The two have diabetes and high blood pressure, and about seven years ago, Perez had open heart surgery that put his life in danger.
“At least then, we knew we could go see him and say farewell, but with COVID-19, it would have been impossible,” Oyarzun said.
Even the thought of that stings, Oyarzun said.
In their native town in Mexico, vaccine distribution seemed distant and almost impossible, her grandmother said. While in Chicago the distribution of vaccines to those 65 years and older began in late January, in Mexico the distribution of vaccines to those 60 years and older began mid-March, according to news reports.
“We were worried because we just didn’t see it coming to us anytime soon,” Rodriguez said in Spanish.
And even when there was news that the vaccine was finally arriving in Monterrey, the city where Rodriguez and Perez have been living, the two didn’t trust the process.
For nearly a year, Perez said, they had been isolated, lonely and taking care of each other.
They saw firsthand the suffering of their neighbors and other families. Ten of Perez’s friends died from COVID-19 in the last year, and Rodriguez recalled how some people had to sell their properties to pay for their hospital stays and medications.
“We missed our family dearly,” Perez said. “It’s been a very difficult time,” he said in Spanish.
But beyond the difficulty, “it’s been heartbreaking to live far away from our loved ones, especially during these times,” Rodriguez said.