- Anna Shields decided not to join her family for the holidays for the second year in a row.
- She says some of her family has chosen not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, making her feel unsafe.
- Here’s her story, as to writer Fortesa Latifi.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Anna Shields, a 23-year-old from Wilmington, Delaware. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I haven’t seen my family for the holidays since 2019, before COVID-19 changed the world forever.
Last year, we didn’t see each other because we weren’t vaccinated, as the general population wasn’t eligible yet. But this year, even though most everyone is vaccinated, I’m still not seeing my family because some of them have chosen not to be vaccinated.
My mom, brother, and sister are vaccinated and my dad isn’t
Neither is my 90-year-old grandmother, who had COVID-19 and was lucky enough to make a recovery.
Some members of my extended family are super conservative and into conspiracy theories. They think the pandemic is overblown or that they can’t trust the vaccine.
It’s especially weird because I work for the state legislature and I’m just like, “We have such a small budget! We are not manufacturing a pandemic or putting microchips in you.” It’s just driving me bonkers. It’s even more of a worry because my mom and I have chronic health issues.
It’s been really hard for me to deal with, especially because I used to be so close to my dad
He texts me sometimes and says he wants to see me, and I usually respond by sending him links to open vaccine appointments. This approach has not worked so far, but I don’t know what to do.
It’s so frustrating. He says he isn’t confident about the ingredients in the vaccine or even the need for it.
In a way, I think my grandmother recovering from COVID-19 made some of my family members more entrenched in their belief that COVID-19 isn’t a big deal. It was like, if she can recover, we definitely can. But that’s not a guarantee. And I’m worried for them.
My mom texted me to tell me their plans for Thanksgiving and invited me, but I said I couldn’t go
They know it’s because they’re not vaccinated. She didn’t try to get me to come to Christmas because I think she knows I won’t go.
It’s depressing because they only live a few minutes away from me. They’re so close but we don’t see each other at all.
It’s hard because even in years when COVID-19 isn’t a factor, it can be difficult to be around them because we don’t have much in common. It can be hard to find things to talk about.
But still, it’s worth it to see them when there’s not a risk to my physical health.
I love my dad, but I feel like the internet poisoned his brain. And even worse, I’m just terrified he’s going to get very sick. My biggest fear is that he’ll realize that he should’ve taken the vaccine only if he gets really sick from the virus. I don’t want him to have to learn that way.
The holidays are such a special time and the focus is so much on family, and I feel like I just don’t have a family at all right now
During this time of year, everyone is talking about the importance of family and it’s painful to see everyone having that time with their families while I’m just so disconnected. People ask me what I’m doing for Christmas and I’m like, “Oh, I’m not seeing my family, I’m spending time with my boyfriend’s family.” And I’m really grateful to have them, but I miss my family.
I’m not usually that sad about the distance in my relationship with my family, but then the holidays come around and the whole thing just becomes so painful.
I’m going to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and his family
I’m so grateful for the way they’re making me feel welcomed. His mom even put up a stocking for me and when I saw it, I just burst into tears. I appreciate it so deeply, but I wish I had something like that with my family.
I wish I could make it clear to them that I’m not boycotting the holidays to make some kind of a political statement. It’s not a statement at all — it’s because I’m actually scared for my health and for theirs.
Even if they think it’s silly, that’s the truth. I’m so worried and at this point, there’s not much I can do about it.