It's been 11 months since the family of Tom Karambelas has seen or heard from him. The 42-year-old man disappeared Dec. 22 after being seen at a gas station and on surveillance video driving his car into his South Elgin business' parking lot.
As his parents and brother sit down to celebrate Thanksgiving without him, they do so with heavy hearts.
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"It's changed us," said Karambelas' brother, Bill Karambelas. "We don't want to be with people anymore. It's hard to be social. … It's dominated our lives."
Karambelas' birthday is Dec. 15 so besides Thanksgiving and Christmas, his mother, Dorothy Dobson, lies awake at night wondering whether she'll see her son on his 43rd birthday, dreading the entire holiday season without him.
"I don't even know if he's out there, God forbid," Dobson said. "I just don't know."
The unanswered questions are what tear the family apart.
Karambelas, of St. Charles, was going through a "rough patch," last December, according to Dobson, partly because his longtime relationship was ending. He spoke to both of his parents separately on Dec. 21, mentioning a trip to Florida for the holidays.
According to Kane County Sheriff's Department Detective Steven Collins, Karambelas also told a couple friends he needed to get away for awhile. But then he sent notes to people close to him saying goodbye and indicating he was planning to hurt himself, Collins said.
The day after his disappearance, Karambelas' then-girlfriend Susan Bacsa called South Elgin Police when she saw his car at the warehouse but not him, Collins said. Police searched the warehouse and didn't find anything and Bacsa declined to file a report at that time, Collins said.
Karambelas ordered flowers before his disappearance, and his mom said she got them Dec. 27, after which his family filed a missing-person report.
Collins said in an adult missing person case, it is not unusual for a week to pass before a report is filed. But he has never worked on a case that spanned 11 months without closure.
The sheriff's office has learned Karambelas gambled away $60,000 at the Grand Victoria Casino days before he left and substantially more than that in previous months. But Dobson said her son had a large amount of disposable income and the gambling losses may not have been as significant as they seem.
One thing giving her hope is the fact that some of Karambelas' clothes seemed to be missing from the boxes she got back from Bacsa -- as though he packed some things to take with him. And Dobson thinks if he did take off, he must not be alone.
"I just want someone who might have some information to tell us so we can have closure," Dobson said.
After a year without phone calls -- when Dobson used to get multiple calls in one day -- the silence is hard to bear. Being cut off from communicating in the other direction has been difficult, too, because his family wants him to know they're here to support him if he needs it.
Collins said there are no signs pointing toward foul play in Karambelas' disappearance. That leaves his family wondering where he could be -- and it is day and night, nonstop wondering.
"We want him to know that we love him, we miss him, he's an integral part of our family and we want him back in our lives," said his father, Peter Karambelas.
• Anyone with information should contact Detective Steven Collins at (630) 208-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.