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The Fields clan was never large. My father is an only child from a small town in Kentucky. My mother was one of five children from an extremely Catholic family in Cincinnati, but we rarely spent time with them on holidays, especially since my grandparents on that side died.

My mother’s siblings and relations through marriage have greatly dwindled — some through hard living and some through hard luck.

My wife is an only child, with one first cousin. I’m the oldest of three, and my siblings, with their own families, are in Atlanta and Boston.

Still, in recent years, we always managed to have a fairly sizable gathering with some configuration of all parties.

The most memorable of these for me was probably back in 2012. As we gathered to pray, I made an announcement that there was someone who would be with us next year, and displayed a Purdue University infant onesie, announcing that my wife was pregnant. There was much rejoicing. Our gathering was, indeed, larger by one tiny person the following year.

This year, of course, it’s just the three of us, and our food-scarfing beagle, at our home here in West Virginia, thanks to COVID-19. My son and I have been charged with not messing up a sweet potato casserole too badly. My wife is bound and determined to handle everything else. We’ll be talking with family on Zoom or FaceTime throughout the day.

I’ll miss not being able to gather in person with family. It’s usually the only time in a given year I’ll see either my brother or my sister — they rotate out on who is coming back to our old Kentucky home on major holidays. I’ll miss sipping bourbon and watching football with my dad, while saying next to absolutely nothing — just content to be with loved ones with all worries on hold for a few hours.

Most would agree that 2020 has been awful, and the holidays are yet another example of that. In the spirit of Thanksgiving itself, though, I’m thankful this year more than most. My wife is on the other side of a brutal battle with cancer that began back in January and is feeling more like herself than ever. Our son is healthy and happy. I’m still me (which is probably not great, but it could be worse), but with a little more perspective on what’s really important and just how much there is to appreciate in my life.

Whether we’re in small or big families, together or alone, there’s always something to be thankful for. I hope you’re safe this Thanksgiving, and I hope you have a little time to reflect on the good in your life, even when things might be dark.

Maybe it’s the promise of gatherings next year. Maybe it’s the complete lack of holiday tension offered up this year. Maybe it’s the hope of better things to come. Whatever it is, may you cherish it, even if only for a few moments. Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

Ben Fields is the Gazette-Mail opinion editor. Reach him at

or 304-348-5129, or follow

@BenFieldsWV on Twitter.