LOCAL NEWS

Empty Seats, Delivered Feast As Virus Changes Thanksgiving

Nov 26, 2020, 1:47 PM
FILE (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)...
FILE (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Vivian Zayas can’t keep herself from scrolling through photos of last Thanksgiving, when her mother stood at the stove to make a big pot of rice and beans and then took a seat at the edge of the table.

That was before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and before it claimed the retired seamstress. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.

The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, this year and putting her mother’s walker in its place as a reminder of the loss.

“It’s a painful Thanksgiving. You don’t even know, should you celebrate?” asked Zayas. “It’s a lonely time.”

Americans are marking the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday amid an unrelenting pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people in the United States.

Turkey and pies will still come out ovens, football will still be on TV, families will still give thanks and have lively conversations about politics. But this holiday has been utterly altered after months filled with sorrows and hardships: Many feasts are weighed down by the loss of loved ones; others have been canceled or scaled back with the virus surging.

Zoom and FaceTime calls have become a fixture at dinner tables to connect with family members who don’t want to travel. Far fewer volunteers are helping at soup kitchens or community centers. A Utah health department has been delivering boxes of food to residents who are infected with the virus and can’t go to the store. A New York nursing home is offering drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.

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

On any normal Thanksgiving Day, Kara McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their Clearwater, Florida, home to one of two places: his family’s home in another part of the state or her family’s house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic. And when her in-laws offered to stop by, the couple said no.

She and her husband didn’t want to risk infecting anyone or getting the virus themselves.

Not everyone followed McKlemurry’s example. Millions of Americans bought tickets to fly somewhere for the holiday, crowding airports despite pleas from officials to avoid travel and gatherings.

Still, McKlemurry, 27, wanted to do something unique to mark 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 pens and stickers of owls with scarves, she hand wrote notes of gratitude to every member of the family.

“We’re so grateful to have you in our lives,” she wrote on a card with a cartoon fox, “even if we can’t actually be together this year for the holidays.”

In the nation’s capital, the convention center is empty unlike in previous years, when volunteers have worked together to serve a meal to about 5,000 people. In the era of social distancing, the sponsored event had to be reimagined.

Ahead of the holiday, organizers delivered to 20 nonprofits 5,000 gift bags, each with winter clothing accessories, hand sanitizer and a mask, and 5,000 boxes that included a turkey sandwich with condiments, a side potato salad, a cookie and utensils.

From start to finish, Thanksgiving is different this year for Jessica Franz, a nurse who works the graveyard shift at Olathe Medical Center, in a Kansas City suburb.

For one, Franz, 39, is celebrating without her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronavirus on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday. In previous years, her mother-in-law, who was Mennonite, would lay out a spread for her children and grandchildren. At Franz’s work, in a typical year, co-workers would bring food for a potluck.

None of that is happening this year.

The family is shifting the festivities to Zoom and FaceTime. It’s been hard for her daughters — ages, 2, 8 and 11. Her middle daughter was exposed to the coronavirus at school and is quarantined until Dec. 3, and her oldest daughter is struggling with the concept of a scaled-back holiday.

“We had a good conversation that was, ‘This year may be different, and that’s OK. It is one year. If things are different this year and that means we get to see all the rest of our family next year, it is OK,’” said Franz, who has personally cared for patients dying of coronavirus.

The Thanksgiving gathering at David Forsyth’s home in Southern California, meanwhile, comes with a uniquely 2020 feel: rapid virus tests at the door to decide who gets inside.

The kit costs about $1,000 for 20 tests, each of which involve pricking a finger and putting a drop of blood on a tray. Ten minutes later the results either show someone is negative, has antibodies or is positive.

Normally, about 15 to 20 people attend the family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Channel Islands Harbor. But this year, it will only be eight of them: Forsyth, his wife, her four adult sons and the partners of two of them.

His wife started cooking Tuesday. She’s planning a cold cucumber soup for a starter and bunch of appetizers for the early afternoon meal. The sons are bringing side dishes. Turkey and the fixings are the main course. Champagne may be cracked.

Forsyth hasn’t seen his family much during the pandemic but wanted to save the holiday.

“People are trying to live a normal life,” he said. “And, you know, with the second wave coming now, it’s not a bad idea to be prepared.”

Kerry Osaki longs to see his now-grown children, without masks, and hug them. But instead he and his wife are celebrating just the two of them after their traditions were upended.

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

With his mother gone, Osaki, 67, and his cousin decided to pass on the family’s annual Thanksgiving get-together. His wife, Lena Adame, typically spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives — but some had seen virus cases at their workplaces, so the couple decided to skip that, too.

“It’s just been a long, rough and sometimes sad year,” he said.

In Ogden, Utah, Evelyn Maysonet stepped out of her home Tuesday morning to find boxes overflowing with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. She has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive for COVID-19.

None of them has been able to leave to buy groceries, so they were thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery — and the chance to cherish the things that matter most.

“As long as you have a life and you’re still alive, just make the best of it with you and your family,” Maysonet said.

___

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Sophia Eppolito and Amy Taxin contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

...
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

After new homes flood, residents question if builder or Mother Nature is to blame

Several new homes in a Lehi community flooded during rainstorms earlier this month. When they say the home builder told them they weren’t responsible, they decided to Get Gephardt to investigate.
1 day ago
...
Andrew Adams

Taylorsville music store temporarily closed by broken pipes, flooding

The owner of a longtime music store said Tuesday that extreme cold temperatures contributed to a fire suppression system malfunction that led to pipes breaking and a flooded storefront. 
1 day ago
...
Ashley Moser

UDOT crews catch skiers in backcountry area closed for avalanche work

UDOT is urging everyone to obey backcountry closures after they caught two skiers in an area they shouldn’t have been.
1 day ago
Representatives from Utah tribes show support for HB40, a bill patterned after the federal Indian C...
Sydnee Gonzalez

Tribes call for Utah legislators to pass bill to protect Native children

Tribal leaders gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to call on Utah legislators to pass HB40, which protects Native American children from unnecessary removal from families and tribes.
1 day ago
Utah State University students (mostly) bundled up against the cold weather. (KSL-TV's Mike Anderso...
Mike Anderson

Logan residents persevere through the second day of the winter chill

Logan residents push through the frigid weather as schools and businesses start late to help fight against the cold mornings.
1 day ago
Peter Sinks from Chopper 5...
Katija Stjepovic

Experiencing 62 degrees below zero at Peter Sinks

Tuesday marked another day of arctic temperatures in Utah with some areas even colder than Monday.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Empty Seats, Delivered Feast As Virus Changes Thanksgiving