Grateful in a pandemic: celebrating an early Thanksgiving with COVID-19 hitting my family

I’m preparing Thanksgiving dinner for my family a week ahead of the official holiday next Thursday. We will be celebrating tonight.

 

I wouldn’t in a million years have ever expected that four of my family members would have, or be recovering from, COVID-19.

 

My youngest daughter has the virus. She was rundown, experienced a headache, sinus and cold symptoms, and lost her sense of taste and smell. She is feeling better and almost finished quarantining, while three people in my sister’s family are at various stages of the virus.

 

The original plan was to celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. But with my quarantined household, my sister’s quarantined family, and the realization that my dad’s close friend is nearing life’s end, we’ll celebrate a week early, and in our separate households.

 

My family members support one another, and my 90-year-old father shopped for the meal fixings and will deliver all the meals­­—to his friend and her caregiver, to my brother, and my sister and her family, then eat with his friend and her caregiver.

 

We tried something a little different this year for our turkey preparation—a spatchcocked fresh turkey on our Weber Grill. Armed with our new knowledge from Michael Symon’s Food Network cooking show, “Symon’s Dinners Cooking Out,” which aired this past Sunday, Nov. 15, we’ll give it a whirl—or rather my husband took the lead with the grilling.

 

There will be Bob Evans mashed potatoes piled high with a divot at the peak for the peas, butter, and gravy. Mixing the mashed potatoes and peas is a longstanding family’s tradition.

 

Then we have the sweet potatoes and I will experience my first time making cranberry sauce­—instead of opening the can (thank you, Dad, for suggesting honey instead of sugar and giving me an article about the health benefits of honey).

 

We’ll have Greek salad with French feta, of course; store-bought gravy that we doctored up with some of the turkey drippings, and fluffy, sweet King’s Hawaiian rolls.

 

My dad can’t resist pumpkin pie and a good deal, so we’ll have the giant one from Costco, as well as my homemade apple pie, for dessert.

 

I’m looking forward to preparing the meal and boxing it up in containers for family and close friends. The original plan was to eat outside at our house this weekend (wearing gloves and setting up a tent, if needed).

 

But I’m grateful that we can celebrate at all—even if it is in this strange, remote form. My dad says he is so happy to deliver the meals to family members and be able to help me out for a change.

 

He is a gem—so special and giving. When he dropped off the meal ingredients at our house, he told me how he also practiced a random act of kindness: While at the store, he bought four turkeys and took them to our church, Rockport United Methodist Church in Rocky River, and asked that they be shared with those who need it most.

 

I can tell he has been a bit down and out recently. He is the perfect role model of someone who demonstrates how stay positive when someone you love is suffering: You help others.

 

What a strange experience the beginning of the holiday season has been. Since we’re quarantined in the house, meals have been left outside my daughter’s bedroom door. We talk on the phone with her or text each other to communicate. I’m so grateful her symptoms have not been severe.

 

We took everything to the extreme at first—all wearing masks the entire day for the first week. I have a new appreciation for our healthcare workers and those required to wear a mask all day for their employment.

 

But there certainly has been fear running through my veins. I barely slept a wink the night my daughter learned she tested positive. Will I get it? Will I need to go to the hospital? What if we all get it? Then what? Cleaning, washing clothes, sheets, couch cushion covers—you name it, my husband and I have cleaned it.

 

I’ve kept up with remote yoga classes (breathe) and walking outside wearing a mask, but otherwise we’re stuck in the house.

 

I have so much for which to be grateful, but the root of that gratitude is my expanding relationship with God, family, and friends. Be kind, help each other and put yourself in the shoes of another. Where there is a will, there is a way—even amid a pandemic.

 

Lisa Kay is a guest columnist for ChroniCLEs. Interested in contributing to this column? Email us and tell us why!

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