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Laughs, love of family aid brothers’ recovery

J.P. Norden (center) with his girlfriend, Kelly Castine (left), and his mother, Liz, at the family gathering Thursday in Stoneham.

Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff

J.P. Norden (center) with his girlfriend, Kelly Castine (left), and his mother, Liz, at the family gathering Thursday in Stoneham.

J.P Norden spoke as his girlfriend looked on.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

J.P Norden spoke as his girlfriend looked on.

The guys were in the living room, catching up over beers and watching football on the big-screen TV. The turkey was in the oven; Aunt Cheryl was prepping the sides. Gabbie, a kindergartner, dashed around the house, alternately dispensing hugs and hiding under the table.

This Thanksgiving on a quiet street in Stoneham was distinctly normal, perhaps even unremarkable. And for the Norden family, that was something worth celebrating.

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On April 15, brothers Paul and J.P. Norden each lost a leg below the knee when the second Boston Marathon bomb exploded near where they were standing on Boylston Street.

“If you’d asked me seven months ago, I couldn’t tell if I was going to feel better or anything. I was just so hurt,” said J.P. Norden, who uses crutches to walk with his prosthetic leg. “But they tell you things get better, and they have.”

After months filled with surgeries, physical therapy, and intense pain, the Nordens said this year’s holiday has taken on new significance. But unlike those many long days, Thursday would not be defined by the bombing.

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Asked if this Thanksgiving was different, J.P. cracked, “Yeah, I’m missing a leg,” to big laughs. Is this healing?

“You move on with your life because there isn’t any alternative,” J.P. said with a shrug. “And,” he said, looking at his family, “these guys wouldn’t let me stop anyway.”

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com.
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