Bernard Mendelman: COVID-19 Thanksgiving Day Tale

Thanksgiving for Americans has always been a time when family gather to celebrate the holiday with greater fervour than we Canadians do.

Henry, perplexed, was searching for a solution. Even though travel restrictions have now been lifted, his son Mitchell and daughter Jennifer told him that they and their children would not be coming to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Since COVID-19, emails, text messages and telephone conversations have been his only contact.

Henry understood, they were good children. His son lived in New York, his daughter in Vancouver. He knew they were busy, occupied with their work and bringing up a young family. Henry’s wife of 54 years, Molly, 77 years old and five years his junior, fell a few years ago, ending up with a multiple fractured ankle. The children and grandchildren all flew in at that time and stayed until she came out of the hospital and was settled back at home. Recovery for Molly has been slow. Always agile, now certain activities have to be curtailed.

“How quickly the years are slipping by,” Henry reflected. Seemed like just yesterday that he met his lovely Molly, a Boston gal, on a summer vacation at a Laurentian resort.

Thanksgiving for Americans has always been a time when family gather to celebrate the holiday with greater fervour than we Canadians do. It’s Molly’s favourite holiday. Since their marriage, Molly insisted on maintaining the tradition. Her whole family would come in from Boston to Montreal and the following month they in turn would drive to Boston for the American Thanksgiving. Over the years the chairs at the dining room table kept increasing in number, having been blessed with children and grandchildren.

Molly would prepare her customary Thanksgiving dinner of matzo ball soup, roast turkey with her unique stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, plus her prized pumpkin pie. Henry would carve the turkey, always knowing who preferred the white meat or dark meat. Molly would get out her lace tablecloth along with her holiday dishes and silverware. While it didn’t change how the food tasted, which was always yummy, it set the proper mood.

After the meal, Henry and the men were always glued to the TV, watching some sporting event while Molly and the women were cleaning up.

Since Henry retired 10 years ago, their son and daughter have tried to convince them to leave Montreal and live part of the year with each of them. As much as they miss the grandchildren on a daily basis, Henry and Molly didn’t want to lose their independence and become a burden on their children. Yet Henry knew that although Molly said nothing, she was sad and feeling blue, unable to fathom passing this Thanksgiving without the family being at her side.

A few days prior to the holiday, Henry had an inspiration. It wasn’t an original idea. He remembered reading it somewhere before, but he was convinced it would work. Unbeknownst to Molly, he called his son in New York.

“Mitch, I have something to tell you. I’ve made up my mind, I’m divorcing Mother.” His son, taken astride, asked his father what prompted this.

“I don’t want to discuss it.”

“But Dad, you can’t just decide to divorce Mother after all these years together. What happened?”

“It’s too painful to talk about it. I only called because I thought you should know. Call your sister and tell her.”

“But where’s Mother? Can I talk to her?”

“No, I don’t want you to say anything to her, since I haven’t told her yet. I have an appointment with my lawyer the day after Thanksgiving.”

“Dad, don’t do anything rash. I’m going to take the first flight out with the wife and kids. Don’t do anything until I get there.”

An hour later, Henry received a call from his daughter who told him that she and her husband and children will also be arriving the day after tomorrow. “Mitch informed me that you don’t want to talk about it on the phone but promise me that you won’t do anything until we both get there.” Henry promised.

Grinning after hanging up Henry turned to his wife, “Molly, I’ll help you get out the tablecloth, dishes and silverware. You won’t have to do a thing. I’m calling a caterer and the whole gang will be arriving here tomorrow for Thanksgiving.”

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