A Covid-19 Thanksgiving

A Covid-19 Thanksgiving November 25, 2020

For a number of reasons, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Because my sons (ages 8 and 6) and I met Jeanne at my parents’ condo on Thanksgiving Eve thirty-three years ago, we have always treated Thanksgiving as “our” holiday. Once the boys became adults and scattered to the four winds, until just a few years ago we would all gather here in Providence for Thanksgiving, always joined by friends with nowhere else to go for the holiday, my sons’ current girlfriends (then our daughter-in-law Alisha once she and Caleb were married), sometimes my uncle from Vermont, and various random strays who just showed up on short notice.

Things have shifted the past three or four years, when everyone finally realized that, given Jeanne’s and my careers shaped by the academic calendar, there was a lot more flexibility and time available if we shifted our holiday get-togethers to Christmas. Last year our five-person pack gathered Caleb and Alisha’s place in Atlanta; our plan for this coming Christmas is to gather at Justin’s in Arizona for five days over the holiday. Flights have been purchased, B and B has been reserved–all we can do is hope!

Accordingly, the call from the CDC over the past couple of weeks, in the face of nationwide Covid-19 spikes, to (loose translation) “for the love of f—ing God please stay home and don’t travel for Thanksgiving” has not disrupted Jeanne’s and my life inordinately. We had an open invitation to go to Long Island for Thanksgiving at her niece’s house (as we did last year)—Covid-19 made it easy for us to politely decline the invitation. But for many, Covid-19’s disruption of traditional Thanksgiving celebration is just the latest piece of crap delivered by 2020—surely the most abominable calendar year in the lifetime of anyone not old enough to have lived through WWII.

My guess is that the spikes in Covid-19 over the coming month will be directly proportional to how many people ignore the CDC’s dire warning about Thanksgiving gatherings. It has become glaringly obvious over the past months, time and time again, that Americans have a uniquely difficult time with doing even the most basic things to slow the spread of the virus than just about any other group of people on the planet. If we can’t be bothered to have our “freedoms” inhibited by even slight and minor inconveniences, like wearing a mask and social distancing, what are the chances that we will, en masse, set aside our usual holiday traditions in order to help make people we don’t know or care about safer? Slim to none, I would guess. As my German-born daughter-in-law reported saying the other day to a MAGA-hat-wearing guy in her tattoo shop who vigorously resisted the shop’s mandate that everyone wear a mask while in the shop: “You are such an American.”

It has been my habit on this blog each of the last few Thanksgivings to list a handful things that I am thankful for. So, what am I thankful for during this Covid-19 holiday season?

  • I am thankful for the beautiful person I met thirty-three years ago. There is no one I would rather have (no one else I could have) spent the last nine months of various versions of lockdown with. I understand that once the Covid-19 lockdown ended in China, a tsunami of divorces followed. Turned out that for many, it wasn’t much fun to be locked down with your spouse or significant other. Those people made the mistake of not marrying their best friend. As I’ve told many who have asked the ubiquitous question “How are the two of you doing?’ over the past several months, “Fine—Jeanne and I actually like each other.”
  • I am thankful that Jeanne and I are healthy and gainfully employed. We are extraordinarily fortunate in that neither of us has lost a day of work due to Covid-19; indeed, it often seems that we are working more hours than ever—and both of us are workaholics!
  • I am thankful that I am a teacher. Thankful for my students, my colleagues, and the college at which I have taught for the past twenty-seven years. I wrote about teaching in Zoom land last week, with its own list of things I am grateful for, even though this has been the most demanding and challenging semester of my career.

    The Ancient Stoics in Zoom Land

  • I am thankful that I am a person of faith, although I cannot always describe precisely what that means. I am grateful for Trinity Episcopal Church, for my good friend Mitch who is the priest-in-charge at Trinity, and for the Living Stones discussion group. Once we could no longer meet monthly after the Sunday service in person, as we have done for the past nine years, the “Stoners” and I have actually raised the bar by meeting on Zoom once every other week. Who said people in their golden years can’t learn new tricks?
  • I am thankful for this blog and for the thousands of people who drop in to read and comment each month. I have been blogging for eight years now, three posts per week; the discipline of regular writing about faith, philosophy, and the real world has become my spiritual practice. Thanks so much!
  • I am thankful for Winnie, our elderly (12.5 years old) dachshund who is the last dog standing of the three-dog pack we had for a number of years. Winnie has been very tolerant of my being home a great deal more this year than usual, especially since she is not usually tolerant of even the slightest thing that is outside her routine. I’m pretty sure Winnie thinks that I’ve been fired.
  • I am thankful for my bicycle. I moved my bicycle into the basement last week and set it up on its new riding stand–it’s enough of a pain to haul the thing and set it up downstairs that I’m pretty sure I won’t be riding outside again until spring 2021. My final total for 2020 riding, from mid-March to now: 2406.55 miles. Next to being with Jeanne, riding the bike was my most effective way to keep sane during this insane year. During the winter, I’ll be catching up on podcasts as I ride downstairs!

And that just scratches the surface.

Don’t get me wrong . . . 2020 has been a lousy year in many ways, with no promise of it letting up in its last few weeks. But it has provided each of us with the opportunity to take a close look at what matters most, unencumbered by some of the surface-level stuff that often seems far more important than it truly is. Please take some time during this holiday season to make a list of all of the things you have to be grateful for.

I’m sure you’ve noticed over the past several months how creative so many people have become in finding ways to connect with each other even in the middle of quarantine and lockdown. The music performances have been remarkable. This one, which came to my attention just a few days ago, will be the best seven minutes you spend today. It is a setting of Aaron’s blessing from the Book of Numbers, sung by members from one hundred different churches throughout New York City. Enjoy, be blessed, be safe, and be thankful!

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Isra’el: you are to say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and grant you peace.”


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