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Seven Thanksgivings

I spent the last seven Thanksgivings with Marcus. Throughout the tumult of our marriage, often living apart on different continents, his job moving us to three different countries, our standoffs and stubbornness with each other, me threatening to leave him too many times, always finding our way back to loving each other… Throughout all of this only now in the wake of his death can I see there was one consistent thing we shared and never missed, something sacred and rich: we celebrated every Thanksgiving together. It was always my favorite holiday, and though Marcus was German he embraced the day — and the overeating — as if it was his own.

As this year’s Thanksgiving approaches the despair and panic of missing him have already begun to overwhelm me. To keep myself busy and to “focus on the good memories, not on the regrets” (as my grief counselor wisely recommended), I took some time to search in my photo files until I found a picture from each year we spent the holiday together. Not that these “good memories” take away the pain and intensity of the loss, but in looking at the pictures and reminiscing I see the goodness, the love, and the connection we shared during our time together. And that is something to be grateful for.

Marcus and Beth’s Thanksgiving Retrospective

2002 – Lehnigen, Germany
Marcus and I weren’t married let alone engaged yet. I was trying to impress Marcus and my future in-laws with my cooking skills and pies –I even hauled cans of pumpkin, bags of cranberries and pecans, and Karo syrup over from the US — but instead they impressed me! Their free-range turkey weighed 40 pounds and it was roasted to perfection in their traditional Backhaus. The oven was first heated with a wood fire, then cleaned out, and the sand in between its walls stayed hot for hours. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible if I hadn’t seen it for myself. The turkey was moist and delicious.

2003- Lehnigen, Germany

We got married in August/September and before we even went on our honeymoon it was already Turkey Time. Marcus’ coworkers were so envious about our American feast the year before we invited the whole Daimler team. The aprons were a gift from Marcus’ mom. Germans don’t eat sweet potatoes so they are hard to find. I finally paid something like $10 a pound at a gourmet market for imported yams from Israel.

2004- Marina del Rey, California

This was Marcus’ first Thanksgiving in the USA. We went to my parents’ house in California and were joined by two of my four siblings. Below is Marcus, who had become an expert Thanksgiving sous chef by now, whipping the cream for pumpkin pie.

2005 – Oberdiessbach, Switzerland
This year we fulfilled a promise to my dear friends in Switzerland to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for them. They loved everything except for the pumpkin pie. “Next time make more apple,” they said as they scraped the apple pie plate clean.

2006 – Lake Oswego, Oregon
When Marcus got a job transfer from Germany to Portland we promptly rented a cozy lakeside cottage and made a nest for ourselves. No matter that we didn’t have furniture yet when Thanksgiving rolled around, my brother in Seattle (center), his wife (left) and his family of four kids drove down for our turkey feast and an overnight. For dinner we sat on lawn chairs and balanced the plates on our laps. For sleeping, the kids rolled out their sleeping bags on the carpet.
2007 – On board a Lufthansa flight to Germany
With the unexpected passing of Marcus’ grandmother we gave all the pies and cranberry breads I had made to friends and boarded a plane bound for Bremen, Germany. We flew business class on Lufthansa and were happily surprised when we were served turkey and all the fixings during the flight.

2008 — Saltillo, Mexico
I could have never EVER imagined that this would be my last Thanksgiving with Marcus. We had moved to Mexico for Marcus’ job five months earlier. The boss of the new truck factory was American and he very thoughtfully organized dinner for the American expatriates. Lucky that Marcus had an American wife or he wouldn’t have qualified! The dinner was held at a popular Mexican restaurant and we speculated on what kind of food they would serve, what would be the Mexican interpretation of Thanksgiving. We were impressed with the attention to detail, they got everything right down to the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

2009 — Portland, Oregon

This year I have never had so many Thanksgiving invitations. I was very touched that so many people reached out, but early on I had decided I would stay in Portland and join our friends Alison and Thomas and their parents from Ohio and Boston. Alison and Thomas have been so good to both Marcus and me, sharing backpacking trips and barbeques over the years, and now they share stories of Marcus while propping me up.
In spite of being in good company I know it’s going to be hard. I tell myself I won’t be there alone. Marcus hasn’t missed a Thanksgiving yet, so I know he will be there with me in spirit.