Table for One: Thanksgiving in a pandemic has some spending holiday alone

LOMBARD, Ill. — This Thanksgiving, people have been asked to stay home and shelter-in-place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

While millions continue to hit the roads or fly to see family, there are others who are making great sacrifices by staying at home.

One suburban woman is making the hard choice to spend the holiday by herself so that she, and other members of her family, will be around next year to celebrate together.

77-year-old Susie Bleers’ family has grown so big they have had to pare down Thanksgivings to include just her three children, their spouses and kids, plus a few of her own siblings or in laws.

“From the time I was a little girl – I was one of six – and we always had a huge table with everybody for Thanksgiving,” she said. “I married into a family of nine and we would have huge family Thanksgivings with two turkeys.”

 But this year, the pandemic scrapped all that.

Susie has been a widow for 10 years and lives alone with severe arthritis, asthma and allergies that leave her immune system vulnerable. She’s worried about getting COVID-19. She’s worried about spreading it.

“Everybody needs to make their own decision but I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else either,” she said. “Yes I’m doing this to protect me but it breaks your heart to hear the stories on TV of people who thought they were doing the right thing and just one time did this and what happened.”

Bleers has left her Lombard house only twice since March: once to get a haircut before salon hours and once to see a doctor at Northwestern. Her family sends her groceries.

“At Easter the kids made signs and stood on the sidewalk and waved at me,” Beers said. “And when it came to Thanksgiving, the question was asked, and I said ‘No.’ If we’re being honest and doing what they’re asking us to do then no, even with masks. Now we would be inside and it’s a whole different ball game.”

Bleers also manages seasonal depression and to combat it, she’s keeping things light. She reaches out to her sister, who is also at home alone,  and her brother who’s living with Parkinson’s, neither of whom she can see during the pandemic.

She is also checking in on old friends who might need a laugh and always, her family and Zooming with her grandkids when she can.

“It’s painful that I can’t see them but I’m still a part of their lives,” Beers said. “I’m blessed in that way.”

So this year it’s a very different tone at Bleers’ Thanksgiving celebration. A table for one but with a plate filled with gratitude just the same. Because deep down inside she knows, even this year, all alone, her cup still runneth over.

“It’s a tough decision but I felt that I needed rigidity and control and then maybe I could have a good year next year,” she said.

Bleers said the key to getting through this shelter-in-place chapter: Staying in touch with those she loves, eating right and doing exercise of some sort.