Thanksgiving is Looking Different This Year

My brother Mike and I at Thanksgiving 2010. A lot has changed since then.

Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK. I made a mad dash to the J.C. Market yesterday for Thanksgiving cooking needs because I had just realized how close the holiday was. Now my turkey is in the refrigerator starting its long defrost. Bread pieces for stuffing wait on the counter. I’ve got potatoes, celery, apples, a bottle of chardonnay . . . my friend is bringing a pumpkin cake, cranberry sauce, corn casserole . . . it sounds like a regular Thanksgiving. But it won’t be.

Pat and I, both widows, are doing the day together. Our families are far away. Her son’s family is in Connecticut. Her daughter and son-in-law in California have COVID-19. My family is in California, too. In past years, I would drive to San Jose, spend a couple days with my father, then drive him to my brother’s place in Cathey’s Valley near Yosemite. That big house would fill with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. Babies, toddlers and older kids would be running around, along with several dogs. Football on TV. Cheese and crackers on the counter. Big tables laden with turkey, stuffing, ham, two kinds of potatoes, and more side dishes than I can name, plus three kinds of desserts. “Pass the gravy,” we’d hear. “Oh, this is so good.” “How’s it going up in Oregon?”

We would remember those who had passed on, drink a toast to them, hope they were having a good time in heaven.

After dinner, we’d stretch out in the living room, talk, watch TV, maybe go for a walk or a scenic drive. Later, there’d be turkey sandwiches and leftovers packed up for those who had to leave. We’d fall asleep full, not just with food, but love and family and gratitude.

When we were kids, my parents hosted most of the holidays. Somewhere I have pictures of all the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins sitting around that big table, eating, joking, talking over each other. Somewhere are home movies of those times, taken by my dad as we sat blinded by the light. When asked to say grace, my mother’s father would say, “Grace! Let’s eat.”

In later years, my mother did say a real grace, and then we passed the food in both directions at once while people knocked bowls against each other. Someone might toss a roll to someone across the table. We were so sophisticated.

Holidays were never totally idyllic. Arguments broke out. People’s feelings got hurt. One year, my sister-in-law’s garbage disposal overflowed, and the men took turns on the floor trying to fix it. One year my mother’s oven didn’t work and the turkey was raw. In his later years, Grandpa hallucinated with dementia. Later, when my husband had Alzheimer’s, he was lost and confused all day. Toward the end of his life, my father sat silent, unable to hear much of what people said. But I also remember him smiling at his baby great-granddaughter, making faces at her.

Shoot, I’m going to cry. My father passed away last year. So many are gone. The youngest baby is walking and talking, and I haven’t seen her since before she could crawl.

Stupid COVID. Most years I worry about the weather driving to and from California in the winter. If it’s snowing at Siskiyou Pass, then I have to take the coast route, driving through wind, rain and mudslides. Not fun either way. But I haven’t made that drive since last Thanksgiving. After years of going back and forth, it’s strange. I haven’t left the Oregon coast since March.

I debated about going south for Thanksgiving, but ultimately decided I would stay home this year. When I called my brother to tell him, he already knew. The governors of both states had just locked everything down because of the latest surge in COVID cases.

Newscasters, government officials and doctors are all saying the same thing. Do not gather in a large group for Thanksgiving. Stay home. Keep it small. Don’t risk spreading COVID. I fear a lot of people will ignore that advice and spread the virus even more.

This is Pat’s first Thanksgiving without her husband, who died in July. It will be hard. Every first holiday is hard. My husband died the day before Easter. I went to Easter dinner at a friend’s house where I felt like an outsider with her family. They were all sorry my husband had passed, but they quickly went on to other subjects. I don’t blame them. No matter where you go, you feel like you’re from another planet when a loved one has just died.

Anyway, Pat and I, who have claimed each other as the sisters we never had, are planning a huge meal, to be followed by a movie. Maybe, if the weather cooperates, we’ll soak in the hot tub. Maybe we’ll Zoom call our families. Maybe we’ll cry a little. And we’ll eat leftovers for a week.

What are your plans, dear friends? How are they different this year?

COVID plus anger a deadly combination

IMG_20160612_105943801[1]I’m typing this on the lounge on my deck on Sunday afternoon. The old dog insists on sharing my space, her haunch touching mine. She’s breathing so hard the computer is shaking. We adapt to each other’s needs.

If only the rest of the world saw it that way.

The news this weekend frightened me. In big cities all over the U.S., people were rioting, breaking windows, looting, and starting fires. Police and military personnel were lined up to try to stop them, but the rioters were throwing things at them and seemingly unstoppable. The sounds of flash grenades, breaking glass, and angry shouting filled the streets of Minneapolis, Seattle, San Jose, Portland, and so many other cities.

This all started last week when a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on a black man’s neck until he died. George Floyd, who was accused of using counterfeit money at a deli, was pleading for mercy, saying he couldn’t breathe, but the cop didn’t let up. There’s a video of it that keeps showing on social media. I can’t watch.

The three cops involved were fired. The one with the knee has been charged with third-degree murder. Not enough, people say. Outraged by yet another instance of white cop violence against black people, people have gone nuts.

There were some peaceful protests—speeches, signs, singing, prayers. In fact, there’s going to be one today in front of Newport’s city hall at 2 p.m. That makes sense. We need to mark the horror of this and try to stop it from happening again.

But it didn’t stop with peaceful demonstrations. Something broke loose, and people started destroying their cities. I watched on TV as looters smashed store windows, ran in and grabbed stuff and put it in their cars, with no concern for the poor business owners who had nothing to do with George Floyd’s death and are just trying to survive COVID-19. Some are just reopening. Some, like in Portland, are still in lockdown, losing money every day as it is.

Many of those arrested in the melee are reportedly young white men, not brokenhearted black people. There are all kinds of rumors about terrorist groups, white supremacists and people fed up with the COVID restrictions. I don’t know, but I’m appalled. George Floyd’s brother was on TV yesterday pleading for the rioters to stop. His brother wouldn’t want this.

The virus didn’t seem to be on anyone’s minds. The cops and journalists wore masks, but many of the destroyers violated all the rules, their mindset being “nobody can tell us what to do.”

Anarchy frightens me. I get real scared when people are out of control.

Walking with Annie, I noticed how the greenery has grown like crazy in this spring of alternating sun and rain. Ferns, buttercups, berries, salal, wild daisies, and scotch broom are all growing willy-nilly, out of control, one might say, like those people. But plants are not like people because they don’t destroy anything for the sake of destruction. Animals either. They only kill so they can eat. They don’t rip things up for the hell of it. What is wrong with humans? For the first time in my life, I am beginning to believe Satan or at least some evil entity exists.

I know everyone is tired of sheltering in place. I know that masks are uncomfortable. I know people have lost their jobs and their income. Their kids can’t go to school, and we can’t visit each other, even in the hospital, and it sucks. I know that all these coronavirus precautions may seem like overkill, especially if we’re someplace like Newport which so far has only a few confirmed cases, but that’s no reason to start destroying things or fighting with each other.

I enjoyed our long walk. It’s gorgeous out here this time of year. But I’m scared, probably more scared of the anger than I am of the virus. I thank God I live out here in the woods with Annie, who never gets angry and who accepts the rules as necessary for our mutual health and comfort. Can’t leave without a leash? Fine. Have to wait to eat until Sue says grace? Fine. Have to leave the sticks outside? Oh, okay. Why can’t people be the same way?

Why are people rioting when most of us are just trying to stay alive? What will the COVID numbers look like two weeks from now? God help us.

Forgive the sermonette. I’m troubled. Pray if you believe. Whatever you believe, spread peace and love, not hate or coronavirus. Pass it on.