Dad asked for a Zoom call on Thanksgiving this year. I was surprised as this was an unusual request for two reasons. One, getting Dad up and running on Zoom was quite the process. Two, Thanksgiving had long gone by the wayside in my immediate Family. Twenty plus years ago, after battling Thanksgiving scheduling around vacations, sports, moves and In-Laws Mom made a declaration:
“Dad and I are going to stay home, watch football and eat shrimp cocktails”
Truthfully Christmas was our Family’s Big Holiday Deal and we had always celebrated Thanksgiving in a non-traditional way in any case. First it was years serving Thanksgiving meals at our Church Kitchen. Mom volunteered us, and what started as a chore (and a way out of Mass) became something I treasured and looked forward to doing. The whole Family would work all day, arriving home too tired to eat anything other than, well, shrimp cocktails. The volunteering faded and then there were years sharing huge platters of Dad’s BBQ Turkey (crackly rosemary-butter skin) and Brother Timothy’s Stuffing (brandy, almonds and baked outside the bird) with whom Mom called the Spares: Neighbors, Friends and Co-Workers with no other plans. These were crazy good times, but the group grew smaller as us kids got older.
“I think that I’d like to try that Zoom thing” Dad mentioned quietly early Pandemic.
Finding a webcam in late March was like sourcing TP: not likely to happen. Somehow my Brother-in-Law magically found one, and with him yelling outside the window and my Husband remoting-in on Dad’s computer we managed installation (upside down), remote software updates (“DON’T click on ANYTHING!”), and Lessons (and more Lessons). By early summer and after a lot of alcohol, Dad was a Zoom whiz, attending HOA meetings, Doctor visits, and playing bridge remotely.
Thanksgiving years went on, us Kids doing our own things whilst Mom and Dad forged their own traditions. Their over-55 Villa crew would prepare a huge communal feast the Friday before Thanksgiving; Thanksgiving Day they would eat out with friends or stay home depending on their mood. The year Mom passed, Dad chaired the communal Villa Feast, then made plans with friends on Thanksgiving. I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Dad, now remarried, has spent the last few Thanksgivings happily celebrating with his “other” family. Thanksgiving always signals that it was time to wrangle the years’ Holiday scheduling with Kids and Grandkids scattered about the country.
I’ve been a 2020 COVID basket case, vividly imagining the worst for Dad: exposure, death, isolation, zero Doctors, starvation, depression. Dad, of course, has taken on COVID with his usual good humor: marveling at closures and keeping tabs on new restrictions. And he follows the rules! Visitors are banned; the mail is microwaved; groceries and meals delivered by Grandsons. He takes his walks down the middle of the street, yelling hellos at the Neighbors.
Discussion started in late summer about Holidays this year. Thanksgiving was off the table as usual, but it was impossible to commit on how or what we would be able to celebrate. We left it at calling an audible as the timing got closer. Now that the timing is upon us, with the worsening caseloads, it is looking like we will all celebrate the rest of the Year individually. I am heartbroken for all Dads out there who only want their Families around them.
As requested, this year at Thanksgiving Dad and Marla will be peering at tiny squares of Family as we discuss the events of our Turkey Day. They’ll eat their grocery store Thanksgiving and hope that 2021 will be different. As do I.