Annie Lane: Coronavirus Family Feud

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been following the recommendations for protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19 in recent months. Although we’ve missed seeing our kids and our grandchildren, we’ve stuck to our guns on this, even as others around us have begun to take a more relaxed approach. We’ve only recently started to see our immediate family (kids and grandkids), per the reopening guidelines in our state.

I am in my 50s and have a health condition that makes me susceptible to respiratory illnesses. If I were to be infected with the virus, I would most likely not survive. My husband is on the borderline of being at an elevated risk due to his age.

My stepson and his wife recently hosted a first birthday party for our youngest grandchild. When they sent out the invitations, they said they understood if people didn’t feel comfortable attending. Given that the party would involve a large group of people from different places, most of whom do not believe in wearing masks or taking other precautions, and co-mingling for a few hours in a small space, we elected not to go.

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Now my stepson and his wife are angry with us and have gone so far as to post passive-aggressive comments on social media essentially putting down those of us who believe in this “hoax.” My stepson is not speaking to my husband over this, and I’m willing to bet he and his wife are placing the blame on me. I feel really bad about the tension this has created, but I don’t see what other choice we had in this situation. I am at high risk, and even if my husband went without me, his exposures potentially put me at risk through the close contact we share. Honestly, though, with the numbers going up instead of down, I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable attending even if I weren’t considered to be at an elevated risk.

It hurts that they don’t care about my health and safety, while I am the one wondering if taking precautions to protect myself and others is selfish. I don’t think this is a situation where it’s possible to compromise and please everyone involved, nor do I feel like the coronavirus is going away anytime soon. Do you have any suggestions for how to best deal with this?

— COVID Caused a Family Rift

Dear COVID Caused a Family Rift: You dealt with this wonderfully. You protected yourself and your husband. I would caution you not to bet or guess that your stepson and his wife are angry with you or blaming you. Communication is key here. Reach out to them via FaceTime, and let them know how sad you are that you were not able to be at your grandchild’s birthday.

This is a very frustrating time for many families who cannot celebrate together. The important thing is to acknowledge that, rather than get angry over it.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to