Home for the Holi-Daze

Nov 27, 2020 | Conversations, Aging Successfully

Senior on the phone surrounded by pumpkins in a shopping cartLet the Battle Begin

Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted in November 2020, a year when our world was in the grasp of the Covid-19 pandemic. I pray that many are in a better place now.

Like it or not, many of us are finding ourselves in a battle this year. The battle is best described as a battle between the way things have always been and the way they must be this year.

In the battle, we have two jobs. We need to get very clear in our communication and manage our emotions while inside it. Each of us must be clear about and then figure out how to communicate what they’re comfortable with this year.

Comfortable can be relative to gathering, traveling, our own comfort, and that of others. We need to become aware of ourselves and everyone involved in the equation.

We must formulate and adjust our plans as new recommendations or guidelines come in from local governments and guidelines are issued by health care experts and institutions. As we make plans, we can build in that adjustable factor (some call it “Plan B,” and some just plain call it off) due to updated situations or the parties therein.

My nuclear family for years has laughingly referred to event details as “The Current Plan”. In the days before a wedding, we would frantically communicate by landlines and pay phones, asking for “The Current Plan”. It’s 39 years later, and not so much has changed in terms of our volatility, only in our technology.


We like planning and testing. Want to kill two birds with one stone? How about having a TEST Zoom call to gather folks to become more familiar with the platform and use it, plan your holidays, and (dare we say) talk about how the decisions at hand will affect all concerned? 

Spend some time assessing exposures and risks as well as the menu planning. Will we spend time in the same room? Masks on or off? Inside or outside? With family normally under the same roof plus persons from outside that address? Think and discuss these considerations all the way through. It can be a lengthy conversation, but important. Lifesaving, even.


Not everyone has the same reaction to or regard for what is happening with the pandemic and the restrictions or challenges we face. How do we reach or get on the same page?

We can begin by acknowledging disappointment (disappointment that we are asked to change by a pandemic, a force outside ourselves, or disappointment that the family might not be able to gather in person). Encourage everyone to say how they feel or what they’ll miss. It can be heartening to hear that your mashed potatoes are always the best ever when you didn’t know that. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Have frank and difficult discussions, and be affording of others. 


We may all agree to the point that the common denominator during this pandemic year is a precaution.  With so much going on, so much evolving, and with so many moving (and human) parts, we can agree at least to be cautious. This year, may we all err on the side of caution and consideration of whomever’s health may require the most concern. 

Some honor the most fragile among them by letting the considerations surrounding their health (or wealth, their ability, or their willingness) to be the guiding principle. Most importantly, be willing to adapt to what other family members are comfortable with, especially if they’re being strict about limiting exposure and keeping their circle small this year.


Boundaries. Sacrifice. The strictest rules win by default. No backsliding Day Off.


We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the obvious and upbeat part of this year especially. We had the opportunity try new things. Consider the traditional things (whether everybody liked them or not) to be getting a pass this year. Or incorporate those traditional elements into a new delivery system. Enter Zoom. Enter being together in (Thank Goodness we have) an all-new way.

We are hearing and reading of all new ways to be together or that spark new traditions:

Watch Parties – invite a group to watch the movie simultaneously and text each other. Or Zoom before or after the family’s favorite holiday movie and share the parts you like best or that made you cry as a child. (Personal fav- the facial expressions made by the dog in the cartoon Grinch Who Stole Christmas as the Grinch makes him push the sled to the top of it and then down the hill.  And I’d tell you that while I never really took to little Sally Who I can see her clear as day in my mind’s eye right now).

Football games – watch from your own vantage points and text each other with commentary during quarter changes. Call each other at halftime for some smack talk. 

Play a game online together – play a game, household to household, like Words With Friends or another. Who knows, you could discover a fun new holiday tradition. A quick online search will render several games to play during quarantine, everything from Bingo (the game played across retirement homes, now virtually, we might add) to newer variations such as trivia games. All 100% free.

Eating together but apart —   This Thanksgiving or Friends-giving, folks are making plans to eat together but sharing time online. Each will dine on their own fare together, giving thanks with a blessing and sharing during the meal.  (And I will tell my nephew Kenny that I am missing his always best-mashed potatoes).

Recently and during the monthly Zoom call with a close-knit group of professionals, we were discussing plans like these. One member thought it so natural that previously we would meet in a restaurant, eating together as we shared news and traded barbs, and she missed that. In our pandemic Zoom format, we’d all brown-bag our lunches and still meet, but for some reason, she felt odd when eating on a Zoom call, seeing herself “in front of everyone”. She’d been “in front” of us before, with the same friends and same mission, so what was this odd feeling all about? Perhaps she could now see herself eating? We all acknowledged her admission, and a few chimed in that they had felt the same way! 

Mostly we agreed that the important thing was to “give a lot of grace” during these odd times and that the prevailing friendship and the group connection were more important. When we realized that we were sacrificing together for a more important goal, we became OK, feeling a little weird. Perhaps we would no longer allow odd or weird to rule.

Undeniably this entire year is what has been odd, it is undeniably different. Let’s all try to put it into perspective in whatever way will work for us. “They said we have to-“, “I’m not taking any chances”, “It’s just for this year”, or begin dusting off your Bah Humbug. 

Do what you will. This Patient Advocate will win the battle among those around her with a simple mantra I am known to use in my work all year, any year: “Safety is my litmus test.”

Let’s make good decisions, everyone. I hope to see us all right back here next year.

Nancy Ruffner November 12, 2020