By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—Dede and Doug Trumble sat at their dining room table on Sunday afternoon, eating some cherry-and-peach pie a la mode while talking to four screens of relatives on a computer.
This was a precursor to their upcoming Thanksgiving celebration, when the family usually gathers in person.
On Thanksgiving, the family’s tradition is to have pie for “lunch” and then the Thanksgiving meal around 3 to 5 p.m.
“We were finding we were all full and ate the pie the next day, and that’s silly,” Dede said.
On Sunday, one of their relatives celebrated a birthday, and the family usually gets together via computer once a week to talk.
Because of the pandemic and people being asked to stay home, the Trumbles are doing things a little differently this year.
“Dede and I will be spending Thanksgiving Day at home, likely by ourselves,” Doug said. “Our daughter Rebecca is scheduled to be under COVID quarantine until Thanksgiving Day. We’ll see what happens with her in the next week.”
Their Thanksgiving plans are changing, which is directly related to COVID-19.
“Typically, everyone meets at Dede’s parents’ house in Manhattan over the Thanksgiving weekend,” Doug said. “Given her parents’ COVID risk and Rebecca’s quarantine situation, everyone will just be staying home.”
At 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, they plan to have a family Zoom call. Their daughter, Rebecca, her husband Aaron and their grandson Theo in Newton, Dede’s brother Steve and his family in Alexandria, Va., their son, Alex, who is stationed at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Dede and Doug will be four generations on the call.
“This call will be special for all of us because Alex isn’t typically available for the Zoom calls,” Doug said. “He is an Army Blackhawk pilot and has other responsibilities there, so his schedule is usually packed with work.”
Since their daughter, son-in-law and grandson live in Newton, they still might get together for the Thanksgiving meal.
“Right now we are planning for Aaron to deep fry a turkey, and Dede will be making the other fixings,” Doug said. “If we can get together, that would be great, but if we can’t, we’ll dish up the food, and I’ll take part of it to their house and pick up some turkey and bring it home.”
The Trumbles would love to have family over, but they know the importance of being safe.
“It sure would be nice to have family over, but we are being very careful,” Doug said. “No one here needs to get sick with COVID or anything else, for that matter.”
Doug said their children, Alex and Rebecca, and son-in-law have jobs that put them in contact with others. Rebecca and Aaron are teachers in Valley Center, and Rebecca was put in quarantine because of exposure to some co-workers testing positive for COVID-19. Aaron possibly was exposed, but he’s doing well.
“They were notified that the Valley Center district will be online teaching only until about mid-December, so they will both be at home for quite a while now,” Doug said.
With Alex, Doug said that at Bagram Airebase, there were some issues with COVID-19 earlier, but their son hasn’t been quarantined, and the situation seems like it is being managed well there.
“He got there in July 2020, and the Army has been decreasing the number of soldiers in Afghanistan pretty aggressively since then,” Doug said. “While at Bagram, Alex was transferred to the Headquarters Company of his battalion, so he expects to be one of the last soldiers out of the country.”
Newton residents Juan and Lisa Perez changed Thanksgiving plans because of COVID-19, as well.
“This year is going to be a lot different,” Juan said. “We will not be spending it with my wife’s family. We normally split the holiday with both sides of our parents’/family. We will only be with my family.”
They canceled his wife’s family’s celebration because of the rise of COVID-19 and still are going to be with Juan’s side of the immediate family, which is fairly small.
“As long as any of us don’t show any symptoms, we will still be joining the Perez side of the family,” Juan said, adding they plan to have turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, as well as Mexican food, like enchiladas, rice and a bunch of desserts.
“My wife prepares a lot of it, and my sisters will bring a main dish and a side,” Juan said.
He talked about COVID-19.
“Our lives have all changed so much,” he said. “This is our new norm. We are all trying to adapt. It really sucks that we will not be having a normal family Thanksgiving celebration, and we will not be spending it with all of the same family that we normally do.”
He said it’s always nice when they’re at Lisa’s parents’ house and they all play football together or just hang around watching a football game, after overeating.
“This year has been crazy for sure,” Juan said.
Kerry Grosch, former 35-year Hesston resident and former director of the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center in Newton, said for her this year, there’s been a great deal of stressful back and forth planning and flexible, best-intent safety accommodating, as well as last-minute holiday plan revising in her family.
“Surely we are not alone in this,” Grosch said. “My father, a grandfather and great-grandfather to several family members in Newton, has dementia and is in long-term care. We haven’t physically seen him in eight months.”
He’s declined rapidly since being admitted, she said.
“It’s hard to tell if it’s from chronic social isolation there or disease-related cognitive decline,” Grosch said. “For instance, he called staff by my name and didn’t recognize my voice. Heartbreaking.”
She said what triggered the chaotic flurry of holiday-planning shifts for them was an email from the long-term care facility CEO, encouraging residents to physically join their family in home visits for needed emotional and social connectedness.
“Awesome, except we are in the midst of a pandemic,” Grosch said. “The email included prescriptive visiting protocols that followed CDC guidelines, with consequential in-room quarantines depending on visit length, number of family member exposures, mask adherence, etc. Honestly, I longed to actually see him but was shocked given the COVID rates and a previous outbreak there.”
There were some sleepless nights as Grosch figured out what to do.
Then, they received an email stating that if a loved one is taken from the facility, they might not meet criteria to return to the facility, so Grosch’s family is back to their original plan to Zoom him on Thanksgiving.
“As for the rest of the family, we plan separate household low-key meals and Zoom to connect us, assuming the app does not crash from heavy nationwide holiday demand,” Grosch said.