Thanksgiving Day

Beyond the steam that gently hung above
the plates of mashed potatoes, yams and corn,
she saw her mother’s face. The misty veil
could not disguise the sorrow in her eyes
or hide the pain that creased her lips
and set her jaw in rigid, stoic lines.
She whispered, “Mom” and reached to touch
her hand. “Are you OK?”

……………………………. A tired smile
came slowly in reply, then nothing more.

She took the plate of turkey, passed it through
the steam toward her mother’s empty dish.
She held the offer longer than she thought
she should, then put it down and looked around
the table: all of them were watching her.
Her children looked away. Her sister wiped
a tear. Her husband held her gaze – his way,
she knew, to give her strength. But no one ate.

Her mother said, “It isn’t right,” and turned
toward an empty chair as if to ask
for help remembering the thing that still
was missing – caught herself and shook her head.

She thought she heard her mother sigh, and took
her hand again. “What is it, Mom? What’s wrong?”
She drew her breath in hard and asked,
“Is it because he’s gone?”

Her mother smiled.
“Oh no – he’s never gone.” She smiled again
and said, “He loved this day the best. And how
he loved this meal!” She stopped to scan the food
as if to find the thing she thought astray.

She caught her mother’s glance. “Everything is here.
You’ve made it just the way he liked it, Mom.
Now can we eat? It is what Dad would want.”

“No, wait!” Her husband stood and pushed his chair.
“I think I know the missing piece. Hang on.”
He walked into the living room — a pause –
then came the call: “The Lions have the ball.”
He sat again and, with a wink, he said,
“The game was always on. Please pass the rolls.”

Her mother stood and moved toward the door.
She turned, came slowly back, then leaned to kiss
his head. “I s’pose –” she stopped, then laughed and said,
“you know, I s’pose they’ll lose again this year.”