Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Without doubt it will be the strangest of the 66 Thanksgiving holidays Jenny and I have celebrated together. Most of them have been here in the USA, but several have been in Australia, Morocco or wherever we happened to be on America’s day of thanks. Until this year there had never been a turkey day as strange as our first in 1954.
We were college students who had been married only four months. I was a country hick Army veteran. During the Great Depression I had killed wild turkeys before I had a beard to shave. Jenny was a fashion model city girl whose concept of cooking was opening a can and warming store-bought stuff. We were living with bushels of cockroaches in WWII barracks that had been converted to apartments for married students.
Our stove was a four-burner gas stove with a separate “oven” hanging on the wall. Our attempts to cook biscuits were not, to say the least, a success. But we wanted our parents to get to know each other, so we announced that we would host Thanksgiving at our new home. We lived about halfway between our parent’s homes. My sister, Virginia, was in a college dorm near us. We invited them all to our house for roasted turkey, cornbread dressing and apple pie. Our parents survived that meal and went on to live long and healthful lives.
Every year Thanksgiving has been our favorite holiday. Many years long tables in our back yard or scattered through several rooms in our house were surrounded by our extended family, friends old and new, foreign students who worshipped gods different from ours. Many times our guests brought along people we didn’t know.
That “ya’ll come” gathering will not be at our house this year. For many months old COVID-19 has been waiting to infect bunches of people getting together and enjoying one another. So next Thursday just four of us (Jenny, our daughter Mary, her husband Fernando and I) will sit six feet apart and be thankful for family and friends in far away places. We’ll talk with some via electronic gizmos I could not have imagined that first year Jenny and I cooked a turkey for our parents.
As a child I heard my grandparents talk about the Spanish Flu that killed about a third of the worlds human population in 1918 and 1919. I had seen the death dates on gravestones of dozens of my kin who were buried in family cemeteries in the Texas hill country where I was born.
As an adult, I couldn’t imagine another unseen killer taking such a toll in a world where we put people on the moon and developed vaccinations for polio, measles, flu and other infectious diseases. But an unknown COVID-19 has spread around the world. Come walk with me through parts of Logan that were hit hard by the flu a hundred years ago and see how people we know are reacting under current conditions.
We step out of our 105-year-old house at the corner of 3d West and Center. It was a modern, new house on the edge of Logan when the Spanish flu hit our valley. I don’t know if any people died in my house from flu, but gravestones and family Bibles tell sad stories of horrible flu deaths in Cache Valley.
Jenny and I have lived in this house for almost a quarter century. On weekdays before the coronavirus pandemic, Center Street was buzzing with youngsters going to school five days a week: kids going south to high school, north to elementary school or waiting at a nearby bus stop to be taken to other schools. University students and faculty members went east, some driving cars, others on bicycles or walking. Today, at mid-morning our community is like a ghost town.
As we walk south down 3rd West toward some of the oldest houses in Logan, foot traffic increases a bit. Most are large dogs pulling their owners at the end of its leash. Some are old folks I’ve seen on these streets for many years. Others are newcomers on a mourning walk. Many of the walkers are young women with a children.
These people aren’t deadbeats. Most are good, honest people whose lives have been turned topsy-turvy by an invading, growing disease. Some I recognize as graduate students or faculty members at USU. Others I have seen in offices or restaurants before COVID-19. I don’t know, and I doubt they do, whether they have a job or not. As we turn east and walk through town, I wonder how people in my neighborhood will survive in a state that has one of the highest numbers of COVID patients in the nation.
Taming COVID-19 should be the No. 1 world goal. Our country has one of the largest numbers of coronavirus infected people in the world. Each of two medical companies have promising vaccines that might slow or even stop the pandemic if our president and our president-elect work together without concern for who gets the credit. Miracles can happen.