Last year at this time, IPR's Linda Stephan brought us the story of an extraordinary family that chose to ride out Michigan's economic storm together, three generations under one small roof. This year for Thanksgiving, she caught up with a different family, one that's leaning on each another through an extraordinary kind of loss.
We head to a home in Grand Traverse County where a missing-person flier hangs in the front window.
The Cabinaw siblings grew up, all 10 of them, laughing. And they still laugh about all those good times and funny childhood moments.
"He's the one who shoved me into a river!" Sara Brown giggles as she remembers a typical, pesky little-brother who, years ago, who made her fear for her life. She was maybe six, he was perhaps three. She got caught in the current after he pushed her in.
"And since then I haven't went swimming very often," she says, smiling and laughing. "I'm not much of a water person."
They're all adults now, with children of their own.
Jake's oldest sister compares her kid brother (kid number seven) to a wiry stick figure with broad shoulders and a round head, a character from Nightmare Before Christmas.
"I always thought Jake reminded me of Jack the Pumpkin King," Sandra Cranson says, also laughing. "He (Jake) is so skinny and tall, and he had his head shaved, and Jack had no hair. And he always just reminded me of that."
"He's a joker," they all agree.
"A joker, but serious," says mom, Mavis Clous. "He was, you know, I think very serious about making sure things were in their place, and things were clean and easy to find.
"Otherwise, yeah, a joker."
Living With The Unknown
Jake Cabinaw's family sometimes talks about him in the present tense, and other times as if he were only a part of the past. They just don't know how to put it.
And these days the tears come just as easily as the laughter.
"We love Jake, and we need him to come home," Clous says.
Jake probably won't be at any of the family Thanksgiving parties this year. The 31 year old from Grawn disappeared last spring.
"I think, for me, it's difficult to enjoy the holiday, enjoy your family, enjoy what you have, when you don't know how he's doing," Sandra says. "It's like, survivor's guilt. How do you keep living when you don't know?"
What Is Known
Jake Cabinaw was last seen on a Thursday. At 1:00 that morning, cell phone records show he made a call to an automated system to confirm he was still taking community college classes.
After that he used his debit card at a gas station in Kalamazoo, and the card would be used one more time in Texas. But then, nothing. His cell phone, no longer in service today, was flooded with messages he never checked.
And mom says none of it makes sense: "He wasn't a loner. He needed to have other people around to share with."
Family members say law enforcement officials believe he must have left on his own. There's no sign of foul play. His silver Chevy Malibu has never turned up.
Sandra says the family was dumbfounded when people first started suggesting that Jake might have left on his own. Now, after the better part of a year has passed, that's become the hope the family clings to.
"But, if you really look at who Jacob was - or is, then it's not an option," she says. "But that would be the only option if we think he's coming home."
A Good Dad
Sandra says there were no warning signs. He didn't seem over-stressed. Jake was doing his homework days before. He was in the National Guard, had a job. He's the guy you'd call when you have car problems; He built his mom a back deck.
And his son says Jake's a good dad, too.
"We did a lot of, like, hiking and Frisbee golfing and stuff like that," says Jacob, a student at Traverse City East. "And I can't stop thinking about it."
"I'm sad for the children, especially," says Jake's ex-wife and the mother of his children, Rachel Cabinaw. "And I hope he does return. They talk about it a considerable amount. Zander's in therapy right now. But they're pretty resilient kids, too, they're doing very well in school and things."
Zander is in first grade. He plays with a cousin in the next room.
"We try to talk about him (Jake), and, you know, obviously not forget him, and we pray often and they've got pictures in their rooms of him and things like that," Rachel says.
And the whole extended family tries to go on doing what they do best, to enjoy each other, to laugh when they're together.
Going On Anyway
Tomorrow's not the first holiday with an empty seat at the table for Jake. He disappeared just days before Easter. He had a birthday June 6th.
But Jake's oldest sister says he will have a gift from her under the tree:
"'Cause what if he shows up? I want him to know we're thinking about him," Sandra says.
She adds, laughing: "A bucket of popcorn, that's what everyone's getting this year."