A sadly different Thanksgiving

See Disclaimer.

My wife and I have been in rather strict self-isolation since early March, when we first recognized how serious a threat COVID-19 was.

We recognize how less onerous isolation is for us than for many Americans. Being retired, our vulnerability to loss of income or work logistics is reduced. Living in a small farm, we can have an outdoor experience, complete with exercise, by working on our fruits and vegetables. Even so, isolation is hard. We deeply miss the sense of camaraderie that comes with live interactions with our neighbors and friends, the cultural satisfaction of attending plays and concerts, the opportunity for the occasional meal out, and the fresh smells and choices that come with browsing a supermarket aisle.

Above all, we miss our family, and especially our adult kids and very young grandkids. As for many grandparents, ‘seeing’ only from afar the growth of our grandkids is devastating. We miss the smell, the hugs, the giggles, the personal connection, the feeds and even the diapers—and certainly the opportunity to explore the word anew through the pure eyes of a child.

We wonder how our grandkids, and their whole generation, are going to grow without some of the experiences that make humans fascinating, warm, and caring. We are thankful that our grandkids have great parents, and feel for our kids as they confront—thousands of miles away from us—a world where they must balance a public health crisis and a nation in identity crisis, with the day-to-day struggles of being married, being employed, and raising young children.

We constantly worry about their safety, knowing that isolation is far less achievable for them than it is for us.  This Thanksgiving, in an inversion of values, we are relieved that they will not share a meal with us, aside from occasional video snippets synchronized across time zones. Relieved because they will not be flying. Relieved that they will be safer.

We will also be wondering why. Why did we, as a nation, miss our responsibility to ourselves and others, back in the beginning of the year? At a time when transparent and objective information would have made all the difference in the world. When masks and social distancing would have made even more of a difference than they still do today. When we could have contained the virus, rather than letting it loose and even, on occasion, inexcusably creating conditions for superspreading it.

We cannot go back in time. But have we not, at least, learned our lesson? Why are so many still resisting masks, social distancing, and reduced traveling and gathering? All common sense, effective measures, that, if we took them seriously as a nation, could still drastically reduce the toll that this crisis is exerting on us—and give us time to broadly deploy effective vaccines.

As of November 23, there were over 12.5 million total COVID-19 cases, and over 258 thousand total deaths, reported across the US. These numbers, the people behind them, and their surviving families, will be in our minds and hearts this Thanksgiving.

— Antonio Baptista

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