Who Is Missing from Your Thanksgiving Table? Listeners talk about the loved ones who are absent from their gathering this Thanksgiving. Whether they are serving overseas in the military, stuck in highway traffic, or at work producing an upcoming broadcast, who is missing from your table this year?
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Who Is Missing from Your Thanksgiving Table?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This year, after the show, it's Thanksgiving dinner with my side of the family. But my son can't make it from Los Angeles, one of my sisters is in San Francisco, And my brother, Mike(ph), died, well, I guess, it's about 15 years ago now. Of course, we'll make phone calls out to the West Coast. But for my brother and for our parents, for Aunt Zella(ph) and Lucy(ph) and everybody who once sat down with us on Thanksgiving, our tradition is to raise a glass to absent friends.

Who's missing from your table this year and how do you remember them? Our phone number is 800-898-8255. E-mail: talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation on our blog, too. That's at npr.org/blogofthenation.

"Ask Amy's" Amy Dickinson is just in the middle of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. But Amy, before we let you go, how do you remember absent friends?

Ms. AMY DICKINSON (Columnist, Chicago Tribune): Well, Neal, I'd like to say two things. One is please, please, please tell stories around the table today. Make sure you tell your family story. This is how we go on as families. The second thing is I'd really like to kind of shout out to all of our colleagues, in newsrooms, in police stations, in hospitals and emergency shelters, you know, throughout the country where people are working today and they are doing the jobs that need to be done and they can't break bread together. So I'd like to remember those people, too.

CONAN: Amy, have a great Thanksgiving Day.

Ms. DICKINSON: Thank you. You, too.

CONAN: And thanks for being with us.

"Ask Amy" Amy Dickinson writes the column "Ask Amy," syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. She joined us today by phone from her family home in upstate New York.

So who's missing from your table this year, how will you remember them? 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

Let's start with Susan(ph), Susan calling us from Anchorage in Alaska.

SUSAN (Caller): Hi. Well, I'm the one missing from the Thanksgiving celebration today because I had foot surgery yesterday. However, my mom was with me during the surgery, brought me home, stayed up and was up several times during the night taking care of me, made a wonderful breakfast this morning and then rushed home because she's hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 16 people. So today, I'm thankful more than ever for having two loving, caring and cheerful parents who are going to be 85 this year. So I just been really thankful, and even though I'm not having dinner, I - this will be a story that I will share in the years to come because I think that I really have a lot to be thankful for.

CONAN: That's great, Susan. And the surgery came out all right?

SUSAN: Oh, yeah. A little painful and I'm not on my feet, but they're bringing me food later.

CONAN: And I'm sure the hospital food will remind you of Thanksgiving's spasms.

SUSAN: Oh, no. I'm home. She brought me home.

CONAN: Ah. She'll bring you a plate from home.

SUSAN: I can't drive and I'll be with my foot here for about a week.

CONAN: Susan, thanks very much.

SUSAN: Okay, thanks.

CONAN: Have a happy day.

SUSAN: Okay, thanks.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail we got, in fact, a comment from Ollie(ph) on our blog: An especially warm Thanksgiving to all other families celebrating with a family member overseas. My candle is lit for my son serving in Afghanistan, with a litany for all of those in harm's way.

Let's see if we get another caller on the line. This is Linda(ph), Linda with us from Oakland in California.

LINDA (Caller): Hi. Thank you for thanking my call. I just wanted to share a poignant story of Thanksgiving without my mother the first year. Her name was Lucille. And my husband and I had - and our immediate family had moved back from New York City and bought a big house and we're really looking forward to a huge family dinner with our mother. And unfortunately, she passed away before Thanksgiving, but we carried on with the meal. And all of us, there are about 25 of us, we round up the table and my dad was still alive. And we had a wonderful meal and we had reminisced and we're thankful that we had her when we had her.

And about dessert time, we had the radio on, listening to Thanksgiving stories. And suddenly, Kenny Rogers came on the radio and started singing: You picked the fine time to leave me, Lucille. And it's an old song. And we all just cried and laughed and remembered and cupped and danced. And, it was a wonderful one memory of my mother.

CONAN: Thanks very much for that, Linda. And that's a great story. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving Day.

LINDA: Well, we sure will. And I just also wanted to say that my dad is not with us either, so we're all going to remember them this evening when we toast to their memory.

CONAN: Is there…

LINDA: Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Okay. Thanks very much.

LINDA: Bye, Neal.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

Let's see if we can go now to Caroline(ph). Caroline is calling us from Denver, Colorado.

CAROLINE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Caroline. Happy Thanksgiving.

CAROLINE: Well, this is more of a confessional story than a remembrance. I'm the one in my family, in fact, my husband and my kids were not at the table this year and the reason for that is because we usually have Thanksgiving here, my siblings come over. And my elder sister remarried a couple of years ago and she has elderly in-laws and she felt obligated to have Thanksgiving at her house this year, and she's really a terrible cook.

CONAN: Oh, no.

CAROLINE: Really bad. And so my husband just returned yesterday from Taiwan and she said, okay. Well, you know, we're having Thanksgiving at our house. And I said, you know, we've been invited to a friend's house in Boulder and we're going to go up there. And so…

CONAN: And was this true, Caroline?

CAROLINE: I'm sorry?

CONAN: Was this true?

CAROLINE: No.

CONAN: Oh, okay.

CAROLINE: I'm getting my lie off my chest. My sister knows she is a bad cook. And she is probably not listening right now, but I'm feeling a little guilty. And here is the karma involved. Our furnace stopped working yesterday and our house is about 55 degrees, so I think I'm getting my payback for lying to my sister because we can't have the furnace repaired until tomorrow.

CONAN: Well, as long as you feel guilty, that's the important part.

CAROLINE: Yeah, that's all that matters, right?

CONAN: There you go.

CAROLINE: Okay.

CONAN: And how are you going to be celebrating Thanksgiving not at your sisters?

CAROLINE: We're having a small turkey and just - it will be delicious because my husband's cooking. He's a fabulous cook.

CONAN: Congratulations.

CAROLINE: Thanks.

CONAN: So long.

CAROLINE: Bye.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail we got from Sam(ph) in Boston. Missing from our Thanksgiving table today, but only for this year, is our newly adopted little girl, Anika(ph). We just returned from Kazakhstan three weeks ago, having successfully adopted her, and we'll be leaving in 10 days to pick her up to bring her home. It's a longer wait than it seems. She is what we are most thankful for this year and we'll be thrilled to see her at our Thanksgiving table next year and for every year to come.

Now, let's see if we can get Zoey(ph) on the line. Zoey is with us from Jacksonville in Florida.

ZOEY (Caller): Hello?

CONAN: Hi.

ZOEY: Hi.

CONAN: Happy Thanksgiving.

ZOEY: I'm sorry?

CONAN: I said happy Thanksgiving.

ZOEY: Oh, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

CONAN: Thank you.

ZOEY: So I was calling because I'm having Thanksgiving alone this year. And the reason is, a few years ago - I'm married. I have a husband and kids, and they're having Thanksgiving with his, you know, with my in-laws, and my brother-in-law is going to be there this year. And a few years ago, he did something sexually inappropriate, uninvited to me and, you know, and I just told my husband I'd, you know, I - he knew about it, and I told him I didn't want to go, and, you know, and see this person again. And - so, I, mean, I'm fine. I'm just actually getting things done around the house.

CONAN: You say you're fine. I can hear a little catch in your throat, though. This is obviously something that disturbs you.

ZOEY: Yeah. Well, you know, it's disturbing and I, you know, it's not very pleasant.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. You don't have any concerns about sending your kids over?

ZOEY: No, no, no. He's not a child - he's got a history of fooling around on his wife, but I don't think he, you know, I don't think he would hurt kids. And when my kids are teenagers, I'm not going to let them go near him.

CONAN: And this is - this looks like a lifelong problem. In the meantime, what are you doing to celebrate Thanksgiving on your own?

ZOEY: Oh, I made some cranberry sauce with kumquats and some yams and a salad of walnuts, and I had some leftover turkey that - because I saw, you know, my side of the family last week for another holiday, and so my mom's just sent me some leftover turkey. And I gave some to my cat and I had a glass of wine. And, you know, I think I'm just - I just don't really - I never really talk on the radio, so (unintelligible) a little nervous.

CONAN: That's okay. You're doing fine. Zoey, have a great day, and I hope this resolves.

ZOEY: Okay, thanks. Do you have any advice or anything or…

CONAN: No, I'm afraid I don't, but I hope it resolves.

ZOEY: Okay, thanks.

CONAN: Good luck.

ZOEY: Bye.

CONAN: And have a good, happy Thanksgiving.

Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Hayel(ph). I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly, in San Antonio.

Mr. HAYEL MEKHI (Caller): Yes, Hayel Mekhi(ph).

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

Mr. MEKHI: Well, I'm missing - yeah, Hayel Mekhi is my name.

CONAN: Go ahead.

Mr. MEKHI: Hello?

CONAN: Yes, go ahead. You're on the air. Happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. MEKHI: Yeah, yeah. I'm missing all my family. They're all in the Middle East, in Syria. I'm the only one who moved to U.S., like, eight years ago. I really miss them and today I'm here, like, by myself, going to school to sit by myself and study, and doing some of my homework.

CONAN: Thanksgiving is not a Syrian holiday.

Mr. MEKHI: Yeah, exactly. But since I'm here by myself, I, like, miss all the family.

CONAN: Because everybody else is talking about meeting with their families, and there's so much in the newspaper and on the radio and on TV.

Mr. MEKHI: Exactly. Everybody's started parading and, like, I'm by myself just come to school, kind of feeling lonely.

CONAN: Are you going to be the founder of the American branch of your family and will you be celebrating Christmas in years ahead?

Mr. MEKHI: Well, still feel by myself right now, I don't know. Like, honestly, I don't celebrate with nobody and it's like, it's - I don't celebrate, like, other holidays. Therefore, I don't know. I might go back to stay with them in the future, but I don't know what's going to happen.

CONAN: Well, be thankful for your family today.

Mr. MEKHI: Yes. I miss them so much. I might call them later on, just tell them how much I love them.

CONAN: That sounds like a great idea. Happy Thanksgiving, Hayel.

Mr. MEKHI: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking about who's not at your family table this year and what you going to be doing to remember them: 800-989-8255. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go to Kelly(ph), Kelly calling us from San Francisco.

KELLY (Caller): Hi. Thank you for this opportunity.

CONAN: Sure.

KELLY: The person who is missing from all of our Thanksgiving tables this year is my brother, Lincoln, in New Jersey, and he's some sort of MIA since April in our family. And if he's out there listening, I'm six months pregnant with what would be his first niece or nephew, and we would all be very, very thankful and grateful if you would contact anybody in our family, if he's listening.

CONAN: Some disruption in the past that led to this estrangement?

KELLY: Nobody knows because he won't respond any contact, so we don't know what's going on or why. Nobody knows. It's a big mystery. But if he does hear this, nobody's going to be angry if he contacts any of us. We just want him at our table.

CONAN: Remember going back to that first phone call we had with Amy. Showing up, just being at the door. That would be great.

KELLY: Yes.

CONAN: Okay.

KELLY: And he's always welcome. No anger.

CONAN: Kelly, thanks very much for the call. And we wish you good luck with your brother and a happy Thanksgiving.

KELLY: Thank you. Thanks very much.

CONAN: Here's another e-mail we got from Naomi(ph). This year, I have a very important reason to be thankful. My mom died at 100 on November 7th and I'm especially thankful to those who've helped to make my mom's end of life so very special. It is, of course, very sad that mom's not here, but she was so very lucky to be cared for with greater love than most people ever receive in a lifetime, and to live 100 amazing years. Happy Thanksgiving, mom. We miss you. That, from Mops.

Let's talk to - this is going to be Carrie(ph). Carrie is with us from Portland, Oregon.

CARRIE (Caller): Hi, Neal. It's Carrie and I - well, who we're missing today is Grandpa Otto(ph). He passed away about two years ago at the good age of 90. And he was the king duct tape, one of the proudest Americans that I have ever met. And when I was pulling out the leaf for the table the other day to set it, on the hardwood, in the oak, there is from 1990 that grandpa had written down who was sitting where for Thanksgiving in 1990, himself included.

CONAN: So a permanent record.

CARRIE: A permanent record, yes. So, we will always remember him for that and many other things.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Carrie. Have a great Thanksgiving Day.

KERRY: Thank you. You too. Bye.

CONAN: So long.

Let's see if can go now to another Carrie(ph). Carrie with us from Palmer, Alaska.

CARRIE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Carrie. Go ahead.

CARRIE: Well, first, my family has been in Alaska for 60 years. My grandparents moved to Alaska on their honeymoon, actually. They drove up in 1947, and my grandfather, they established a farm here in Palmer, Alaska that's still operating. My grandfather, the heart of the farm, passed away about a year and a half ago and it's a huge loss gap at every holiday, especially Thanksgiving. Additionally, my mother is gone to South Dakota to take care of her aging parents, so she's not going to be there. Also a very, just, you know, the heart of the family. And my boyfriend of about a year is in Calgary, Canada, because his company made him to go back to Calgary. So, we're missing a few people.

CONAN: And how will you remember them today?

CARRIE: We'll tell the stories. My dad and his sisters and his mother and my cousins and I are all going to have our usual dinner with all the same pink salad and turkey, and we'll tell all of our stories about growing up on the farm in Alaska.

CONAN: Have a great day, Carrie.

CARRIE: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

CARRIE: Appreciate you.

CONAN: Thank you so much.

Here's an e-mail we got from Kara(ph) in Ann Harbor, Michigan. My brother is missing from our Thanksgiving table this year, but he's been missing for about 20 years. He died when he was 27, in a motorcycle accident. But this year, my 14-year-old son suddenly shod up and physically moved from being a child to a bit of the man he'll become. But just as suddenly, he's the image of my brother. He's his own person and completely different in temperament and taste, but I'm thrilled to look across the table and be reminded that there is a circle of life and of families that we continue to live on in each other.

And here's another e-mail, we got this from Chrissie and Steve Dunn(ph). Our son is not with us this year at our Thanksgiving table because he is in Iraq. He's been there since March and he will be there until June. We were blessed to have gotten an e-mail from him this morning, wishing us a happy Thanksgiving and telling us to eat a lot for him. He was going to be going out on a mission today but he thought he might be back in time for dinner. We could only hope. Peace to all. That, again, from Chrissie and Steve Dunn. Thank you all for those e-mails. Thanks to those of you who called today and happy Thanksgiving to everybody.

I'm Neal Conan. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News in Washington.

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