Putting a (telephone) ring on it?

CW: Discussions of evangelical religious beliefs and horrible beliefs about the causes of, and appropriate responses to, covid-19. Discussions of managing challenging relationships with Partner’s high-risk older evangelical grandparents as his birth state re-opens. Reminders that – while we have been fortunate (so far) not to have anyone we personally know have had covid-19 severely enough to require hospitalization – we know people who have lost people. It absolutely isn’t all mild cases, and the mild cases don’t just conveniently clear up completely after fourteen days. We know that those who are at highest risk that we care about live in states that haven’t experienced their surge, yet seem to want to court a second wave. Read safely.

Lavender dumps a sample packet of the very quickly discontinued strawberry cake flavor she got with her most recent Liquid IV order into a cup. A few minutes later, Partner looks up, sniffs and makes a horrible face.

Partner: “Warn a person next time you are going to do that. That is awful!”

Lavender sniffs the cup. Doesn’t get much.

Lavender: “You cannot possibly smell that from across the room.”

Partner: “Yes, I can. It wafts. Now I have to taste it just to know if it’s as bad on the tongue as it is on the nose.”

Lavender offers him a closer sniff, then takes a taste. It is kind of sweet seeming, but it doesn’t taste like much. Partner makes a face of abject horror upon drinking.

Partner: “You are welcome to drag yourself over for testing in a few days because you still need it to convince yourself, but I’m going to take this as an abundance of evidence we’re positive and skip the part where I have a swab jammed up my nose when I already feel like I’ve been hit by a truck just to feel okay admitting that I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.”

Updates from last week:

1) We now have accessible walk-up testing for covid-19.

2) Before we did, I (among many others, so don’t give me credit!) shared our experiences of the catch-22 of having covid-19 symptoms without a car in a neighborhood that initially prioritized expanding drive-through testing with local public health officials.

3) When we went through our symptoms (including the experience above), the health department suggested it was unlikely enough we could have anything else that it wasn’t necessary to worry about formal testing retroactively. We should just assume we have it, as testing in the later stages can lead to false negatives.

If the health department tells me to put a label on it, I guess I’ll put a label on it?

Assuming we have it, my Partner’s mild case has felt mostly like other upper respiratory viruses like the flu, but with more shortness of breath and with a notable lack of any sinus symptoms such as congestion, sneezing or post-nasal drip. Mine has felt like being continuously in the initial upswing phase of recovery from an upper respiratory illness, also with no sinus symptoms and with additional loss of taste and smell until just recently. My Partner’s symptoms have been worse than mine, but the second week was deceptive for both of us. We both felt significantly worse after we initially thought we were almost “better.”

Currently, we still feel winded and exhausted, but not exactly “sick” anymore. (My Partner is asleep as I post this.) Our experience matches the experiences of others we know who have tested positive recently, and several of them haven’t run fevers over 100 degrees either. While a 100-degree-plus fever (at least initially) is the norm, if you know you run low normally and you show two or three full degrees of ongoing temperature elevation above your own baseline alongside other symptoms, just do everyone a favor and self-isolate! (To clarify, I have been working from home since this started. The timing of when coworkers have also tested positive is just a function of the broader timing of community spread in our particular neighborhood relative to our region as a whole, not because work was the contact vector.)

I technically wrote this a few days ago, but I am just getting around to posting now.

I am a bad human. I know that, and I accept that about myself.

Not because I am a heathen (as my Partner’s extended family thinks), of course, but because I make my Partner make informed decisions about communicating with family members with whom he has complicated relationships while his temperature is running three degrees above his baseline and he feels like he’s been hit by a truck.

Because I know him, and I know that he doesn’t actually want to have a bad relationship with his surviving evangelical grandparents, who have underlying health conditions and are in the highest-risk age group. He doesn’t want to have a bad relationship with them. He just can’t figure out how to have a good relationship with them when every time they open their mouth, it is an act of will not to double middle finger everything they say.

I have been less sick than him these past almost two weeks now, and I am the one who has Facebook. I took one for the team and checked what his extended family has been posting lately. Sometime in the past seven(ish?) weeks they’ve switched over from Psalm 91:10 to memes about the covid-19 death rate being artificially inflated. (Spoiler alert: we live on the East Coast. It isn’t.) They’ve shared what I believe is a post stating that Dr. Fauci is some sort of Satan-possessed tempter sent to test the angelic Trump and try to lead him astray from his God-given mission. (Spoiler alert: WTF? What do you even say to refute that?!) And they’ve posted a whole lot of “Don’t Tread on Me.”

So, yeah, okay, I get why my Partner has just quietly not spoken to that side of the family for years now and allowed them to think that his “quirks” and introversion – not the fact that he fundamentally loathes everything they stand for – is the reason. Because it’s just simpler, and really, what do you say in polite telephone chit chat to someone who thinks Dr. Fauci might be a demon anyway?

Corralling my Partner into deciding whether and when he’d like to speak to his high-risk extended family again before they might be impacted by a potential second wave when he’s been dancing around the issue since this whole thing began does kind of make me a bad person. I know that, and, as I said, I accept that about myself.

I may have slightly leveraged the fact he’d be too tired to stonewall me against him to force him to make a decision about whether he was comfortable extending his unofficial No Contact policy on through to his birth state’s reopening. I may suspect that that re-opening is likely to result in a “second wave,” and that one grandparent in particular almost certainly won’t take the kind of precautions an older person with significant underlying health issues should. Her own spouse died of what would very likely have been an initially treatable form of cancer if he’d sought medical help instead of relying on faith alone long before covid-19 even existed.

Because, I mean, it’s true that I’m a coastal heathen, but I’m not the one who decided the Southern states needed to open back up, or who set their timing before they even met the weak-sauce Phase 1 CDC criteria. I’m not the reason his extended family – who have almost certainly been ignoring social distancing already to gather in large crowds under “religious exemption” – will no longer be protected from the consequences of their own actions by the fact that everyone else around them has, at least, been staying home. I’m not the one who decided that we should sacrifice our grandparents to an economy that only serves the very wealthiest Americans. I’m not the one who decided that sending workers out to die in meat processing plants or close-contact personal services was an acceptable way to save money on unemployment insurance during Great Depression II.

It’s not my fault that, over the past seven weeks, I’ve had to try to figure out what is an appropriate response to someone who directly reports to me at work who has only a very mild case of confirmed covid-19 but is simultaneously caring for a high-risk older relative in the same physical location, or what to say to other someones who have lost close relatives.

It’s not even my fault that my Partner is, unfortunately, probably correct in his cynical viewpoint that his own Evangelical family will “probably totally avoid those consequences of their own views that they’ve brought down on those in the more urban areas of the state because they live in too much of a rural nowhere to have the population density to support an outbreak.”Or that the Republican politicians over the age 65 who make up the most loathsome of our U.S. Senate are too wealthy from exploiting their workers previously to have to ever worry about suffering the same fate they want to inflict on ordinary grandparents.

There is only so much a bad person like me can do to buy time for my Partner to thoughtfully process how he feels about speaking to his evangelical family members on the eve of a potential second wave when all those “very good people” that Trump speaks of are invading the Michigan state house and using Nazi slogans to attack a Jewish governor in Illinois.

I do not believe in forgiving anyone for their sake if they are unrepentant about their truly horrible beliefs and/or actions. Forgiveness is never owed to someone whose actions have been abusive. And, I do believe that telling a child (or adult!) repeatedly that they are destined for the pit of fire is abusive.

I would stand by my Partner if he decided – even in times when no one should leave anything unsaid – that he didn’t have anything to say to his relatives who believe covid-19 is God’s judgement. But, I also know it would bother him if the worst happened and he had ended on bad terms. So, I’ll look out for him, not them.

Because families are always complicated, and my Partner isn’t quite the type who could sit for the rest of his life with the knowledge that he ended on “bad terms” if the worst happened.

And, I know full well that his extended family is exactly the type who will court disaster now that their state is permitting them to do so in full once again.

I wrote those specific family members he still felt enough connection to – and who were at highest risk – hand-written letters catching up on “safe” topics, wishing them well and hoping for their continued safety. He co-signed them with me. I did not write to all of his extended family because there are family members who have said sufficiently hurtful things about him – and about anyone and everyone else who isn’t like them – that he is comfortable with not having said goodbye if the worst happens. I respect that.

Did I mention that I view religious trauma as trauma (even if his immediate family hasn’t quite gotten there yet). I don’t believe trauma victims owe anyone who contributed to their trauma “forgiveness” or “ending on good terms” for their sake. The choice to forgive – or not to forgive – and to communicate – or to go No Contact – is intensely personal. I might make my Partner choose to make a choice (instead of potentially feeling guilty for waiting too long to make one later), but I won’t ever dictate what choice should be made (or let anyone else dictate my own complicated situations.)

I had creative options that I could think of to create a form of contact that wouldn’t blow up (like a telephone call would) that I could employ as a “married-in” relative that he couldn’t employ directly as a “blood” one. He’s known to be an extreme introvert. I’m known to be the kind of extreme novelty-seeking type (who is also an introvert but can fake extroversion) who would plausibly send hand-written letters just because “everything old is new again – and it’s something to do!” in quarantine. While conveniently sidestepping the issues of whether covid-19 is a hoax, what our showing concern over “nothing” might mean about us as libtards, and just the fact we really do have nothing to say were we to try to call on the phone.

Got quirks? Lean in!

We’ll send those letters so long as we still have a post office after we finish self-isolating because we probably have that “hoax.” We won’t mention that we have been feeling sick lest anyone seize upon our comparatively mild symptoms as an excuse to forget about those sixty thousand Americans (and counting) who did not have mild symptoms. (Being a bad person is one thing. Accidentally allowing yourself to be held up as a bad statistical example to support a truly terrible point of view is quite another!)

And, then we’ll hope to Hell that the fact that the One-Horse Townhouse is in an equally rural part of the 9th Circle of Hell means they also will not have the population density to support a future outbreak as the rest of the nation decides to willfully ignore what a bad example states like my Partner’s home state are setting and keep right on opening up…

How are you all handling “challenging” relationships with high-risk family members during these uncertain times?

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out my Glossary of Terms.


14 thoughts on “Putting a (telephone) ring on it?

  1. My mom used to call me and my sister godless heathens as kids, I grew up thinking it was an adorable term of affection, how warped is that.

    I’m an outlier with the famly. Mom and sis have gone the rabid fear stricken route to avoid sickness, whereas dad and his still think it’s all hype and someone did it to weed out old folks and sabotage Trump. There are no longer any ‘safe’ topics with these people. He’s called me 7 times in 3 days and stopped by twice and my nerves are deep fried from the toxicity.

    So Spook and I just try to stay in our own little corner of the pan-pocalypse and not get sucked into any of the drama.

    I don’t envy your situation or your partner’s, that faction sounds dreadful.

    I hope you both are on the mend and it’s a relatively quick road to recovery.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yeah, that is not a cute term of affection. I’m kind of curious how that side of Partner’s family manages to simultaneously believe that the death rate is overstated and that the seriousness is a “hoax,” but also that God sent this plague in judgment because of abortion or those of differing sexuality or whatever other horrible things Ken Copeland and his various ilk across the South have said lately. Like, isn’t it one or the other? Either it’s a forged hoax wherein people who have died of normal causes are having their death certificates faked to say it was covid-19 (yes, that’s a thing that was posted), or God is sending some Biblical-style plague that ought to be killing all our firstborns? But, no, they seem to somehow be able to believe multiple seemingly contradictory things all before breakfast…

      Liked by 4 people

  2. one thing I have learned in my 60 plus years,..is that evangelicals believe contradictory things with impunity..and can argue both sides of a coin without seeing the hypocrisy of their words or actions. And when called on their statements of ‘facts cause the Bible said”…will undoubtedly and vehemently state YOU are the problem, the devil-worshiping son or daughter of satan that is the direct cause of everything wrong with the world. Can you tell I have evangelical siblings? yea. One has covid and is still holding “bible studies’ in his home. I said goodbye to these abusive idiots long ago.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’ve way too much to reply!!!

    I hope you feel better soon…

    I’m glad you made him make that choice. Forgiveness is never for the others sake, they still have their own accounting to make, rather it is for the forgived. Forgiveness, to me, means letting go of the hold the wronger has on you. Taking back your life. Letting go of what they did. It doesn’t take away the pain, ramifications or impact. It takes away the anger and gives more heart space to focus on yourself.

    As someone who grew up religious I agree. It’s so hard for me to see what I think about Judaism itself when it’s clouded by all I grew up with – which I know enough about Judaism to know isn’t it (it helps that my rabbi hates and disagrees with a lot of it too).

    Open doors are for yourself not for the other. I built a relationship with my mother for her sake. I felt bad for her. Now I’m actually grateful for my sake. I’ll never have a deep loving relationship. I know she loves me even if it’s tied into herself. I never expected to gain from it.

    Anyways, take care of yourselves. I hope the fatigue passes really soon….


    Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree about religious trauma. It hurt to grow up thinking God can’t love me. I had so much to relearn and that was one of the hardest. It has been hard to let go of the belief that I’m a bad person. (smh) Spiritual abuse is some of the most damaging.

    I’m currently dealing with a CNA who is not taking precautions bc she feels she has Christ’s protection. Somehow she has it while the 1.2 million people w COVID 19 did not? (smh) What a sad state to be in when you can’t see reality because of false beliefs such as those of my CNA and the family members you wrote about.

    By the way, this was very well written. I just wanted to add that.

    Faith 🌻

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We’ll never know. Partner’s mom said when he talked to her recently that she had had to drop out of all family text and email update chains because their comments were too much to stomach. She said she thought we had the right idea sending a card so we didn’t actually have to ever speak to them.

      Unfortunately, that is only one side of his family. I may have made the mistake of thinking his other side might be at least somewhat reasonable. That side is still Conservative idiotic, but I hadn’t thought they were quite fully on board the human sacrifice train with their strain of awful beliefs. My Partner swears they actually “weren’t that bad” when he was younger. It is only since the last election that they’ve gone all-in on the Republican death cult. Trump further polarized them.

      That side briefly gave me a glimmer of hope when one member, at least, posted a picture of themselves wearing a mask. (In the US right now, choosing to wear or not wear a mask in states that have re-opened is quickly becoming a visible snapshot of one’s belief in the value of another human life. MAGA idiots have literally shot store employees in several states for denying entry to them because they were not wearing masks. Some cities that originally tried to set up mask ordinances where their state government didn’t have been forced to cave to pressure and rescind them because grocery store employees were receiving too many threats.) I wrote a comment thanking that one person for their visible commitment to protecting others and for doing their part to spare their state from surge dynamics. That family member, at least, liked my post.

      But, an additional set of idiots (both from within Partner’s family and generic Facebook friends of the original poster) jumped in to reaffirm that, yes, killing a September 11th’s worth of American citizens daily by June 1 – which the CDC projects for re-opened America – absolutely is the American way. Anyone who stays home or wears a mask (including the entirety of the Northeast) doesn’t deserve to call themselves American. I patiently pointed out that covid-19 is not just a bad cold, even for mild cases. “Colds” don’t leave you still exhausted and out of breath doing simple tasks weeks later. I gave them so many chances to walk back their overt willingness to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Americans. They were very clear that the deaths of “a few sick and old” did not supersede the “God-given freedoms” of healthy folks. I tried to be reasonable.

      Now I just want to reply something about how all of them ought to be glad I’m not as bad a human as them. Because if I were, I’d have hopped on a plane first thing during that period when I wasn’t officially under isolation yet – and thus could still have gone out and infected people – and flown all the way out there for the explicit purpose of breathing on them as a public service to their neighbors. If that is what the “moderate” side of Partner’s family is like now, I can do without the comments of the “worse” side. I’d say I’ve never been more ashamed of my country, but I’ve known this was lurking beneath the surface forever. I’m just glad that my Partner has at least his own parents and that one family member posting that picture of themselves in the mask that he will be able to still speak to after all of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Happily ignoring them, but they aren’t mine, they are my partners.

    I was worried you two would end up contracting it, but it sounds like you’re able to stay out of the hospital so that’s good. Take good care 💕

    My partner has a family member getting married in three weeks in the next state over. We called the venue, in disbelief that it was still on. It is. Horrifying to me. Even the GM of the venue was seemingly horrified.

    Be safe you two 💙

    Liked by 1 person

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