Hampton Bays mom Dorothy Marino is struggling to prepare for this holiday season after losing her 15-year-old son, Joseph, to a drunk driver in August, 2009.
Joseph was struck by a car driven by Mattituck resident Caroline Goss while standing with friends at the corner of Ponquogue Avenue and Argonne Road.
Goss, who reaching for her cell phone, had a blood alcohol level of .13 percent and an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Her six-year-old son was riding in the front seat.
In the dark hours and days after her son died, Marino became a fervent advocate for raising awareness about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
Marino spent days this spring demanding "Justice for Joe," outside the Suffolk County court, protesting a plea deal that saw Goss with a six month jail sentence and five years probation.
Until now, holidays have been too painful without Joe.
"We didn't celebrate any holidays over the past year," Marino said.
Even this past Thanksgiving was a quiet affair, with just immediate family, including her husband Phil and son Anthony.
"I deliberately made different side dishes so that hopefully I wouldn't feel as much pain. I still cried my eyes out the day before and every day since," she said.
This year, Marino said, the family plans "on attempting" Christmas.
"But I still don't know about a tree," she said.
In the Marino family, the kids always decorated.
"Since Anthony was away at college, Joe took over. He would put the entire garland at the top of the tree – he had grown so much taller than me," Marino said.
Joseph always helped the neighbors decorate, too.
This season is somber for the Marino family, knowing that Goss has already been released from jail. She surrendered herself early to the court and began her sentence on May 24. Her scheduled release date was September 17.
"This means she didn't even serve four months," said Marino.
In her impact statement at Goss' sentencing, Marino described an aching lifetime of holidays, spent without her beloved boy.
"What I would like to say to her cannot be put in print," she said. "I'm not buying her crocodile tears. She made her choice that fateful night and her choice took away my son. I will never forgive what she did. And I will never tell God that he can forgive her, either."
Marino believes in fighting for change. She's spoken to students at Hampton Bays High School, has distributed "Please Drive Sober" signs and bumper stickers and works with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, raising over $5,000.
She also reached out to Governor David Paterson and Congressman Tim Bishop about changes she believes are critical to the legal system.
"Drunk drivers are given chance after chance," she said.
Goss had a previous pled-down DWI and even a felony conviction does not carry a mandatory jail sentence, said Marino.
"You get one chance. Everyone makes mistakes; you need to learn from them, so you don't repeat them. Ms. Goss didn't," said Marino.
Despite some witness statements that said her son might have swerved on his bike in the moments before the accident, Marino said if Goss hadn't been drinking, her son might still be alive.
This holiday season, Marino has a message, "Just don't do it." Call a cab, a friend, a parent, designate a driver, she pled.
Her mother's heart aching, Marino yearns to speak to Joe again.
"I want you back. I want to tell you how handsome you look as you leave for senior prom and say 'congratulations' as you graduate high school this June. I want to see you get married and have children of your own. I want to see you, to be able to hold you, hug you and say 'I love you' just one more time," she said.