This Thanksgiving will be very different for our family this year. For the first time in my entire life, I will not be with my large extended family or even with my own children and grandchildren. Our kids made the decision for us following the news that the number of cases in our state and especially in our county have increased exponentially. They said, “It just isn’t safe for us to be together this year.” In fact, the term “skyrocketing” has hit home and has a new meaning. When I look at the graphic that shows our county numbers, the first two waves look like tiny rolling hills. Starting a few weeks ago, our numbers shot straight up, just like a NASA rocket heading for orbit with a completely vertical line. We are, at the time of this writing, experiencing more than 10 times the numbers of daily cases as we did at our peak in March and April.
I imagine that for most women, the holidays of the past were mixed blessings. Yes, it is a time for seeing family, gathering around a table for a meal, and enjoying time together. But for many of us, it means cleaning the house, scrubbing toilets, setting the table, shopping for and then cooking massive amounts of food, and then cleaning it up. All just in time to get going on all of the Christmas activities.
It has been so long since I have seen my extended family and this Thanksgiving was an anticipated occasion to catch up with everyone. But with several of our family members at both ends of the age and health spectrum, some are in their 80’s and then we welcomed two precious baby twin girls this spring, no one wants to take any chances.
At first, upon realizing there would be no Thanksgiving for us and that the two of us would continue to stay home alone, I was anxious and frustrated. But now I’ve chosen to be content and grateful this holiday season. We are safe, warm, have plenty of food and a roof over our heads.
Recently, I was thinking of times when I haven’t had access to water. There have been camping trips where I’ve needed to haul water for a distance, pour it into a pot, and boil it on a stove to do dishes, cook or even wash my face. It is so easy, when I have instant water availability, to take this gift for granted. Whenever I return home from a short weekend without water, I have a sense of relief and gratitude for the blessing that is fresh, clean water.
I’ve also been thinking about the darkness when the power goes out. In the Pacific Northwest, we have lots of trees. We are known as the “Evergreen State” because of our huge forests of Douglas fir and Cedars and inches and inches of rain. Our temperate rainforest climate grows really tall trees. But in the fall and winter, storms from the Pacific Ocean hit our coast and Cascade mountain range and those trees blow down causing power failures. Sometimes we are in the dark for a few hours, other times it can be several days, and a few times during extreme storms, we have been without power for a week!
Fumbling around in the cold and dark, lighting candles, and using flashlights to read all make me appreciate what our pioneer forefathers experienced every day. When I try to get dressed, put on makeup, or prepare a meal it is so much harder without power. During the darkness, I yearn for light and warmth, and consciously realize that it is easy to take power and light for granted when it is gone.
This Thanksgiving season, I’m choosing to think about the pandemic and the fact that we can not safely celebrate and be together as a sort of power failure. Yes, I’m missing time with children and grandchildren and all the traditions we created as a family for generations. I feel a loss of human connection, a sense of sadness, and a bit of regret. But I know that eventually the power will get turned on again. Just like the linemen and women who work through the storms for long hours to restore the power, I know that there are countless health workers and scientists working through the night to restore our world to health. Will we look back on 2020 with sadness, frustration, and anger, or are we looking forward to the day when we can resume the activities we love? Will I appreciate this time of quiet, solitude, and a moment to contemplate the life I have? Will I be grateful when the tide turns and we get a vaccine widely distributed? Or will I move on again with the busy life I lead and lose my sense of gratefulness?
For now, I am trying to be patient. I know there are thousands of people working on our behalf to turn the “lights back on.” Not having a Thanksgiving family gathering for one year out of my life will make next year’s celebration so much sweeter. May I never forget what a blessing it is to be together with our friends and family during the holiday season.
Barbara is the new star of the Rock Your Retirement show! For one year, she'll let Kathe Kline tag along as she goes through her retirement journey.