Empty sessions, feasts as the virus changes Thanksgiving Day

Vivian Zayas can’t stop her from flipping through the days of her last Thanksgiving when her mother stood by the stove to make a large pot of rice and beans and then took a seat at the edge of the table.

This happened before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and before he demanded the retired seamstress. Ana Martinez died at the age of 78 on April 1 while recovering from her knee prosthesis in a nursing home.

The family eats traditional food, turkey, yams, green beans, rice and beans – but Zayas takes the seat off the table at his home in Deer Park, New York, and puts his mother’s walker in place.

– Painful Thanksgiving. Don’t you know you should celebrate? Zayas asked. – Time is lonely.

The family will “stay empty at the table forever,” another daughter, Alexa Rivera, said Thursday.

Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving amid a ruthless epidemic that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people in the United States.

Turkey and pies continue to appear as ovens, football continues to appear on TV, families continue to give thanks and have lively conversations about politics. But this feast was completely changed after months of pain and hardship: Many feasts are considered the loss of their loved ones; others were deleted or repressed as the virus recovered.

Zoom and FaceTime calls have become part of the dining room tables to connect with family members who don’t want to travel. Far fewer volunteers help in soup kitchens or community houses. A Utah health department delivered canned food to residents who were infected with the virus and could not go to the store. A New York nursing home offers offering visits to the families of residents who celebrate the holiday alone.

“The holidays make it a little harder,” said Harriet Krakowsky, an 85-year-old resident of the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York, who misses the great Thanksgiving holidays of recent years and has lost her neighbors and friends to the virus. “I cry, but I get over it. We have to continue.

On the day of any regular Thanksgiving, Kara McKlemurry and her husband drove from Clearwater, Florida to one of two places: her family’s home in another part of the state, or her family’s home in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed his family that there would be no visit. When his compatriots offered to stop, the couple said no.

Her husband did not want to risk infecting anyone or getting the virus themselves.

Not everyone followed McKlemurry’s example. Millions of American people bought tickets to fly somewhere for the celebration and, despite requests from officials, crowded airports to avoid passengers and gatherings.

Still, 27-year-old McKlemurry wanted to do something unique in commemorating this unusual holiday – something to let everyone know that she and her husband still feel blessed this year.

So a week before Thanksgiving, armed with colored feathers and scarf owl stickers, he wrote handwritten thank-you notes to every member of the family.

“We are very grateful that you are in our lives,” he wrote on the card with the drawing fox, “even if we really can’t be together this year during the holidays.

In the country’s capital, the convention center is empty, unlike previous years when volunteers worked together to feed about 5,000 people. In an age of social isolation, the sponsored event had to be rethought.

Prior to the celebration, organizers delivered 5,000 gift bags to 20 nonprofits, each with winter clothing accessories, hand sanitizer and mask, and a 5,000 box containing a turkey sandwich with flavors, side potato salad, cookies and utensils.

From start to finish, Thanksgiving is for another Sister Jessica Franz who is doing the graveyard change at the Olathe Medical Center in a suburb of Kansas City.

On the one hand, Franz, 39, is celebrating without his mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of coronavirus on November 10, just a day before her 78th birthday. In previous years, she was a mother-in-law who laid out a distribution for her children and grandchildren. In Franz’s work, in a typical year, co-workers brought food to a pot.

None of this is happening this year.

The family is moving the holidays to Zoom and FaceTime. It was difficult for her daughters – 2, 8 and 11 years old. Her middle daughter was exposed to the coronavirus at school and is quarantined until December 3, and her older daughter is struggling with the concept of reduced vacation.

“We had a good conversation that sounded like,‘ This year could be different, and that’s okay. This is a year. If the situation is different this year, and that means we can meet the rest of our family next year, then everything is fine. “said Franz, who personally cared for patients dying of the coronavirus.

The Thanksgiving gathering at David Forsyth’s home in Southern California, however, exudes a uniquely 2020 mood: with quick virus tests in the door to decide who gets in.

The kit costs about $ 1,000 for 20 tests, each involving a finger prick and a drop of blood on a tray. Ten minutes later, the results either show that someone is negative, has an antibody, or is positive.

Typically, about 15-20 people attend a family Thanksgiving dinner at Channel Islands Harbor. But this year, there will be only eight of them: Forsyth, his wife, four adult sons and a partner of two of them.

His wife started cooking on Tuesday. For starters, plan a cold cucumber soup and a pile of appetizers for an early afternoon meal. The boys bring garnishes. Turkey and fixings are the main course. The champagne may crack.

Forsyth didn’t see much of his family during the pandemic, but he wanted to save the holiday.

“People are trying to live normal lives,” he said. “And you know the second wave is coming, it’s not a bad idea to prepare.”

Kerry Osaki longs to see her now adult children without masks and hug them. But instead, he and his wife only celebrate two after their traditions were upset.

Osaki’s 93-year-old mother, Rose, who lived with the couple in Orange County, California, died of the virus after all three fell ill.

Her mother left, Osaki, 67, and her cousin decided to pass on the family’s annual Thanksgiving gathering. His wife, Lena Adame, typically spent the holiday cooking with turkey cooking and stuffing with relatives – but some saw viral cases at work, so the couple decided to skip this as well.

“It was just a long, rough and sometimes sad year,” he said.

In Ogden, Utah, Evelyn Maysonet left her home Tuesday morning to find boxes full of canned food, desserts, and a turkey. She has since been isolated from her husband and son as all three have proven positive for COVID-19.

None of them could go shopping for groceries, so he was very happy to receive the health department delivery – and the opportunity to nurture the most important things.

“As long as you have a life and are still alive, just bring out the best in yourself and your family,” Maysonet said.


Associated Press journalists Tamara Lush, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Sophia Eppolito, Amy Taxin and John Minchillo contributed to the report.