Ask Amy: Family struggles with extremes over holidays
Dear Amy: In our nine-member family, we have two people at extremes: One is a staunch anti-masker and anti-vaxxer.
The other is paranoid in her efforts to be safe.
All family members (except the anti’s three) have been vaccinated.
We traditionally have family gatherings at our home for most holidays.
The anti-vaxxer will usually scoff at any virus protection shown by anyone when there is a gathering.
The paranoid one refuses to come in our house if the anti has been there in the previous 24 hours.
Reasoning with either of the two extremes has been fruitless.
My wife and I are currently considering splitting the gatherings, so the two extremes do not conflict.
This is very sad and means diluting the festivities we enjoy so much.
We are hoping you may have some suggestions.
Dear Stuck: As lonely as last year’s holiday season was, I have a feeling that many will look back on the weird and isolated winter holiday season of 2020 with a certain nostalgia: Eating dinner off of disinfected TV trays and watching “A Christmas Story” after the family Zoom meal might hold a certain appeal, certainly when you compare it to the complication of entertaining extremists.
You have two groups of family members representing pandemic polar opposites, but they have something important in common: Neither seems to be applying common sense to this challenge.
You have taken this on as a problem you hope to solve, in order to provide a homespun holiday experience for everyone.
You’ve done your own risk assessment and obviously don’t believe that having unvaccinated people in your home presents a risk to you and yours.
It seems that the family member who doesn’t feel safe is inspiring you to dilute your celebration.
I think you should host your holiday meal (if you still want to) and let the usual parties know the time and place. Let them decide whether to attend.
If your more risk-averse relative doesn’t feel safe in your home and is only willing to see vaccinated family members, then could she host her own gathering on another day in an atmosphere where she feels safe?
You might let all of your family members know ahead of time that if anyone chooses to degrade other family members or engage in rude or anti-social behavior, you may ask them to leave, and everyone can try again next year.
Dear Amy: My mother recently passed away unexpectedly, and I have to clean out her condo.
My problem is that there are so many things that have such strong memories for me. I'm overwhelmed about what to do with all of it.
I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, so honestly, I would be cramming stuff in.
I really don't know what to do.
I feel guilty if I just call someone in to sell it all off.
The memories these things bring up really make this hard.
Can you help?
Dear Overwhelmed: This sad task would be made much easier for you if you had even one person who would do it with you.
It is important that you feel supported; you also deserve to have a compassionate witness to your memories. If you can’t find a friend to help, you should call in a professional.
People who do this sort of elder “clean out” for a living often understand the complicated emotions that are brought up. Call your local Office on Aging for a referral.
This task will be made easier if you break it down into smaller categories. Start with the kitchen, and have four open boxes: Keep, Donate, Unsure, Trash.
Make sure to photograph items. These photos will help to keep your memories fresh, for a time in the future when you’re ready to revisit them.
If you are paralyzed, you might want to rent a small storage unit to house items until you are ready. Understand, however, that this can bring up its own set of challenges. If you rent a unit, set regular goals to continue to go through and pare down these possessions.
Dear Amy: “Exasperated” shared an experience I’ve been through – the frustration of her husband entering the room and insisting that she immediately stop texting or answering an email.
In addition to your advice, you asked Exasperated to take a look at her own behavior.
I did this recently and realized that my phone had completely infiltrated my family time.
– Working on Unplugging
Dear Working: A lot of us need to work on unplugging.
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