These are tense conversations, some ending with a desperate “it‘s OK” or a vague promise to come together for the New Year. Others end in frustration, even in tears.
Weeks after Thanksgiving celebrations were turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, the winter break ushered in another round of emotionally charged exchanges between families who want to be together but are forced to listen to experts in the health tell them to do otherwise.
For many, the very thought of bringing up the subject arouses feelings of dread.
Zachariah Robinson, a junior at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., Said he’s trying to figure out how to tell his mother he’s planning to stay on campus this Christmas. Mr Robinson, 20, returned home to Antioch, Ill., For Thanksgiving, but said he was increasingly worried about passing the virus to him.
“I don’t know how she’s going to take it,” he said. “We’ll try to use some of our tactics to try and get her to understand a little better – speak nicely, just use some basic logic against her, letting her know there’s no other option for her. me.
Carolyn Cohn, 71, knew it would be difficult to persuade her daughter, Kristin Kiely, to visit her and her husband, Marty, in Florida for Hanukkah and Christmas. Ms Kiely, a Spanish teacher in Florence, SC, is an administrator of the Fan Club Dr. Anthony Fauci Facebook page and has lectured to her mother for inviting friends over for dinner.
But Ms Cohn, a retired computer programmer, said she spent another three months cuddling and negotiating with her only child.
“I kept thinking that she might change her mind,” she said. “Kristin is 41 now and it will be the first time in her life that I don’t see her for Christmas, and I think ‘it’s all because of this Covid’.”
The loneliness caused by the pandemic and the temptation to carry on with the rituals of the holiday season have led some people to consider taking more risks.
More than half of parents said it was “very important” for their child to see their extended family while on vacation, according to a child health survey from the CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan on last month. According to the poll, one in three parents said the benefits of getting together for Thanksgiving outweighed the risk of spreading or contracting Covid-19.
For Thanksgiving, Denise Herrick, 66, and her husband, Stan, gathered on their Iowa farm with three of their grown children and five of their grandchildren. Their fourth child, Annie Boyd, who lives in California with her husband and five children, had planned to come for Christmas, but the airline canceled their flight. They plan to visit in January, when they hope it will be safer, Ms Boyd said.
“The anticipation of a vacation, that special meal, is so wonderful,” Ms. Herrick said. “We need it more than ever this year.”
She added, “What are you doing? Do we squat for months and months and then get back together?
Health experts would say yes, but the holidays can make it difficult for many people to overcome their guilt and fear of hurting the feelings of a loved one.
“Stay firm, consistent, and polite and don’t falter,” said C. Vaile Wright, a psychologist in Chicago. “You made the decision. Stick to it. “
Bill Marshall, 63, of Scottsdale, Ariz., Said his mother did her best to hide her disappointment when he told her he couldn’t visit her in Florida for Thanksgiving. He also won’t see his mother, who is 87, at Christmas, although he hopes his sister, who lives in Miami, can see her.
“When I call her she does her best to be optimistic, but she says things like, ‘This is really no way for anyone to face the last years of their life,” Mr. Marshall said. . “When you pick up the phone and call your loved ones, you want to be optimistic. After 20 minutes of trying to help them come up with things to do, you’re out of ideas. Then you just say, “I know. It’s horrible. ”
Horacio Sierra, 37, said he normally celebrates Christmas with dozens of parents at his parents’ house just outside Miami, where they roast a pig in the backyard. This year, he said, Christmas will be like Thanksgiving – with far fewer people and empty chairs as a visual reminder of parents who couldn’t be there.
“It’s a little bit of anger and sadness in one, a year younger with Abuela and not being able to be physically together,” Sierra said, using the Spanish word for grandma. “A year lost overall.”
Tears on FaceTime
People need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with crying, said Lori Brown, professor of sociology at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Of course we have to mourn the loss of people, the loss of the sense of security, the loss of time with others,” she said. “We have lost businesses and jobs, all of which should be mourned.”
This advice may resonate with people like Cheryl Lee, a Chicago hospital doctor, who told her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son last summer that they wouldn’t see their grandparents on Thanksgiving or at Christmas.
It was an abstraction then, but on Thanksgiving, reality hit them. Her husband, who is also a doctor, worked nights. Dr. Lee sat down at the table, staring at the containers of takeout turkey breast and stuffing, and tried not to cry.
His daughter, realizing something was wrong, took a huge bite of turkey, Dr Lee recalls, and said briskly, “Wow, this is so good. This is the best turkey ever. “
“But it wasn’t his voice,” Dr Lee said. “It was her kind of voice when she played with a princess.
Arlo Simmerman, 20, a junior at the University of Denver, said his mother cried when he told his parents returning to Michigan for Christmas was too risky.
They’ve been tapping into FaceTime since then, and Mr Simmerman said his mom was doing her best to look upbeat. But it’s clear, he says, that she’s still upset.
“It’s usually around the time we sign that you can hear tears rising in the sound of her voice,” he says.
Does “quarantine” mean “no golf”?
Ms Kiely, the administrator of Dr. Fauci’s fan club, said she told her mother that she might be willing to go to Florida if Ms Cohn promised to avoid activities that could put her off. in contact with other people for two weeks in advance.
“She said, ‘Does that even mean golf? ”Ms. Kiely said.
Ms Cohn, who protests that she is wearing a mask and bangs her elbows instead of shaking hands, said it had been difficult to hear her daughter disapprove of her behavior.
“It’s hard not to say, ‘Hey, I’m the mom,’” Ms. Cohn said. “‘I respect what you do, but you have to respect what i do. ”
However, Ms Cohn said she accepted her daughter’s decision not to come, and even supported her.
“The numbers are higher than I thought,” she says.
Ms Cohn said she had also reflected on how she would feel if her daughter fell ill after a vacation visit.
“I would feel bad,” she said. “I thought, ‘It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been pushy.'”