It’s Sunday morning on Thanksgiving weekend and I keep volleying between the calendar on my PC and the car rental website.
The question before me: Can I make Christmas work with my family in the midst of COVID-19?
The car rental options for Christmas week are scarce, but may be possible if I’m open to different dates and willing to drop a pretty penny. Much more doable is an early December weekday visit where perhaps I help Mom with some decorating and bake some cookies, as we do every year.
I dial the phone to Leisure Village and my father answers, which typically only happens if my mother can’t come to the phone. It seems they have company – a beloved cousin and his equally beloved wife. I tell Dad that Mom can call me later.
I end the call and sigh.
I’m not going to say the name of the lame duck that has come to mind yet again when all I’m trying to do is make a holiday plan, but here we are. Our completely alternate universes strike again. I’m flummoxed.
Because here’s my inner dialogue when I hang up that phone: Oh, God, my cousins attended a gathering on Thanksgiving with more people than I’m comfortable with. So now, there’s no way I’m going to see my parents until two weeks have elapsed.
In other words, we have officially reached a point where I’m looking out for my health as much or more than theirs. I’ve been in sustained isolation for months and don’t want to jeopardize all that sacrifice. I’m in pretty good health, but I am hypertensive. While so many obsess over the death rate of this virus, I am just as concerned about lingering effects like migraines, lung damage, and changes in muscle and nerve function.
Frankly, I needed to write this column, but not because I want to sit in judgment of other people’s choices. At this point, what can I say? We’re all operating from different information and with varying sensibilities and circumstances. But as a writer I feel it’s my duty to chronicle the deeply intense feelings I’m having in this historic time we’re living through.
The act of spending Thanksgiving alone was a piece of cake compared to the emotions around knowing that decision was not based on a shared vision. When you’re all on the same page, you lament the fact that you can’t be together this year and then you brainstorm ideas like Zoom calls and drop-off desserts just to get a glimpse of each other.
When you’re the lone person who takes it to heart that Dr. Fauci isn’t even getting together with most of his family, all it does is produce a black sheep vibe. They’re together. They’re not anxious about it. They’re doing what they think is right.
I’m not here to disparage any of that. It’s pointless. These are people I love.
This is simply me talking about what the nation’s enormous divide has produced for some of us – deep angst for what we know is a sound decision. I can’t stress enough that for me spending a holiday solo isn’t the lonely part. I find that tolerable and can even reconcile it spiritually. Rather, what is piercing is the knowledge that I am alone in my thinking in the family at-large.
That is exasperating.
I can’t impose the rules I’m comfortable with on others. But I’m also not willing to compromise on them. Virtually every article I’ve read where multiple family members are wiped out by COVID-19 has the element of “we didn’t think it could happen to us” in it. So they had their family gathering. This virus doesn’t care how old you are, how rich you are, how religious you are, or how beautiful a soul you are.
I’m a year away from 60 and if this pandemic has taught me anything it’s that I have a lot of living left to do. So many goals! I feel like I’ve only just begun.
How wrenching to think one decision, one Christmas, could cost me everything.