For Thanksgiving today, Shannon did a video call with her elderly mother, who lives in a nursing home. They are not seeing each other because of the virus.
The old woman was seated in her room, dressed in holiday finery. She wore a scarlet blouse and pearl earrings. Even her wheelchair looked snazzy, her nurses decorated it with ribbons.
Shannon could see her mother’s food tray on her phone’s video screen. On the plate was turkey, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, and a wad of mashed potatoes bigger than a regulation volleyball.
This has been a hard year. Shannon’s dad died after routine surgery. And these are her mother’s first few months in an assisted living facility. Shannon has had to make many difficult choices lately.
“I miss you, Mom,” said Shannon into the phone. “Love you!”
“Love you,” said the old woman.
“Love you so much!”
“Love you so much, too!”
They must have said I love you 300 times.
Meantime, in Sacramento, Stewart’s entire family ate a holiday meal in the public park with Stewart’s parents. Stewart’s wife, Ameliea, is a recent breast cancer survivor. She wore a bandanna to cover her bald head and kept her distance.
Everyone sat at picnic tables spaced 20 feet apart. Each family brought their own food in coolers. There were no embraces, no handshakes. Just pantomimed hugs.
Yet again, the phrase of the day was “Love you!”
And thanks to modern technology, Stewart’s mom could reportedly hear everyone’s words from miles away because she wears a new pair of hearing aids that cost more than a Mercedes-Benz-S-Class.
In Missouri, Tiffany and her husband, Marlin, went for a walk on a trail, in the cold, crisp Midwestern air. It was 39 degrees, but they were happy because, even though a coronavirus is inhibiting holiday activities for millions, they have each other.
The couple packed a lunch and ate on a blanket. Before they said grace, Tiffany broke the big news. She told Marlin that she’s pregnant.
And in Mississippi, Brett and Donna traveled to see family. They visited “Grammar” and “Poppa,” who have had a complicated year. Poppa broke his hip and had to be in rehab for a while. And Grammar kept having fainting spells from a urinary tract infection. But the family was determined to make this holiday a good one.
They all wore masks, and spaced themselves apart. Dangerous amounts of carrot soufflé were consumed by responsible adults. Brett says this was the first time the family has gathered since February.
In Alberta, Canada, the temperature was 18 degrees. Which is colder than the appendage of a proverbial witch wearing undergarments made of brass.
Sam spent the holiday at home alone. Sam is 72, still recovering from a recent case of COVID. It nearly killed him. He is still weak, but the worst is behind him. He forewent Thanksgiving feast with family this year. Instead, he played video games.
Yes. Video games.
A few weeks ago, he ordered a gaming console that was originally intended for his grandson this Christmas. Around noon Sam got so bored that he figured, what the heck, and opened the package.
He played games until he was ready for an early bedtime, flipping off lamps. That’s when he heard voices on his front lawn. It was the sound of six adults and four children singing Christmas carols at the window.
“We love you, Dad!” came the shouts.
In East Texas, siblings Macy and Ryan ate supper with their brand new adoptive family. Their biological parents were killed in an accident years ago, the poor brother and sister have been bouncing around between homes ever since.
After the Thanksgiving meal, Macy’s and Ryan’s new family played games and laughed so hard their stomach muscles hurt. Macy told her new mom that this was the first time she has ever seen her brother laugh.
In Alabama, 23-year old Rainey and 22-year-old Elijah had a quiet meal on a pontoon boat with Rainey’s parents. The weather was warmish. Rainey fixed the food and brought it in an insulated bag. When Rainey was cleaning up the post-meal mess, she noticed that Elijah had taken a knee and was holding a jewelry box outward. His hands were trembling.
“Will you make me the happiest man alive?” he said.
Tears were shared. Kisses were exchanged. She said yes.
In Miramar Beach, Florida, Jamie and Sean Dietrich ate a quiet meal with elderly “Mother Mary” (Jamie’s mother). And even though Mother Mary has been steadily losing weight for an unknown reason, she’s lost about 70 pounds altogether, she was in high spirits, puttering in her wheelchair.
It was a COVID friendly holiday. There were no hugs. No extended family at the table. No nephews, no additional in-laws, no friends, only Mother Mary’s caregivers.
Light holiday music played in the background. The decorations were hung by the barcalounger with care. The food was simple, but rich.
Before the meal, people folded hands. A prayer was offered. All eyes closed tightly. Heads down. “Lord, please help mother gain weight,” the praying person said. More sincere words have never been uttered.
And when the meal was finished, when almost everyone had gone home, when the living room had become dark, and was lit only by the multi-colored glow of twinkling lights from the decorative pinery, the old woman fell asleep in her chair. Whereupon her daughter gently placed a quilt over the woman’s frail frame, then touched her cotton hair, and her soft cheek, and said in a faint voice that was barely audible to anyone but the angels and her half-sleeping husband:
“Happy Thanksgiving, Mother.”
With all my heart I hope it was a happy one for you and yours as well.