Thanksgiving isn’t Lost This Year

It is just going to look different.

Like so many, Darcy and I are avoiding travel for Thanksgiving. We are staying inside New England’s sphere of regional quarantine rules for Thanksgiving. It’ll be my first Thanksgiving without my family. It is disappointing.

It is disappointing because of the role Thanksgiving plays in our family. It circles back to one November day almost 20 years ago – it was my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving with us. He, like many from the Greatest Generation, was a World War II veteran and on that Thanksgiving Day I built up the courage to ask him about his time in the War at the dinner table. I was a curious kid and had so many burning questions to ask, but had never heard him talk about his soldering some fifty years prior. I was nervous, despite my dad’s insistence to “just ask him, Gun!”

The night I finally built up the courage to ask him about the weapons he carried, the Allies’ triumph over the Nazis and anything else he would talk about, was the last night he was alive to share those memories with us. He passed later that night.

As terrible as it was to lose him, we felt such enormous gratitude that he shared his memories and reminisces from the world’s last great crisis with us at the dinner table. When I look back to my childhood and think about my grandpa, I think about that night at the dinner table.

Since, Thanksgiving has held great meaning for our family. It has also grown to include our extended family – friends who grew up along us beyond the blood bond – and is the cornerstone of many of our family traditions. We, ironically, play ball hockey on Thanksgiving instead of football. Last year, I spilled the beans about Sydney’s pregnancy before she told anyone, and one year the police showed up to the house to shut us down.

I know my readers also have their own meaningful memories for their usual Thanksgiving celebrations.

This year we will have none of that and it’s especially frustrating because it is my niece’s first Thanksgiving. It also would have been the time we introduced Blitzen to our family back home.

But all of that together does not mean the holiday is lost for us. Not traveling is, after all, the right thing to do as COVID explodes around the country.

Yes, I have had to miss holidays before and I have a great deal of empathy for the folks in all our lives who have not had health, or anything get between them and a holiday before. It is because of that I don’t want to shame people who are circumventing public health guidance. Yes, COVID has been with us for almost a year, but the holiday season is special and meaningful for people, so that makes these few months a fresh experience. Instead, I am going to share how we are coping with another 2020-specific loss.

Thanksgiving will come back next year. Next year when Darcy and I are married, when Winnie and Blitzen (it’s funny for me to write their names in the same sentence) are a year older.

In the interim, 2020 has taught us there is opportunity to make new memories. For me, it has been diving into my new family – that is Darcy’s side of our soon-to-be union. I have spent much of the quarantine with her family in Western Massachusetts. They’ve seen firsthand my daily care for CF, the attention to detail we’ve had to live with during the pandemic and many shared moments around the dinner table and in the “virtual office.” So while won’t be able to share Thanksgiving with my family in New York, I will be able to do so with my family in New England, and for that I am grateful.

My support system means so much to me in my life with CF that I can’t help but love that it has grown exponentially in the last couple years. CF is a heavy burden to carry alone, which is why my message is consistent when I talk to a family that just received a new diagnosis.

Do whatever you can to help shoulder the burden.

I encourage people to find some good during this holiday season that is backed up against so much loss. Easier said than done, I know. Maybe that good is doing your part to slow the spread. The light at the end of the tunnel is here – vaccinations are around the corner. We, with CF, have all hoped for our breakthrough that for most of us has been delivered. It is now humanity’s turn to realize the hope of science. Hope is the first step.