I wanted to write an uplifting, heartfelt Thanksgiving story, but instead, the overwhelming message that I can’t seem to get out of my head is to tell you, my friends, to enjoy and love where you are without judgment. This year has divided so many of us, and it does not have to be like this. We can genuinely agree to disagree, to love without understanding, and to be kind without agreement. This year many of us are not getting to see our loved ones, making people angry. But it has always been like this on holidays for some. I know sickness, death, divorce, financial hardship, war has always kept someone away. Now we can add a virus to the list. This is the first time in my 56 years that I have not had Thanksgiving with some of my family. I am recovering from COVID, and I don’t want to infect anyone, so plans were canceled, and promises for next year were made. I know too well that guarantees can not be made, but our intentions are good. This year, there is no annual guacamole contest, and there are no hikes and no waffle stuffing. Instead, I made burritos for Tony and me, and I am glad to be getting my energy back.
There will be a ZOOMgiving later, hopefully not starting a new tradition. All-day, I have been thinking about when my kids were little, and we would travel from Texas to the Chicago area to see my side of the family. Thanksgiving was my side, Christmas was Randy’s side. My kids would love to see the snow. I would love to see my grandparents and friends that I grew up with and my siblings, parents, and we would have fun. Lots of people, lots of laughter. I am positive there were different opinions and points of view, but I only remember the camaraderie. And of course the food and drinks and games. I know this is a selective fantasy memory because, in reality, there were disagreements and hurt feelings. However, now it is perfect in my memory because so many of these special people are no longer with us. My grandparents and Randy, and every day we are closer to missing someone else.
In 1985 I brought my friend and roommate Andy Blair Bayard home with me for Thanksgiving, and she had never been to Chicago. We did the city’s whole tour, starting with China Town and ending with the Sears Tower. I just heard from Andy yesterday because she had just finished my book and loved it. The book has brought so many people back into my life. Randy would have loved that. The year Andy came home with me, American Airlines asked for volunteers to get off the plane and fly out first thing the next morning. Andy could not get off because she had a test the next day, but I did not hesitate to get my free ticket to be used anytime in the next year. By the time the other volunteers from the flight and I checked into the seedy motel across from Midway airport, the motel restaurant was closed. We were all tired and hungry, but we had a free ticket! I said to my fellow passengers that I had a dozen bagels on me that I was willing to share. I brought bagels back for my roommates because you couldn’t get a good bagel in Lawrence, Kansas, back then. Incredibly another passenger said I have cream cheese. She had a four-pack of different flavored gourmet cream cheeses, and so we sat in the hotel lobby and shared bagels and cream cheese and stories about our Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving that is so different from all my others, I appreciate the quiet time to reflect on those that I miss every day and anticipate the good times in the future. I hope that someone that might need reminding not to take their spouse for granted will pick up “Grief Survivor, a Love Story” and make a change. I am not a first responder or health care worker. I am not a teacher navigating this crisis, and thankfully I am not a politician having to make decisions for others. My small but heartfelt contribution is to remind everyone to do better by giving you a story that will make you laugh and cry and try. Please buy my book, Grief Survivor: A Love Story, and share it because it will help you find your nostalgia and hopefully make you more tolerant of your loved ones and realize all we have is today.