All Vaccinated and Nowhere to Go by
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Prompted By Vaccination

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Still wearing a mask. Still wary. Still avoiding restaurants and public places. Still not traveling. This is my life as my husband and I try to navigate our choices as fully vaccinated people in a country that is far from herd immunity. We try to follow CDC guidelines and have only been indoors with our in-town daughter’s family and friends who are vaccinated. This is a huge, recent change for us and we welcome the non-zoom contact with folks who are deemed safe.

First visit when fully vaccinated

For now, our lives as vaccinated people are better, but we still question every decision we make about getting back to whatever normal will be.

The first thing I did after I was fully vaccinated was to hug the two granddaughters who live near me and cry. I hadn’t realized how much pent up emotion was sitting there just beneath the surface. We had a Seder with our daughter’s family, which felt amazing. We started inviting friends over to see our new condo and life felt a bit normal, but I also realized how much the pandemic had changed me. In-person visits were both exhilarating and exhausting. I had been living a much smaller, quieter life for over a year.

Seder minus son-in-law who took the picture

The relief I felt after becoming a vaccinated person was followed by questions I have yet to resolve. We will go tomorrow to visit our granddaughter who lives in a residential school in Wisconsin. We have not seen her since December, 2019. First her facility went into lock down. Then she came down with COVID like many who live in communal settings with unvaccinated residents and staff. She will not wear a mask, and Wisconsin is a state that is not mask-friendly. But it is her birthday and we really want to see her. We will likely be outside but questions remain. To mask or not to mask? Can we eat a birthday lunch together? Can I give her the hug I have been saving for so long?

Last visit in an actual restaurant, December 2019

Next, what to do about visiting my daughter’s family in Indiana, another non-masking state. She and her husband will be fully vaccinated by the end of May, but, aside from my step-grandson who in the process of being vaccinated, the rest of the kids there are too young. They have been in school and activities all year. Do we stay outside when we visit? Do we stay in a hotel? It’s close enough for us to travel there safely without needing to stop for food or bathrooms. In the 14 months since we last saw them, two more of them have surpassed me in height. I’m weary of FaceTime chats. I need to see them, so again probably worth the risk.

Last seen on March 8, 2020

Our final quandary is how to see our son’s family in Newton, MA. Getting there involves a two-day car trip or an airplane. If we fly, how can we be sure people on the flight are vaccinated or negative for COVID? What do we do when people eat and drink? Even if we spring for first-class seats, how safe is a huge airport like O’Hare? Are the TSA lines safe? What about the crowds that have returned to airports? The car trip is also not without risk. And, once we arrive, is there a safe hotel and will we be welcomed into their house given that we have taken risks to travel there? We haven’t seen them since December, 2019, and during that time my 10 ½ year old grandson claims he is taller than me. Probably true. So many milestones have been lost.

Last visit with our grandsons in MA was for his birthday, December 2019.

Our vaccinated friends vary greatly in their risk tolerance. Several have flown to see their children and grandchildren. Some have traveled for vacations. Many are starting to eat inside in restaurants. On the other hand, some still remain in their personal bubbles, too anxious to venture out much aside from outdoor and socially distanced activities.

I’m not sure where I fall on the spectrum of risk analysis. I know for certain that the pandemic has made me more cautious and anxious. Getting back to some version of normal won’t be easy. I have started to buy my own groceries and drug store items, but when will I feel safe to do other kinds of shopping and stop filling the coffers of Amazon? Will I ever trust strangers who don’t wear masks?

For now, our lives as vaccinated people are better, but we still question every decision we make about getting back to whatever normal will be.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Laurie, thanx for your story and for expressing the worry and bewilderment we’re all feeling. Not being with friends and family has indeed been hard.

    Luckily we’ve seen our son who lives 4 hours away and has come to stay with us several times since Covid , following all the isolating and masking protocols of course.

    May we all stay safe as we hopefully return to life as we knew it!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Laurie, I am SO happy that you got to see (and HUG) your local family. I understand those tears of pent up emotion and joy. The rest of those questions are understandable. I’m finding our friends (and even my husband) are not all at the same level of risk tolerance. My husband is already on Martha’s Vineyard and is eating indoors at restaurants, though I am not sure that I am willing to do that. But (as you will see when you read my comment to Suzy’s story), he does not think it will be safe for me to go back to my chorus, should it reconvene, in September, even if everyone is fully vaccinated, and we keep all the windows in the room open. And if I choose to defy him (because I feel that we can do it as safely as his indoor restaurant eating is), he will kick me out the house…interesting how he thinks he has the right to do that anyway. So lots of decisions ahead. I hear you and feel for you.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Betsy, I’m so sorry about your conflict with Dan over this, although I must confess I agree with you. I know singing is a spreader, but if everyone can prove they are vaccinated I think it would be ok. That said, this whole thing is a questions of risk assessment and tolerance. We went to see our granddaughter at her residential school in Wisconsin yesterday. While we stayed outside the whole time, she is not vaccinated yet (although she had Covid several months ago). Her twin is half-vaccinated and little sister not yet. We kept masking and unmasking, and finally threw in the towel and put our masks away. It was great but also exhausting. Nothing is 100% safe.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Your story brought tears to my eyes, as you shared the joy of physically reconnecting with families. And yet your caution is sensible as the travel and connections spread further afield. At least with the vaccine, your personal risk of hospitalization and death are very small. If only more people would join the vaccination majority now!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Khati, you are so right. I fear this country will never reach herd immunity unless the vaccines are required once they are available to all. I think for that to happen, the CDC has to give permanent approval, not emergency use approval. Who knows when that will happen?

  4. Suzy says:

    Laurie, I understand your caution, although I am feeling much braver now that I am fully immunized. Great that you can see (and hug) your local grandchildren, will go to the one in Wisconsin tomorrow, and plan to visit the Indiana ones soon. Not that you asked, but I think you should fly to Boston to see your son and his family. If just wearing a mask doesn’t feel like enough protection, you could wear one of those plastic shields too, like I did when I flew to Georgia. But I really think you will be fine even without a shield, because the vaccine protects you. When I flew to Georgia, nobody was vaccinated, which made it scary, but now so many people are. You won’t regret it!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Suzy, thanks for the boost of confidence about flying. Many of my friends have. We are also concerned about whether our kids there will think we are safe to be around their unvaccinated kids indoors because we could still catch and carry the virus. I know that sounds super-cautious but my DIL is a pediatrician and has seen some scary stuff. Fingers crossed.

  5. Marian says:

    I can totally relate to all those questions you have, Laurie. That’s why this new “normal” is so exhausting. Every action involves a risk assessment. I hope you can figure out how to see all your loved ones. Last month I was initially nervous about our Passover Seder because Dick’s youngest daughter hadn’t yet become vaccine-eligible. Now I’m feeling a lot better but prefer to eat and do as many activities outdoors as possible. In the Bay Area, this is pretty easy, so I feel lucky.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks for understanding all of my neurotic questions, Marian. You are so right about how exhausting all of this is. Visiting our granddaughter in Wisconsin, a non-masking state, was fraught with decisions about when to mask, even though we stayed outside. When unmasked strangers came near us, my granddaughters put their masks on. Kids are pretty well trained about this. The younger one even warned us to mask up because unmasked and probably unvaccinated people were coming. Not feeling totally safe yet.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Although your specific issues are different, you so well capture my own risk analysis balancing about what we can and cannot do now that we are fully vaccinated. And how much of my reticence is medically-driven as opposed to just conditioning from the last year of isolation? I don’t know, but thank you for sharing your own issues and similar concerns in your story. Ambivalence, just like misery, loves company.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      John, I think so much of this for vaccinated people has to do with risk tolerance and trauma from over a year of relative isolation. As far as what people do once they are fully vaccinated, I’m finding it similar to keeping kosher. Everyone has their own rules and no one follows everything 100%.

  7. Joe Lowry says:

    I too have not seen my granddaughter since Christmas of 2019. However, both her parents, myself and my girl friend are now vaccinated. So it’s off to their town next week. It’s a 300 miles away, but it is via car for this trip even though Amtrak is a few miles away and going by air works too. However, for the near future, it’s the car for us.

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