By Joe Rector

Thanksgiving will be different from any we’ve experienced. That happens in life, especially one that has been lived for nearly 70 years. Still, it’s strange the way events cause us to adapt to new ways.

When we were children, our family didn’t make such a big deal of Thanksgiving. Daddy worked split shifts, and sometimes he couldn’t be home on the holiday. I don’t remember having a big turkey and all the good things that go with it on this special day. Daddy always cooked a turkey for Christmas, but not for Thanksgiving, so I’m not sure what we ate other than regular supper food.

As we entered young adulthood and married, the three of us with our wives met at Mother’s house for a Thanksgiving meal. It was then that I remember the turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and homemade rolls and vegetables. After stuffing ourselves, we’d spread out around the house and take naps or watch terrible football games. In the evening, one by one, we would return to the kitchen to eat again and top off the food with a piece of pumpkin pie.

At some point, Amy, the children, and I began traveling to Cookeville for a Thanksgiving meal at her cousin Melinda’s house. Aunts, uncles and cousins joined the festivities. Immediate families didn’t necessarily sit at the same table. It was a case of find a seat and take it. We all ate until that stuffed feeling hit. Sometime around 4:00, we fell into the car for the one-hundred-mile ride home. The traffic was heavy, and the darkening skies brought with it the glare of headlights. Arriving home was something for which we all were thankful.

Since Amy’s mother passed, we’ve shared the day with our daughter, her family and our son, Dallas. We meet the weekend before Thanksgiving for the meal. It has worked perfectly. Lacey, Nick, and Madden have been able to spend the holiday with Nick’s parents in Huntsville, Alabama. Amy and I hang around our house and eat a modified Thanksgiving meal with Dallas. Not traveling is something for which we are thankful.

This year, the holiday will be different once again. Lacey and Nick have decided to heed the warnings of doctors and scientists. They will remain at home in Hendersonville for Thanksgiving. We will settle in at our house. Dallas lives close to us and will come by. We will have our Thanksgiving meal and watch better football games. Yes, I’m sure that naps will also be on the agenda, as will late-evening returns to the kitchen for leftovers and dessert.

We’ll be a bit blue to spend one of the year’s best holidays apart from our family. However, COVID-19 is raging, and it delights in attacking those who gather in large groups to celebrate. I’ve read the opinions of some who say they will not miss the chance to be with family because they fret it could be the last one that some individuals might enjoy. I’d rather miss loved ones this holiday than to risk having them fall to this pandemic and dying from it.

Thanksgiving this year might be a “bummer.” We humans are made for interaction with family and friends. However, if we don’t begin acting like a responsible nation with a strong will and determination, more people will contract the disease, more people will die, and future holidays will be observed without loved ones who have been the victims of our selfish desires. Let’s be thankful that we are healthy right now. Let’s hunker down once again and do those things that will blunt the effect of this pandemic. Next year we will have vaccines that will allow us to join once again for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as birthdays and July 4th. The decision is ours. Let’s give thanks for our lives and our abilities to defeat a killer pandemic. Let’s make sure we ALL wear a mask. Bless each and every one of you.