Column: This year we’ll do Thanksgiving the Health Department way

Most of us have experienced a sad or depressing Thanksgiving or two over the years. One that comes to mind was when my grandmother, dad and sister visited my mom in a psychiatric health facility in Cerritos where we put out a mobile spread of the essentials—turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, rolls and cranberry sauce—on a table in a physical therapy room and ate as patients in various need of psychiatric care wandered in and out.

Another year, stuck at work while my family celebrated out of town, my friend and I thought it would be funny to have a depressing Thanksgiving so we went to an all-night diner and had turkey. It wasn’t funny; it was just depressing. Maybe we should’ve had the meatloaf.

And now there’s this year’s Thanksgiving, your special COVID edition of the holiday, which renders it virtually not a holiday at all.

The coronavirus has been absolutely brutal toward celebrations of any kind, and not only by dampening the world’s enthusiasm for festivities. Look what it’s done to our holidays this year: St. Patrick’s Day was the first casualty before COVID ravaged or at least canceled Memorial Day, Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Halloween and whatever religious holidays you may observe, never mind laying the entire summer and that season’s attendant vacationing to waste. And now it has clipped the wings of Thanksgiving on its relentless and Shermanesque march toward Christmas.

While families and friends tend to congregate on most every holiday, Thanksgiving is perhaps the biggest one of all for get-togethers, but because of health orders, large gatherings are discouraged this year, chiefly because private gatherings of any size are COVID’s favored method of meeting new people.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans don’t believe in Thanksgiving health orders and are taking to the roads and skies to mingle with relatives and friends and give thanks for not being among the “sheeple” who follow hoax-based health orders that do nothing but steal their freedoms, and next, they come for our guns.

Health officials expect the number of COVID cases to spike—again—following this week’s four-day holiday weekend, just as cases have spiked after largely mask-free Trump rallies and, for that matter, after easing the initial restrictions instituted in the early spring, when there was still a small hope for Easter. An unwillingness by too many people to sacrifice and forego the niceties of pre-COVID life has landed us perilously close to the square one of St. Patrick’s Day.

And still the pushback against medicine and science continues, with many of the millions of travelers this holiday weekend apparently feeling the pandemic isn’t serious enough to warrant a stay-at-home Thanksgiving, and while it’s true the death rate isn’t as high as it’s been for such pandemics as the 1918 Spanish Flu, the fact that it’s killed 257,000 people in the United States and 1.39 million worldwide deserves more than a shrug or a damned-if-I’ll-let-COVID-kill-my-Thanksgiving attitude.

I agonized all weekend about whether to even invite my son over to the house for Thanksgiving. My family has already canceled its annual feast that generally has about 30 relatives getting together at my mother-in-law’s house in Long Beach. It’s a big crowd because my wife has six siblings, and most of them have children, and some of those children have children. The math explodes pretty quickly.

Right now, I’m leaning toward having Ray over. We’ll do things the health department way, serving dinner outdoors in the Barn, with my wife, daughter Hannah and I sitting at one end of the 12-foot bar and our son/brother Ray at the other, all of us bound up in winter coats and masks while the sibling dogs Annie and Jasper beg and bark piteously for scraps.

My wife has bought the smallest turkey she could find, though at 12 pounds it could still beat you in a fight. That gives us 3 pounds of turkey apiece—more than plenty. Twenty-pound birds aren’t in much demand during the pandemic, and I’m now kicking myself for not following through on my idea of starting a pygmy turkey farm.

And after we polish everything off, including the requisite pumpkin pie, we’ll maybe sit quietly under the optimistically half-full moon and enjoy a nightcap of something warm and be thankful that we’ve all survived this long, and hope and pray that we all make it to whatever sort of Christmas the end of this wretched and heartbreaking year will bring.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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