Together Apart.

© 2020 Mark Pouley

For over 30 years our house has been the home of Thanksgiving. When we were college students our apartment was the place students who couldn’t make it home for the holidays would convene. When we moved back to Washington, family, friends, friends-of-family, new significant others, new babies, and new pets migrated yearly to our home to celebrate. We will miss that this year.

Our circumstances are not unique as families across the country will experience Thanksgiving differently this year. If your traditions involve gathering with friends and family, eating, watching football, playing games, chatting, arguing, and giving thanks, this year will be strange. Granted, not everyone will heed the medical cautions and congregate as usual. I pray they don’t pay a terrible price.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is no contest. While there are traditional foods to enjoy, my primary joy comes from the gathering. I’m close with my family, we stay in touch throughout the year, but this is the time we are all together. There is an indescribable connection on this day. Memories of Thanksgivings past and family that are no longer with us are shared. We laugh about things that happened years ago and five minutes ago. Oh, how we laugh.

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my diagnosis. While myeloma has never put me on death’s door, I’ve contemplated my early departure and how precious these times are. I’m fighting not to feel cheated this year since my health is so good. How many more Thanksgivings will I be given? While I know these negative thoughts are unhealthy I feel a greater loss this year because I know how valuable my limited time with family is.

I must pack my depressing thoughts away and deal with the hand that was dealt. That’s not denial, but acknowledging what is. The warnings are real and they are clear. We can’t safely gather this year as we have in the past. Mourning that loss, or projecting to an unknown future is pointless. I can, however, be happy for what I have. I have a choice to keep my family safe and I have hope for a better tomorrow.

There will be over 250,000 empty chairs at Thanksgiving celebrations this year. The families and friends of those lost to Covid don’t get to decide if it might be safe to get together. They don’t get to bring the family together and hope the virus skips their holiday table. For the loved ones of the passed the holidays will never be the same.

I will stay the course on my treatments and I have faith my myeloma journey has miles to go. I will be able to hold my family again and share their love. Whether it is Thanksgiving 2021 or some other day, we will be together again. In 2020, for everyone’s safety, we won’t gather on the fourth Thursday of November. Perhaps it will happen in June of 2021. Does it matter on which day we join again? If we stay safe today, we will have a tomorrow to join again.

This year we will spend the holiday Together, Apart.

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