Houses quieter but medical families will be giving thanks

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 27, 2020 10:44 AM CT | Published: November 26, 2020 4:00 AM CT
<strong>Shantelle Leatherwood</strong>

Shantelle Leatherwood

Shantelle Leatherwood, like many daughters of the South, is the child of an excellent cook.

In this pared-down holiday, the Leatherwoods, their two children, a dog and guinea pig, will celebrate quietly this year.

There will be no enormous spread of food, unless you count the waffle bar – Leatherwood’s nod to her mother’s traditional buffet-style feast.

“My mother said to me, ‘You all do not come here. If you want a dish, you can put in a request for your favorite. Then you can do a drive-by to pick it up. And then go home,’” says Leatherwood, CEO of 400-employee Christ Community Health Services.

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Thanksgivings across the land are different this year as the nation forges ahead to express gratitude in relative isolation.

<strong>Ginger Threlkeld and Dr. Stephen Threlkeld</strong>. (Submitted)

Ginger Threlkeld and Dr. Stephen Threlkeld. (Submitted)

Ginger Threlkeld, whose husband, infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, has been on the frontline of the pandemic since early March, is making some of the traditional fixings herself.

But because she’s made a public point of supporting local restaurants now, some of the stars of the Threlkeld meal – served al fresco in the backyard — will be takeout.

“I ordered the turkey and gravy from Hog Wild. I’ve got a casserole from Holiday Ham, and I’m getting rolls from Curbside Casserole,” said Ginger Threlkeld.

“We’re doing the dressing and pies and the green beans.”

She’s not sure when dinner will be served. It will depend on the rhythm on the COVID-19 floors at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.

“Hopefully, he will be able to take a break and come over for lunch at some point. It’s going to be a small affair.”

Their daughter, Blair, a student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, is home.

Their son is not. They also will not see either of their parents, including Steve’s mother, who turned 90 this spring in isolation.

“We are going to take meals out to her and one of her friends,” Ginger Threlkeld said. “I am going to take meals to one of my next-door neighbors. We’ll have plenty to share, but we are just having a small get-together.”

The meal together at home will be among the few the Threlkelds have had in months.

Ginger Threlkeld often takes dinner to the hospital.

Sometimes, we eat in the parking lot or in his office. It depends on the day.

Ginger Threlkeld

<strong>Dr. Reginald Coopwood</strong>

Dr. Reginald Coopwood

At Dr. Reginald Coopwood’s home, the feast will be the same, but shared with his wife and two school-aged daughters, not the extended clan. Traditionally, the celebration includes three grown sons, their significant others and a grandmother from Mississippi.

The family of four eat at the kitchen table normally. On Thanksgiving Day, they will eat in their formal dining room, says Coopwood, CEO of Regional One Health.

It’s something special for Thanksgiving.

Dr. Reginald Coopwood

After the turkey is carved, about 2:30 p.m., the whole family will gather on a Zoom call for the traditional Thanksgiving prayer, which Coopwood will say.

It will be different this year.

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“We’re thankful our family is healthy in the midst of the pandemic. We have been able to remain without COVID, but I think the bigger prayer is for those who have been affected,” Coopwood said.

<strong>Dr. Manoj Jain </strong>

Dr. Manoj Jain

Dr. Manoj Jain will see COVID-19 patients in the hospital before his miniaturized Thanksgiving with only immediate family.

“We usually have four families that have been getting together for Thanksgiving for two decades,” said Jain, who is advising Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration on the pandemic. “Not this year.”

We have really, really sick people in the hospital, and the numbers are really growing. If we are like this, can you imagine what it is going to be like in the hospital in 10 days, two weeks after Thanksgiving?

Dr. Manoj Jain

<strong>Dr. Scott Strome</strong>

Dr. Scott Strome

Dr. Scott Strome’s table will be anchored by his wife and daughter, both vegans. For Strome, not vegan, that means for the first time in his life, there will be no roasted bird on the table.

A turkey breast was purchased for him.

And that has come to be symbolic for Strome, executive dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

“How do we move forward,” he wrote in his Thanksgiving greeting to the several thousand people connected to UT’s College of Medicine.

The calamity, as destructive as it has been, has also sown seeds for growth and opportunity. For the dean of the medical school, watering those seeds meant developing new testing centers for the community, supporting clinical trials and not shrinking from “stupendous collaborations” that may advance discovery in the future.

Watering, in a more sober sense for Strome, also means using the crisis to see the vast differences in access to care and outcomes between the rich and poor in this nation and to use that knowledge as a vehicle for change.

And as people, Strome writes, “we water these seeds by reaching out to family and friends, to ‘check in,’ to share words of encouragement and to take a moment to convey the value another brings to our lives.”

While a lot will be different this holiday, he notes that his wife and her mother will still cook together Thanksgiving morning, this year by Zoom.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Dr. Scott Strome

Nothing about the pared-down celebration diminishes that for him.

Leatherwood feels the same.

The quiet she and her staff are feeling on Thanksgiving represents the commitment Christ Community has made to support the decisions local government and Health Department leaders have made.

“They are taking a lot of heat and pressure for some of the decisions they are having to make,” Leatherwood said. “Primarily, they are doing that to ensure the health and safety of the community at large. We have to do the same.”

When the waffle bar with its whipped cream and candies is cleared away, she will have her family and the cherished sense that when life demanded simplification this year, their importance became clearer.

“It doesn’t feel like that much loss to me. I am looking forward to it. I get to stay home with my family.”

It’s not the norm, but we can create some new normal in this. I think a big lesson for all of us is we learned to slow down and prioritize the things that are really important. That is our families and those right around us.

Shantelle Leatherwood

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Shantelle Leather Ginger Threlkeld Dr. Scott Strome Dr. Manoj Jain Dr. Reginald Coopwood Thanksgiving
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


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