. We enjoyed a terrific Thanksgiving dinner with the whole gang at Lannay's and Doug's house, and I was glad we could take my mother with us to be a part of it.
This year is so different. Rick and Mac are in Germany. Peter and Darlene are in India. That kind of gathering may never be possible again, so I continue to be thankful for it, that it could happen when I needed it most.
Now we will just have three of us for Thanksgiving dinner, Peter W., my mother and me. I always conceived of Thanksgiving as a large family gathering, and for nearly all the years of my life, it was, whether my own birth family sharing our bounty with neighbors, or us having Peter W.'s relatives in Germany come to our house for our feast, or at least the four of us when we lived far away in Japan or Hawaii. Sometimes we went to the army mess hall to be with others. Back in Kansas after Peter W. retired from the army, we all went to my mother's house, where we had from 13-16 people gathered to celebrate. And then, when we moved to Florida, it was the four of us, Peter W., me, mom and Leif.
How I looked forward to Leif's arrival, waiting for his car to drive up the driveway, usually announcing itself with loud music or at least the insistent beat of the bass. I waited for that tall, strong guy to come in the door and give me a big bear hug. That will never happen again, and Thanksgiving will always be saddened by knowing that.
I wish we could have Peter A's family with us, but the expectation of their presence hasn't been there ever, as he hasn't come home for Thanksgiving since he left home and except for last year, we weren't able to travel to be where he was on Thanksgiving, either, sometimes because we needed to be home for Oma (Peter W's mother) and not leave her alone on Thanksgiving, sometimes for Leif, sometimes for my mother, or all three. But except when Leif was in the army, he was always with us on Thanksgiving, always until 2008, so a part of what we came to count on was his presence.
Last year I knew I had a lot to be thankful for but it was hard to feel it. Grief was too new and too acute, only seven months after Leif's death. It was one thing to know I had much to be grateful for; it was another thing to feel grateful when my heart was broken and I was sad and missing Leif, just trying to get through the days without ruining them for others.
This year, I am still sad at times. I still cry for him. I still miss him, but this year I can feel thankful and grateful for my wonderful, loving husband, for my son Peter A., for my grandchildren, for my mother, for my home and my country, for all the experiences I've been blessed to have, the material things I am fortunate enough to own. In so many ways, life is good. I am grateful for my family, my brother and sisters and their families, for my friends, for freedom and freedom from want and hunger. I don't ever want to forget all the good in my life and only concentrate on loss and mourning.
So today I will be thankful, even though I may have some tears in my eyes when the table is set for only three, and I will be thankful for Leif, for my brilliant and handsome son, who taught me much, who I loved, who I had for thirty-three years. I will be grateful for those years, even though they were not enough. I will be grateful for his life, even though it ended too soon.
This photo of our family was taken in our living room in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day 1985. Peter A. would be 17 in a month and Leif would be 11 in two months.