Q. In February, my husband and I had COVID-19, and it was a tough struggle.
Our daughter lives two hours away with our only grandchildren (elementary age), and her husband, “Eric.” Eric is very “me” oriented; he’ll wear you down in a discussion so he can win. He yells and screams a lot, but he’s never been physically violent.
We’re in a state that has a mandatory shelter-in-place order. I’ve talked to my daughter about a possible visit since we’ve been sheltered for four weeks. Two days ago, my son-in-law broke our state’s guidelines and went kayaking with two of his friends.
What happens now? Do we refuse all visits, even though we haven’t seen our daughter and grandkids for a month? The very last thing we need is to get this monster virus again — we’re in our 70s. Otherwise our health is good, but neither my husband nor I have fully recovered; we’re improving, but not 100 percent.
Our careful plans were to go TO a safe place FROM a safe place. Unfortunately, we no longer trust our son-in-law to help protect us, and he’s possibly exposed his wife and kids.
My daughter refuses to see his behavior as alarming. She feels sorry for him because he had a destitute childhood and he’s been cooped up for four weeks. (The rest of us have been, too!)
What to do? What to say? Ghost them until there’s a vaccine?
RECOVERING IN THE PACIFIC
A. You should not have any in-person contact with these family members (or others) until you have fully recovered, and medical personnel have declared you free of (or definitively immune from) this virus.
Yes, you could possibly become reinfected by outside contact — as of this writing, there are some reports of people possibly having the illness more than once. You could also continue to expose others.
Your son-in-law should not have violated your state’s guidelines for sheltering and social distancing (It’s hard to remain distant sharing a vehicle or a kayak), but the way I read this, you and your husband are both the source and the object of more acute concern because of your current health status. Yes, you will all have to wait longer to see one another.
In terms of your son-in-law’s behavior toward his family, I hope you will stay in very close touch with your daughter. Don’t attack him, forcing her into a defensive crouch. Always convey that you are in her corner. If your son-in-law is as much of a hothead as it sounds, she will need your support.
Q. “Skied Out” described an unsatisfying ski vacation with cousins. I loved your description of how the guests had behaved while on this shared vacation: “They hit the four benchmarks of anti-social behavior: Stingy, entitled, complaining, and ungrateful.”
When I’m in a similar situation, I experience resentment (defined as “premeditated expectations” in 12-step circles), as well as self-pity. When younger, I would’ve stewed over my hurt feelings and the unfairness. Now, I look at my metaphorical side of the street, call it my “dress rehearsal,” and determine what I’ll do differently in the future. Practice, practice, practice.
I’m all about preventing regrets if it’s possible. If that’s not an option, I divide the regrets into “livable” or “unlivable.” If it’s unlivable, it’s unlivable. Period. This gives me clarity, even if I must do something hard. If I can live with myself and the decision I make for the next day, month, year, etc., then it’s livable.
More and more, I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can with what I know right now. I am not responsible for what I did not know, but once I do know or have new information, then I AM responsible (and still doing the best I can).
A. I’m reminded of the wonderful Maya Angelou quote: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
Practice, practice, practice!
Q. “Mr. Nice Guy” described his new marriage to a woman whose teen kids ran the show.
Based on my experience and the experience of people I know intimately, the chances of his wife changing at this stage of her life are slim and none; so if he wants to leave this relationship guilt-free, he needs to get into counseling, invite his wife to join him, and if there are no changes in one year — leave.
A. I agree that the prospects here were, sadly, not good.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.