For the first time in 70-plus years, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving (and maybe Christmas) without family physically with us. I suggested we try to find some unique way to commemorate this clown-show of a year. Who would have ever thought the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” would become so meaningful?
Our immediate family is locked down in Pittsburgh and Windber, while the two of us are living in self-imposed isolation, praying for good vaccines, and hoping for a shot of freedom again before next Thanksgiving. Truthfully, if I had been awakened from a medically induced coma last March and knew what I know now, I might have asked the docs to put me back under and feed me IVs of prune juice until everything, and I do mean everything, passed.
When things first got crazy last March, I vacated my Pittsburgh office and headed for the mountains. All my former clients are either gone or on COVID-hold for however long this pandemic rages. That means, for the first time since about 1955 when I got my paper route, I’m not at work full time.
We wake up at 7 a.m., feed and shoot the cat. (She’s diabetic, and we give her an insulin shot.) Then we take turns exercising on that one stationary bike. After that, I spend my days trying to connect with family, friends and business acquaintances via social media including, FaceTime, Zoom, emails and actual hand-written letters.
While looking out my window from a three-foot-wide, minioffice desk strewn with memories of better times, I’m also volunteering for the local symphony, two arts organizations, two universities and a hospital foundation.
My wife, along with every television, movie and Broadway performer, is doing voice-over auditions for novels. She’s baking all forms of bread, cooking, listening to books on tape, FaceTiming our grandkids, trying on various fake hair pieces that come in the mail (they scare me because I think they’re animals), and watching Netflix with me. She’s also taking virtual piano lessons, and painting lots of scenes from places she’s visited.
Let’s face it. If nothing else, this year has proven without a doubt that we haven’t come very far as a species. Instead, let’s just focus on the eventual fact that everything’s going to be great. Sooner or later we will be getting back together, saying grace, and expressing our thankfulness for the doctors, nurses and scientists who are going to get us out of this mess.
In 1968, 52 years ago, my wife and I got married. Only she can tell you if that was a tragic Thanksgiving week. None of our children were born around the holiday, but our daughter-in-law was, and we’re certainly thankful for that. At least one of our six grandchildren was born during Thanksgiving month, and of course, this year’s date for the celebration is also on the day that British Prime Minister John Major announced Queen Elizabeth II had agreed to pay taxes on her personal income. If that’s not worth celebrating, what is?
My fondest memories of this day revolved not around turkey and stuffing, but the trip I’ve discussed so many times before, which was literally “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.” Our aunt, uncles, cousins and grandparents always got together to enjoy the Italian Thanksgiving dinner.
Truth be told, this was very much like the traditional meal every single Sunday. It took place 52 times a year. We had antipasto, homemade bread, lots of black olives, tomato-sauce-soaked braciole that had cooked on the stove all day, Italian sweet sausage, bucatini pasta, and Italian anisette cookies. There was also an abundance of homemade wine and lots of laughing before, during and after that meal. The adults had espresso and some limoncello while we kids ate pizzelles and sucked on lemon-filled hard candies.
Let’s make the good-ol’ days happen soon.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Nick Jacobs of Pittsburgh is a Senior Partner with Senior Management Resources and author of the blog healinghospitals.com.