When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was always at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandma bought the twenty-plus pound turkey and on Thanksgiving morning, stuffed the bird full of home-made dressing and started it roasting at about six in the morning. When we got there, the smell of roasting turkey filled the entire house and made your mouth water.
Grandma and Grandpa had five kids, so there were a lot of people there. Grandma’s big dining table sat twelve, so that’s where the adults ate. We kids ate at the kitchen table once we were old enough we didn’t need a high chair.
The kids got their plates filled first, either by their mothers or if they were old enough, by doing it themselves, but we couldn’t start eating until all the adults were seated and Grandpa said grace. After that, we’d head back to the kitchen for turkey, regular and oyster dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some of the other stuff all the other women fixed.
There was no shortage of food since about everything came from the gardens Grandma, Mom, and all the other women planted and cared for over the summer. Aunt Elizabeth always brought green beans cooked with bacon from the hogs Uncle James slaughtered every fall, and Aunt Mary usually brought sweet corn she’d canned. Aunt Sue was the salad lady, and always brought two. One was always a Waldorf salad made with fresh apples from the tree in their back yard. The other was usually a Jello salad of some sort, sometimes pear from their pear tree and sometimes from the berries she’d frozen.
Aunt Jean’s specialty was the rolls she’d made that morning. They were lightly browned on top and just melted in your mouth when you took a bite. She said she’d gotten the recipe from her mother but she’d never tell anybody what it was.
Mom always took creamed peas, and she never brought any back home with her because they were so good. The peas came from her garden and the cream sauce was made with milk from Bess, our Jersey cow.
All the women also brought dessert too. There’d be cake and pie and peanut butter cookies, but my favorite was always Grandma’s pumpkin pie. She never used store-bought pumpkin. She had Grandpa plant pumpkin seeds in between his corn rows, and when they were ripe, Grandma would go out an pick all the pumpkins and put them in her root cellar so they’d keep.
A couple days before Thanksgiving, she’d bake several pumpkins until they were mush and then mix up her pie filling with the pumpkin, eggs, cream, and spices. She’d put that mix into a pie crust she made with flour lard and bake three pies the night before Thanksgiving. Lard is supposed to be bad for you now, but Grandma’s pie crust just flaked away when you bit into it. Just before everybody sat down to eat, Grandma would make whipped cream from the cream Mom brought so everybody could have a big dollop on their pumpkin pie.
It was fun being with all my cousins, but once I turned thirteen, it was more fun being with the men after the meal. The men would all go into Grandma’s living room and talk while the women cleaned up and washed the dishes.
My whole family were farmers, so most of the talk was about what their crop yields were or how many piglets that one sow - the sow that Uncle James almost sent to slaughter because she looked too small to breed - how many piglets she had and there wasn’t a runt in the bunch. Sometimes the talk would be about politics, but usually talking politics led to what the politicians were doing to grain prices, and the conversation would gradually get back to how far apart was the best for corn rows or something like that.
I learned that I could sort of steer the conversation if I wanted to by asking Grandpa a question. The men would be talking about picking corn and I’d say, “Grandpa, how did you pick corn before you got a corn picker?” He’d smile and start talking about horses and walking the field picking by hand. My three uncles would join in too.
“Yep, I drove those horses when I was only six.”
“James, all you did was sit on the wagon. Dad trained those horses to pull that wagon through the field without being driven.”
“Remember having to brush them after we got done before we could eat. Glad I don’t have to do that anymore. I just shut off the tractor and head to the house.”
Usually after half an hour or so, half the men would be napping and I’d be feeling drowsy. Rich food will do that to you, especially if you have to try everything so none of the woman will think you don’t like what they fixed.
I didn’t take over Dad’s farm after I graduated from high school. Farming was OK, but I didn’t get all enthused about plowing and planting like David, my younger brother, did. From the time David was old enough to hold on, he rode the tractor with Dad every chance he got, and by the time he was ten, he could drive it. I was happier reading and building model airplanes.
Dad knew farming wasn’t what I wanted to do, so the summer before I was a freshman in high school, he sat me down and we had a talk. He said if I didn’t want to farm, I should go to college and make something out of myself. He said if I liked building models, maybe I’d be good at designing the real thing and I should think about becoming an engineer.
I didn’t know if that was what I wanted to do, but I took all the math and science classes my high school offered and my senior year, I sent my application to the University of Illinois. Dad seemed really happy when I got accepted, but he was also a little worried and so was I. It cost a lot to go to college, even back then. He said he and Mom would help as much as they could, but I’d have to work my way through school.
What with working a full time job and studying my ass off, I made it after five years. All the work to get my degree in Mechanical Engineering paid off with a good job that I’d start two weeks after graduation. Dad was about to burst with pride at what I’d accomplished, but wasn’t happy that job was four hundred miles from home.
My new job was great. I was getting paid for doing work I’d dreamed about doing since my first design class in college, and I was getting paid well. I got a furnished apartment that was a lot nicer than the dump I’d lived in while going through college and bought a better car, still used, but a lot newer and nicer.
I even partied a little with the single guys in the office, but not for long. I’d been taught to save my money, not fritter it away, and sitting in a bar drinking beer with a bunch of guys seemed like frittering to me. I was looking for a girlfriend too, but bars didn’t seem to be the place to look. There were a lot of girls there, but after buying drinks for a couple only to have them thank me and then go dance with somebody else, I decided those girls were only looking for a good time rather than a boyfriend.
I looked around at the women at work as well, but at the time, most engineers were male and the only women around were secretaries or clerks and most of them were already married.
Wendy wasn’t married and she was cute and smiled all the time. She also had a nice figure. Wendy was the HR Manager’s secretary though, so she was pretty careful about getting involved with anybody. As she explained to me, if she went out with me, the other people might think I had an inside track to HR that would get me bigger raises. I didn’t think it would do that, but I gave up after asking her out twice.
Hannah would have gone out with me, I’m sure, but Hannah didn’t interest me. She was the secretary to the Engineering Manager, and seemed to be a little stuck up because of her position. I didn’t have to have a woman who was beautiful like Hannah, but I did want a woman who was nice to be around.
I did date a few of the other women, but we didn’t click. I think mostly it was me. I just wasn’t into fancy dinners and club hopping like they were. After six months, I’d pretty much given up on the women at work and started looking elsewhere. My problem was that “elsewhere” was places like the grocery store and my apartment building, and it was pretty hard for me to just walk up to a woman I’d never seen before and ask them out. That all changed one day when I’d come home after work and was walking to the door of my apartment building.
The woman was trying to carry two suitcases and a couple of boxes at the same time, and she was having trouble. The suitcases weren’t that big and neither were the boxes, but the woman wasn’t very big and she couldn’t keep the boxes under her arms while she lugged a suitcase in each hand. I got to her right after she dropped a box for the second time.
“Would you like some help?”
She looked up at me and smiled.
“That would be great. I should have made two trips, I guess, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.”
I said I’d carry the suitcases, and she smiled as she sat them down.
“I didn’t think I had so much in these, but they’re heavy.”
Well, they weren’t really heavy, but like I said, she wasn’t a very big woman either.
She didn’t say much when we took the elevator to the fourth floor, and she didn’t say anything except, “This is home”, when she stopped to unlock the door. I followed her inside with her suitcases and then asked where she wanted them. She said, “Just anywhere. I’ll unpack them later”, so I sat them down next to the couch and asked if she had more to bring up.
It was about half-dark at that time of day in October, so I hadn’t really seen her well outside. In the lights of the room, I could.
She looked a little older than me, not by much, maybe a couple of years. I’m not sure what it was that made her look that way. Maybe it was that she didn’t have the “cute” features of a twenty-something girl, you know, the little perky nose and skin without any lines. Her face was more mature looking somehow.
She smiled again and said she had six more boxes in her car but she thought she could manage. I shook my head.
“No, I’ll help if that’s OK. It’ll take you a lot of trips and I don’t have anything better to do.”
As it was, it still took us two trips. Evidently she favored minimizing the number of boxes over minimizing the weight of each, because the first one I picked up out of her blue minivan must have weighed sixty pounds. I grunted a little when I picked it up and she chuckled.
“I had a hard time getting that one in my van, but I thought it was just me.”
“What’s in here? It feels like a block of concrete.”
“It’s my books from nursing school. They come in handy sometimes so I never sold them. Can you manage, or should I unload some of them?”
I didn’t want her to think I was some sort of weakling, and once I had the box by the bottom, it was more bulky than heavy so I said I’d be OK if she’d open the doors for us. By the time we got back up to her apartment though, I was struggling. She asked me to set the box on the table and we went back down for the last boxes.
I carried two this time, but they weren’t quite as heavy. They were her shoes, she said, so that was probably the reason, though I didn’t know why a woman needed two boxes of shoes. I had the shoes I wore to work - plain black oxfords - one pair of running shoes for the weekends, and one pair of work boots I had for when I went to construction sites.
When I sat those two boxes on the floor, she smiled again. I was starting to like that smile because it sort of lit up her whole face.
“I can’t thank you enough. I don’t know how I’d have gotten my books up here without stopping to rest a few times, and I’d still have been carrying boxes if you hadn’t come along.”
“Well, I live here too, and when I saw you having trouble, I thought it only right that I should offer to help you. I’m Tom Pence, by the way. I live one floor down.”
There was that smile again.
“Pleased to meet you Tom. I’m Anna Wilson. Well, I should probably start putting stuff away. I have to be a the hospital in two hours.”
I asked which hospital and she said Memorial. That was an interesting coincidence. My engineering firm had gotten a contract from Memorial to design the new wing Memorial was building and I was part of the design team working the structural steel for that project.
“That’s interesting. I’m working on a project for Memorial’s new wing. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime.”
She shook her head.
“Probably not. I work the ER from seven at night until seven in the morning Friday, Saturday and Sunday unless I work overtime on one of those days.”
“You work a twelve hour shift?”
“Yes, most nurses do. We only work three days a week though, so the time off makes up for the long work days a little.”
“You must not have much of a social life if you’re working all weekend.”
“Right now, a social life is the last thing I need.”
“Oh, why is that, if that’s not too personal a question?”
“I got divorced six months ago, and I need some time to think about where I’m going next.”
I said I was sorry, but she shook her head.
“No, don’t be sorry for me. It was a good thing. We got married while I was still in nursing school, and since he was in medical school, we had a lot in common. After I graduated and got a job, he was in residency so we hardly ever saw each other. When we did, we found out we didn’t really have much in common anymore.
“He was in residency as a surgeon, and all he could talk about was how big this tumor was or how many stitches he had to make. I wanted to start doing things other than nursing, but he was working all the time. After six months of fighting over that, we decided it would be better for us both if we split. We’re still friends.”
When I left Anna’s apartment I was wondering if she’d ever find a man who could put up with her work schedule. I’d done about the same thing when I went through college – worked at night, went to classes during the day, and studied in between. What that left me was about six hours a day to eat and sleep. Weekends were my recovery time so I slept about twelve hours and studied the rest of the time.
It wouldn’t be quite so bad for her because she only worked three days a week, but after three, twelve-hour shifts, Anna had to be beat so she’d probably sleep in on Monday. That would leave really three days to be with somebody instead of four, and if the guy worked during the day, they’d have only four nights a week together. You can do a few things at night during the week, but the guy would want to do things on the weekend when he was off. Anna would be working or sleeping. I didn’t rate her chances very high even though she was a nice-looking woman.
The hospital addition was six stories like the rest of the hospital, and that meant there was a lot of steel to be erected. Once the contractor had erected the first floor steel and had everything bolted and welded together, all the connections had to be checked to make sure everything went according to the design.
If something was out of plumb or level, the building probably wouldn’t come down, but the error would be magnified as the floors it supported went up. For the same reason, the steel for the other stories had to be checked as well once they were done. Since I was the guy who designed the steel columns, beams, and bracing, I was the engineer who had to do the checking.
It was late Friday afternoon two weeks later that my boss said the contractor had finished the first floor steel and since he was behind by a day, wanted to start on the second floor on Saturday. I’d have to go out Saturday morning and do my checks. I didn’t like the idea of ruining my Saturday that way, but it was part of the job I’d signed on to do. Saturday morning about eight, I drove onto the site and told the construction supervisor I was there to check the steel.
I was about eleven when I finished and gave them the go-ahead to start setting the second story. Everything had been OK except for a couple of bolts they’d forgotten to tighten and they fixed that while I watched.
To get off the site, I had to drive through the hospital parking lot, and as I was doing so, I saw a woman in blue scrubs get into a blue minivan that looked a lot like Anna’s. I didn’t think too much about that since Anna should have been gone by the time I got to the site. When I drove into the apartment parking lot, the same woman was getting out of the blue minivan and I saw it was indeed Anna. I caught up with her while she was waiting for the elevator in the lobby.
“Hi Anna. I thought you only worked until seven.”
She smiled, but it was a really tired-looking smile.
“Yeah, it’s supposed to be that way, but one of the day nurses called in sick so I volunteered to work over four hours. Wish I hadn’t. We had four people from a car wreck come in at nine and it took an hour and a half to get them stable enough the doctors could start fixing broken bones and stitching up cuts. I’m bushed.”
The elevator door opened then, so we walked in. I pushed the button for the third floor and then pushed the one for the fourth floor. When I turned around, Anna had leaned against the side of the elevator and closed her eyes, and I had to chuckle.
“Maybe I should ride up to four so you don’t spend all day sleeping in the elevator.”
Anna opened her eyes and grinned.
“So you could put me in bed? Wouldn’t do you any good. I’m too pooped to party.”
That was something I hadn’t expected, but I liked it that Anna seemed to have a sense of humor.
“Nah, I’d just make sure you got to your door. Wouldn’t look good if you fell asleep in the hall.”
She grinned and pushed herself upright again.
“I’ll make it by myself, but thanks for offering to help.”
The door opened on the third floor then so I said good-bye and walked down the hall.
I thought it was interesting that Anna had jokingly accused me of wanting to put her in bed. We’d only met that one time, and most women would have been pretty careful about what they said until they knew me better. That’s how it went when I’d been out on dates anyway. The girl would make small talk, but even after the second date, wouldn’t be joking like Anna had.
The next time I saw Anna was when I was going to work Monday morning. She was coming into the lobby a little after seven as I was going out, so I stopped and asked how she was doing. Anna smiled.
“I’ll be fine once I sleep all day. I worked over on Sunday too. Thank God, Emma came back to work this morning or I’d still be there.”
Anna frowned then.
“Emma thanked me for covering for her, and then she told me she really hadn’t been sick. She and her boyfriend spent Saturday and Sunday at her house. She said they didn’t get out of bed until noon and then she grinned at me and said that was because they weren’t sleeping and I should try that because it relieved all of her stress.
“Can you believe that? She let our doctors down and for what – a couple orgasms? I could never do that. I took the ‘Nightingale Pledge’ when I graduated from nursing school and promised to always serve doctors faithfully, not just when I wasn’t horny.”
I was a little surprised at that statement for two reasons. One – Anna didn’t seem like the type of woman who’d say “horny” – and two, I was a little surprised that she’d tell me something like that. I was also impressed that she was so aggravated at the other nurse for what Anna thought was violating her oath. I hadn’t seen that much dedication in any of the women I worked with. Those women just worked the job for the money and not out of any sense of loyalty or duty.
I also didn’t know how to reply to that statement, so I said I needed to be getting to work and that I’d see her later. Anna smiled again then.
“Sorry to have unloaded on you like that. It’s just that being there to help the doctors help patients is important to me. I’ll get over it once I have some sleep. You take care.”
Over the next month, I could see that Anna really believed what she’d said about always being there to help the doctors in the ER. She seemed to work a lot of overtime. I spent about two days a week on the construction site and if I was there on a Monday, I’d sometimes see her walking to her car about ten or eleven. I never stopped to talk because I was either headed for a meeting at the construction site or going back to my office, but it was obvious from the way she walked that she was tired.
Once in a while I’d meet her coming back home when I left for work on Monday or to do some shopping on Saturday or Sunday. She always smiled and said, “Hi”. I started scheduling the time I left for about when she’d be coming home. I didn’t have any motive for doing that other than I liked Anna and considered her to be somewhat of a friend.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I went shopping for what would be my Thanksgiving dinner. There was no way I could take enough time off to drive home for Thanksgiving like I had while I was in college. The contractor was just then setting the steel for the top floor and he was behind schedule again. He was going to finish up Wednesday night and wanted the inspection done on Friday morning so he could start putting up the walls.
It wouldn’t be the same as the Thanksgiving dinners at home, but I couldn’t bring myself to settle for a pizza or a hamburger. I’m not a great cook, so what I bought was stuff I could just heat up, but at least I’d have turkey, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I also bought a pumpkin pie and a can of that whipped cream you spray on.
It was about eleven when I pulled into the parking lot and started toward the door with two plastic shopping bags in each hand. I was half-way through the parked cars when I saw Anna’s blue minivan parked but still running, and she was sitting in the driver’s seat slumped over the steering wheel. I thought something must be wrong, so I walked up to the driver’s side window, sat my bags on the ground, and then tapped on the window.
When Anna looked up at me, it was obvious she was crying. There were tears streaming down her cheeks, and though she tried to smile, right in the middle of trying, she sobbed and put her face down on the steering wheel again. I opened her door then.
“Anna, what’s wrong?”
Anna raised up, wiped her eyes with the back of her hands, and then said, “Nothing. I just let this stupid job get to me.”
I touched her on the shoulder.
“Well, you can’t just sit here in the parking lot. Let’s get you inside.”
Once we were in the elevator, I touched her shoulder again.
“Anna, what’s going on? You’re still crying.”
She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes again.
“I worked over this morning, not because anyone was out. It was because the doctors needed all the help they could get. We got in another car wreck, a family this time and there was a baby girl…”
Anna turned to face me, sobbed, and then put her arms around my neck and pressed her face into my chest.
“I couldn’t save her. She died right there on the gurney while I was trying. She was so little and so cute and …”
Anna didn’t finish. She just started sobbing her heart out. I did the only thing I could think of to do. I put my arms around her and held her. I held her while the elevator door opened on the third floor and then closed again, and I was still holding her when it opened on four.
“Anna, this is your floor.”
She pushed herself away gently and wiped her eyes, but she was still sniffing. I picked up my groceries and followed her to her door. She was still crying when she unlocked her door, so I caught her by the shoulder before she went inside.
“Anna, are you going to be all right?”
Her face sort of screwed up then.
“No. I don’t think I am…not for a while.”
“Would it help if I sat with you for a while?”
Anna nodded, so I followed her through the door and then locked it behind us. When I turned around, Anna was sitting on her couch and slumped over, and she was shaking. I put down my groceries, sat down beside her, and put my arm around her shoulders.
“Tell me what happened.”
It was hard to understand what Anna said because she kept sobbing, but the gist of it was the EMT’s had brought in a man, woman, and the little girl. Apparently, the little girl had taken the brunt of the impact, and even though she was in a car seat, she’d suffered the worst injuries. Anna was still sobbing when she told me about the ER.
“We knew her chest was crushed and were going to take her to X-ray to find out how badly she was hurt, but she wasn’t breathing very well. I got a respirator on her and started pushing the gurney to X-ray when she just stopped breathing. The doctor and I tried and tried, but she was gone. I don’t know why I couldn’t save her. That’s what I was trained to do, but I failed that little girl and I failed her mother and father.”
I squeezed Anna’s shoulders gently.
“You didn’t fail her, Anna. Sometimes, things just happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. I can’t believe you didn’t try everything you knew how to do. You don’t impress me as a woman who’d give up before you did.”
“I did, but it still wasn’t enough, so I failed.”
I turned Anna’s chin so she was looking at me.
“How many people have you helped get better since you became a nurse?”
“I don’t know. A lot, I suppose.”
“How many haven’t you been able to help?”
“A few…but they weren’t babies like this one.”
I hugged her again.
“I know, but just because she was a baby doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. It just means she was hurt so bad nothing you could have done would have saved her. Isn’t that right?”
“I suppose so, but still –“
I stopped her before she could finish.
“No, not but still. You can only do what you can do. I don’t know anything about being a nurse or a doctor, but if she was hurt as badly as you say she was, I don’t think anybody could have done anything. I think you’re worn out and that’s causing you to blame yourself. Blaming yourself isn’t going to help her or you. The only thing you can do is try to put it in perspective with everything else you’ve done. If you can do that, I think you’ll realize it wasn’t your fault. I hope you can do that, because it wasn’t, not from where I sit.”
Anna sniffed a couple more times and then said, “Thank you for trying to understand, but I think I need to be alone for a while now.”
“Will you be OK if I leave?”
“I just need to think this out and then get some sleep.”
“OK, but if you’re still feeling like this, you call me, OK?”
I left my cell phone number with Anna and then went to my apartment. I felt bad about leaving her, but that’s what she wanted. I just hoped she could make herself realize that sometimes, no matter what you do, things don’t turn out like you hoped.
I did go down to the lobby a little before seven to see if Anna was going to go to work, but she didn’t come down. When I looked in the parking lot, her car was gone, so I figured she went out early for some reason.
I did some thinking of my own that Sunday. At first, I was feeling pretty impressed with myself. Trying to help Anna understand was something most people wouldn’t have done and I congratulated myself on being such a great guy. A little after having that thought, though, I realized I probably should have just stayed out of it.
It was like I’d intruded on Anna’s privacy. When I get down, the last thing I want is somebody trying to make me happy. I prefer to be by myself, analyze everything, and then come to my own conclusion. That’s because nobody else can understand how I feel or what I’m thinking. I didn’t figure Anna was any different and I might have done more harm than good. By the time I ate lunch, I’d decided I owed Anna an apology.
When I left for work on Monday morning, I was starting to worry. I went down to the lobby early enough I should have caught her when she came home, but when I got in my own car and started for work, hers wasn’t in the lot.
All day long, I wondered if something had happened to her. I told myself that was because I was worried I might have caused her to feel worse instead of better. As the day wore on, and it seemed to take forever before the clock said five and I could leave, I’d started to realize I was worried because I cared what happened to Anna, not because I just felt sorry for her. That was an odd feeling for me. I’d never felt that way about anybody except my family and even that feeling wasn’t the same.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her car in the parking lot that night. At least Anna was home and safe. I was a little shocked that I’d thought that word – safe – because it wasn’t a word I’d have used for anybody else I cared about. I’d have thought, “getting better”, or just “OK”, but not “safe”.
On my way up to my apartment, I toyed with the idea of going on up to four and knocking on Anna’s door, but then reconsidered. She probably just needed time to think things out, and if I stuck my nose into her business again, that would just interrupt her. Instead, I had dinner, half-watched some TV, and then went to bed. After tossing and turning for almost an hour, I finally went to sleep.
Tuesday and Wednesday were about the same. I didn’t figure I’d see Anna because she’d be off work, so I didn’t stop in the lobby. I did look to see if her car was in the lot, and it always was so that eased my mind a little. On Wednesday afternoon, I went over to the hospital for sort of a pre-inspection of the last story of steel. It wasn’t something I had to do, but I was going crazy sitting at my desk and wondering about Anna. Walking around the site gave me something else to think about.
Her car wasn’t in the lot when I got back home, and that was a little comforting. If she’d gone somewhere, at least she was probably feeling better. I hoped she was feeling better almost as much as I wished I could see her again to make sure.
I’d finished dinner when my cell phone rang. The contractor had said he was going to work until all the steel was up and had brought in big banks of lights so his men could see if it got dark before they finished. I figured he’d run into some sort of snag and needed me to come to the site to figure it out. When I looked at the number, I didn’t recognize it so I knew it wasn’t the contractor.
When tapped the icon to answer the phone and said “hello”, I heard Anna’s voice.
“Tom, this is Anna. Would it be OK if I came down and talked to you for a little while? I need to ask you something.”
About five minutes later, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, Anna was standing there with a smile on her face.
I’d only seen Anna in scrubs, and scrubs aren’t exactly the most figure-flattering clothes. That day, she was wearing snug jeans and a tight sweater that had a really nice figure to flatter. I knew Anna had fairly wide hips, but I didn’t know she had breasts as large as the sweater made them look, and I didn’t know how slender her waist and legs were. I must have been staring because Anna chuckled.
“Are you going to invite me in, or would you rather just stand there and look at me?”
I shook my head.
“No. It’s just that I’ve never seen you in regular clothes before. Come on in.”
I closed the door and then asked what she wanted to talk about. Anna smiled.
“That little baby I told you about…I went to her funeral today, and I feel a lot better now. Her name was Christy, and her mother talked to me after the service. I found out she’s a nurse too, and she said she’d watched me working on Christy and knew I did everything I could and wanted to thank me. They just took her up to a room before she could tell me that at the hospital.
“Tom, I didn’t believe what you told me until today, but now I do. I uh…I don’t know the best way to thank you, but I think I should.”
I shook my head.
“You don’t need to thank me. I was just trying to make you understand it wasn’t your fault. You said you wanted to ask me something. What did you want to ask?”
Anna looked at the floor for a while, and then looked up at me.
“This is maybe being too forward, but are you going home for Thanksgiving?”
“No. I don’t have time to make it there and back before Friday when I have to be at the hospital site again.”
“Well…every Thanksgiving until this year, I made Thanksgiving dinner for me and my husband. I don’t miss him, but I do miss making everything and then eating it with someone. It’s fun and it gives me something to think about besides work.
“I went out this afternoon and bought some stuff just in case you were going to be here. I’d like to fix Thanksgiving dinner for you as a way of saying thank you, if that’s all right. If it isn’t, I’m going to give everything to ‘Loaves and Fishes’, that homeless shelter down on tenth, but I hope you’ll say yes. My husband always said I was a good cook.”
I hadn’t expected anything like this, but it would maybe be almost like the Thanksgiving dinners at home. At least I wouldn’t be heating up my frozen turkey breast and making instant mashed potatoes and then eating them alone. I grinned.
“I can’t think of anything I’d like better than for you to do that.”
“Good. Would about two be OK with you? It’ll take a few hours for the turkey to get done, but everything should be ready by then.”
Anna’s Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the same as the dinners back home. Anna was a good cook, but other than the turkey and dressing, what she cooked was different. The vegetables came out of a can and the pumpkin pie was bought. They were all good, but they didn’t taste quite the same. Being with Anna more than made up for that though.
I knew as dedicated to nursing as she was, Anna would probably talk mostly about what she did at the hospital. I was surprised when she wanted to know more about me, and she wanted to know a lot. I told her about how big my family was and how we always celebrated Thanksgiving together. I told her about going to college instead of farming and how I made it through by working part time.
I learned that other than her mother and father, Anna had one aunt and that was the extent of her family. She said they always celebrated Thanksgiving too, but she hadn’t been home for that holiday since she got married. Like me, she couldn’t find the time because of school and then her job. She understood about me working my way through college, because she’d done the same thing.
The conversation got a lot more personal when we were sitting on her couch after dinner. Anna wanted to know if I had a girlfriend, and when I said I didn’t, she asked why.
“I’d think a guy in your position wouldn’t have trouble finding a girl. I mean, you probably have a decent income and you’re a nice guy.”
“I’m doing OK, money-wise. I just haven’t found a woman I like enough yet, I guess.”
“What is it you’re looking for?”
“I don’t really know. I suppose I’m looking for somebody who wants to be with me for who I am and not how much money I make or how good I look. I don’t think money and looks are the most important things in life, but a lot of women seem to think so, at least the ones I’ve met. It’s either that, or they make some excuse about being too busy, so I think I’m just not the kind of guy they’re looking for.”
“I know the type because I knew two of them in nursing school. They became nurses so they could marry doctors and wouldn’t have to work. I married a doctor, or he would have been in a few more years, but I don’t think I could have lived with him once he did no matter how much money he made. Those women weren’t thinking about that, I guess, but I’ll bet they are now…just like I am.”
“So you’re looking? What are you looking for?”
“Just a man who loves me and wants to be with me. I don’t really care about how much money he makes because I make enough to buy anything I really need. I don’t care about great looks either because I’m not all that great myself. I just want somebody who’ll be a partner in life.”
She chuckled then.
“I sound like some character in a syrupy romance novel, don’t I?”
“No, not really. You just sound like a woman who’s being honest with herself. I do think you’re shortchanging yourself in the looks department though. You’re prettier than most women. Think with your schedule, you’ll find that guy?”
“I don’t know. I hope so. Being married wasn’t all that great, but I do miss having someone to come home to. It was nice, the good times were, just sitting together on the couch and watching television or going to a movie and then coming home and…well, you know.
“I don’t think my husband really understood what a woman wants that way. I think he tried, and sometimes it was good, but usually it was just him making himself feel good. Part of that was because he didn’t have time. We had to fit it in with his schedule, and he was working almost sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. That doesn’t leave much time, so we had to rush when we could do it at all.”
I was surprised that Anna had opened up to me like she had. It was odd that Anna seemed to be comfortable talking about her personal life with me since we didn’t really know each other that well, but it felt good that she seemed to trust me that much. That also made it easier to become more personal with her, more personal than I’d ever been with another woman. It just seemed right.
“Well, I don’t know much about a doctor’s schedule, but I don’t think I could just make myself feel good when I did it.”
“How many what?”
“How many girls have you had sex with?”
Well, that was even more odd. It was also embarrassing, because there’d been only one. I couldn’t very well not answer her, but I didn’t want to lie either.
“Did she like it?”
I thought back to Marry Ellen and that night she invited me to her apartment. She’d sort of talked me into doing it, and when we were done, she grinned and said it was great. She never spoke to me again, though, so I wasn’t sure if she really enjoyed it or if she was just trying to make me feel good.
“I’m not really sure. She said she did, but she wouldn’t go out with me again.”
“I’m pretty sure if you did it right, you’d be able to tell. It’s easy to tell with me, well, unless I’m faking it.”
Two questions popped into my head then, but I wasn’t sure I should ask her how I could tell. I did ask the second.
“You fake it?”
“Sure. All women do sometimes. If we’re really tired or just not in the mood, it’s hard for us to make it no matter what he’s doing. We don’t want to make our guy feel bad, so we act like we did. It’s pretty easy to do that since we don’t do what men do.”
“And the man doesn’t know?”
“Well, you guys are pretty involved with yourselves at the time, so no, you don’t.”
I shook my head.
“Maybe I didn’t do it right then and she didn’t like it.”
“Was it her first time too?”
“No, at least she said it wasn’t.”
“If it wasn’t, she wasn’t a woman you’d want to stay with. She should have known you wouldn’t be a great lover the first time and if she felt anything for you, she’d have stayed with you so you’d know what she liked and didn’t like. I’d never do that to a guy I liked if it was his first time...or even his second or third time.”
I had to smile a little at that last statement because Dad had told me it would take a few times before it got really good.
“Well, maybe someday I’ll meet a woman like that.”
“Maybe you already have.”
Sometimes I can be so dumb I even amaze myself. At first, I thought Anna was talking about one of the women I knew from work.
“Well, I haven’t so far. All the women I know are either married or don’t seem interested. I’m still looking but – “
Anna grinned then and what she was really saying hit me.
“Anna, why are you grinning?”
“If you don’t like any of the women where you work, what other woman do you know?”
“Well, I know you, sort of. Is that what you’re talking about?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“You don’t know me very well.”
“I know you well enough to know you cared when I was so sad about losing the baby girl, and you tried to help me understand it wasn’t my fault. My husband would never have done that. He’d have just said it was part of the job and I should shake it off. It helped when you hugged me too. Sometimes I need a hug and that was one of those times.”
Anna scooted up next to me, smiled, and touched my cheek.
“Now is one of those times too. I need a hug.”
I put my arm around Anna’s shoulders and hugged her a little. She laughed.
“That wasn’t a hug. That was what you’d do to your mother.”
“Well, that’s about all I can do when we’re sitting down.”
Anna stood up, took me by the hand, and then pulled me to my feet. As soon as I was standing, she put her arms around my neck and pushed her breasts into my chest.
“Let’s try it this way”, she said.
When I put my arms around Anna, she sighed, put her cheek against mine, and then whispered, “This is more like it”.
I knew how this was going to end up and I wanted it to. I couldn’t just hold Anna like I was and not feel anything. She didn’t have huge breasts, but they were firm and I could feel them against my chest. There was also her soft cheek against mine and the way I was feeling her breath on my ear when she exhaled. My cock was starting to get stiff, and the longer I held her like that, the stiffer it was going to get. It wouldn’t take much more until she’d feel it pushing against her.
“Anna, I can’t take much more of this before I embarrass us both.”
Anna just moved her hips forward enough to push her mound into my crotch.
“You mean what I feel down there? I’m not embarrassed. I feel good that I make you do that. You shouldn’t be embarrassed for feeling like a man. It’s what I want you to do.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know if you want the rest of what I’m feeling or not.”
Anna raised her head and looked into my eyes.
I’d read the words “doe-eyed” before but never really understood what that meant until then. Anna’s eyes were wide open and her pupils looked really big. She smiled then, and her whole face sort of lit up.
“Tom, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want everything you’re feeling.”
It was almost like with Mary Ellen, except with Mary Ellen, it was sort of like “if she really wants me to, I guess I will”. With Anna, it was like I wanted her more than anything I’d ever wanted before. I didn’t understand what it was at the time. That understanding came afterwards. Right then though, what I understood was I had a sensuous and seductive woman in my arms who’d just said she wanted me to make love with her and there was no way I could say I couldn’t.
I followed her into her bedroom and watched as she pulled the blanket and sheet down to the foot of the bed. She had to bend over to do that, and before she could stand back up, I stroked her ass cheeks through her jeans because I couldn’t not do that. Anna turned around and smiled.
“I think you should undress me and then do that again.”
It actually ended up being sort of mutual undressing. After I pulled Anna’s top over her head, she started unbuttoning my shirt. By the time I’d unhooked her bra, she had my shirt open, and once I slipped the bra off her shoulders, she put her arms around my neck, pressed her breasts into my bare chest and looked up at me with her lips parted.
I thought she probably wanted to be kissed so I kissed her. What I didn’t know is how one woman could arouse me so much with just a kiss. It was more like she was making love to my mouth with hers, and if my cock hadn’t already been straining at the zipper of my jeans, that would have done it.
I loved the feel of her back when I stroked down to the curve of her hips, and I loved how her cheeks felt when I slipped my hands under her waistband. Anna sighed at that touch, then eased away and unsnapped and unzipped her jeans. She sat down on the bed then, leaned back, and lifted her legs. When I pulled her jeans down, I saw the black lace thong panties and the coarse, dark brown hair that peeked out of the little crotch.
When I pulled the jeans off Anna’s legs, she sat up and unbuckled my belt, then stroked the bulge that pushed out my zipper. She looked up and grinned, then unbuttoned the button and unzipped my fly. My cock pushed out of the opening, and Anna stroked it through my underwear before pulling my jeans down to my knees.
It was hard to kick off my shoes and then step out of my jeans with Anna stroking my stiff cock, but as soon as I had, she pulled the waistband of my underwear out and then down. My stiff cock bobbed around until she got my underwear down to my knees. Then, she circled it with her slender fingers and started stroking it lightly.
It was harder getting my underwear off than getting my jeans off because Anna was still stroking my cock. Once I did, she pulled me down on the bed with her and put her arms around my neck again.
“Tom, are you nervous about doing this?”
“Yeah, a little.”
Anna stroked my cheek.
“Don’t be. I’ll help you.”
Anna did help, though after the first couple times she did, I figured out what she liked. I was kissing her when she pulled my hand to her breast and then squeeze it gently. She sighed then, and moved my hand in a circle so I was stroking her nipple. Her little moan a few seconds later told me that was something she liked so I did the same to her other breast. She liked it enough she moaned again, and then started stroking my cock.
It was a little later she whispered, “kiss my nipples, Tom”. When I kissed the right one, Anna caught her breath and then pushed my face down into her breast. I opened my mouth so I could breathe and that nipple slipped between my lips. Anna moaned, “That’s right Tom. Suck just a little. I love that.”
Sucking Anna’s right nipple was doing as much for me as it was for her. My cock felt stiff as a steel beam, and when Anna’s tummy rolled, I knew she was pretty aroused. The same thing happened when I sucked her left nipple, except she pulled my hand down to her crotch after she moaned.
I cupped her sex and massaged gently at first, but after a little of that, Anna reached down and pulled down the black panties. The crinkly hair I’d felt through the panties was now under my fingers, and it felt a little damp.
I knew what I was supposed to do then, and when I slipped a fingertip between Anna’s slender lips, she gasped. For a while after that, I used my fingertip to explore her soft inner lips and the little button at the top of her slit while I alternately sucked one nipple and then the other.
I don’t know how much time elapsed before she rocked up her hips when I stroked her clit and then whispered, “Tom, I’m ready for you now”, but it didn’t seem all that long. Anna spread her legs wide when I moved between her thighs, and then pulled me down on top of her. She let me raise up enough I could probe for her entrance with my cock, and when my cock head slipped into that wet, slippery opening, I felt Anna dig her nails into my back just a little.
It took me three strokes before my cock was buried inside Anna, three strokes where she pulled at me, and three strokes where she moaned at each. Once my cock was all the way in, she lifted her lips to mine and kissed me again. When her little tongue slipped inside my mouth, it was my turn to groan because that was the most erotic thing I’d ever felt.
She felt it too. I know because she moaned around our tongues and rocked her hips up.
After that, I started stroking my cock in and out and trying to not feel what I was feeling so I wouldn’t cum too fast. It wasn’t just the way her passage contracted a little when I pulled out or the way I felt my cock head opening her with each stroke. It was also Anna’s hands on my back, stroking up and down, and the way she was breathing. I felt her warm breath on my shoulder at about a normal pace at first, but then, she started breathing faster.
When Anna started rocking her hips up to meet my stroke, those deep breaths turned into shallow panting breaths and her hands on my back kept pulling me into her. After those panting breaths got even faster, Anna dug her heels into the mattress on one stroke, and lifted her body up off the bed. My cock slipped a little deeper and I groaned when I stroked back out because her passage seemed to suck at my cock head.
The end slipped up on me really fast after that. Anna raised up again and held her breath. I felt her passage move in and then out before she gasped and fell back down to the mattress. The second time she did that, she arched even higher and hung there longer. That was it for me. I groaned, pushed my cock inside her as deep as it would go and the first spurt raced up my shaft. Anna gasped, fell back down, and then arched up again. She held her breath for a couple seconds, then gasped, and then cried out. Right after that, her body started rocking her passage over my cock really fast, and that made me pull out a little and then ram my cock back inside her as the second and third shots splashed inside her.
I kept stroking my cock in and out because it felt really great, and Anna stayed arched up for a few strokes. Then, she sighed and eased back down on the mattress and pulled me with her. I couldn’t keep stroking my cock then, so I started to pull out, but Anna pulled on my shoulders to stop me and whispered, “No. Stay just like we are for a while. I like it that way.”
I kept my cock inside her as long as I could, but eventually, it slipped out. Anna giggled then.
“I guess that’s all for a while, but I’m not done with you yet. You just lay here so I can help you get hard again.”
I chuckled then.
“Does that mean you liked it?”
Anna stroked my back.
“I didn’t fake it, if that’s what you mean. It was real, so real I want to do it again.”
The second time was even better because I knew some of what she liked and she didn’t have to tell me. Once Anna had stopped breathing hard, I rolled to her side and put my arms around her.
“Anna, I didn’t know it could be like this.”
Anna snuggled up to me, pressed her breasts into my chest and hooked her thigh over mine.
“It isn’t for me unless the guy is really special, and you are.”
I think it was then I realized why I’d wanted her so much and why it had been such a fantastic experience.
“I think you’re pretty special to me too, Anna.”
Anna kissed me until I had to stop to breathe and then whispered, “You don’t have any idea how much I wanted you to say that.”
It was weird waking up beside Anna the next morning. I’d never done that before, but I decided I liked it. She was still asleep so I spent the time just looking at her. Her hair was a mess and she was laying there with her mouth open. If I’d seen any other woman like that, I’d have laughed, but all I felt was I was lucky she was there.
She did wake up after I stroked her breast. She stretched then and both breasts slipped out from under the blanket. I cupped the left one and fondled it.
“You’re beautiful in the morning, did you know that?”
“I think you need to have your eyes checked. I see myself in the mirror every morning, and I’m a long way from beautiful.”
I slipped a fingertip over her left nipple and smiled when Anna caught her breath.
“Well, maybe I’m just looking at you differently than you do.”
Anna rolled over and put her arm over my chest.
“If you make love to me again, I might start to believe that.”
I was a little late getting to the construction site, and the site supervisor let me know that. Normally, I’d have been mad, but I couldn’t be mad, not after Anna. I told the contractor he could start on the first floor while I inspected the top floor, and that settled him down some. I made my inspection, but it took longer than it should have because I kept thinking about Anna.
I didn’t know her well at all, and yet, I couldn’t imagine not being with her again. It wasn’t the sex, though that was better than I’d ever imagined it could be. It was just being with her through the Thanksgiving dinner and then after we made love the next morning. She was smart and pretty practical and I liked both of those things. I’d also seen her emotional side that day she came home crying, and that told me she was more caring than any other woman I’d ever met.
I tried to tell myself that it was just that she was the first woman who’d really liked sex with me and that the rest was just her being nice, but that didn’t work. Anna had been too open with me to just be trying to make me feel good.
In the end, I decided she was special to me. I wasn’t sure if it was love or not because I’d never loved anybody that way, but I knew I didn’t want her to leave my life.
That’s what I told Anna when I met her in the lobby the next morning. She smiled a tired smile and then put her arms around my neck.
“You can come up with me, but I really have to sleep for a while.”
I hugged her close.
“I don’t care if you’re asleep or awake. I just want to be with you.”
That’s how it went that Saturday and the Sunday that followed. Anna would come home and go to bed. I’d sit in front of her television and watch movies until she got up at about two or so. We’d have lunch then.
We didn’t make love those days. I knew Anna would have because she asked if I wanted to, but I knew she had to be tired. It was enough to just know she was there while she was asleep and to find out how her day had gone when she woke up.
I gave Anna a hug and a kiss when she got home on Monday morning, but I had to go to work. I thought everything would be normal at work, but it turned out it wasn’t. I was getting some prints copied when Jan, the woman who ran the blueprint machine chuckled.
“You’re pretty happy this morning. You get laid last night, or what?”
“No, it was just a great four day weekend.”
“Don’t give me that. Whoever she is, it shows. I think I’m jealous.”
It only took Anna two more weeks to tell me she loved me. It took another week before I could tell her that, but I think she’d already figured that out, because on any night she didn’t have to work, she’d fix dinner for us and afterwards, I’d spend the night with her. Usually we just made love once before going to sleep, and mornings were difficult because I had to work so we usually didn’t do anything except get up and eat.
It was like I’d asked myself before – could Anna ever find a man who could put up with her schedule – but now, I knew the answer. If that was the only way I could be with Anna, I could put up with it.
This Thanksgiving, we’re living in the house we bought right after we married, and our two kids and their spouses will be coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. It isn’t quite the same as those Thanksgiving dinners at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Anna doesn’t raise a garden so all the vegetables come out of a can, and Louise and Rich’s wife Marilyn usually bring just Jello salads. We have rolls bought in a package and the turkey is stuffed with dressing that comes out of a box. Still, it’s almost the same. The adults will eat in the dining room and our one grandchild will be in a highchair next to Marilyn. Louise is expecting, so we’ll have to get another highchair before next Thanksgiving.
Louise’s husband, Ronny, is a minister, so he’ll say grace before we eat, and when we get done, all the guys will go into the living room while the girls clean up. We’ll talk about a lot of things until the girls get done. After that, we’ll just be a family sitting together and talking about whatever comes to mind.
When I was a kid, I didn’t realize what Thanksgiving was all about. Oh, I’d studied the first one in school like every kid still does, but to me it was more about seeing my cousins and listening to the men talk.
I didn’t really understand until that first Thanksgiving dinner when our kids brought their spouses over. I looked at them and then at Anna. Anna was smiling and I knew why. We’d found each other all those years ago and somehow, between her schedule and mine, had two kids and became a family instead of just two people.
That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, really – remembering all the good things that have happened to you in life and being thankful for those moments. I can’t think of anything that’s ever happened to me better than Anna, and I know she feels the same way about me.