A year ago I shared my perspective, as an immigrant, about the COVID crisis. To say that a lot has changed in the U.S. and my native Brazil since then is an understatement.
As we settled into relative isolation here, my husband lost his job when his company closed its Denver office. Fortunately, he was able to find another position. Meanwhile, we learned how to celebrate birthdays and holidays with far-flung relatives on Zoom, and feel both grateful for our family’s health and now confident in the nation’s response to the pandemic.
My husband and I have scheduled appointments to receive the vaccine and should have both shots by May 1. But our own good fortune is tinged with tragedy as we watch our friends and relatives in Brazil struggle to manage both a health and economic crisis.
Last year, my nephew was exposed to someone who had COVID. My mom’s first instinct was to visit him; she couldn’t help herself. Thank God my nephew kept his distance and told her to go home. Still, it was scary to hear that she put herself at risk, knowing that her diabetes and other health issues would make her an easy mark for COVID.
Last fall, we lost two family members when COVID complicated their existing illnesses. They didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. Because of COVID they both died alone in the intensive care unit. Because of COVID the grieving process was challenging.
We recently lost two close family friends to COVID in Brazil. When I hear that someone close to them died, I can’t help but think it could have been one of my parents. My sister-in-law lost her aunt recently. One of her uncle’s is in a respirator waiting for an opening for an ICU bed at the hospital. He is in the 12th position in the queue for an ICU unit.
My family in Brazil got together for the holiday season, like they usually do. Two relatives tested positive for COVID shortly afterward. Fortunately, one was young and had only mild symptoms and the other turned out to be a false positive. This reminded me that my Brazilian relatives are not very good at maintaining social distancing. It is a tough ask in a culture that is so gregarious. They don’t wear their masks properly.
At this point, I am grateful that they are healthy and hopeful that they will stay healthy.
Yesterday morning I opened Facebook to see a woman in my small town sharing her frustration with the people complaining about the city’s response to COVID and the lack of health care workers. Her sister is a nurse. She did her best to explain that health care workers are sleeping one hour here and there. They are doing the best they can. There is nothing that the city’s administration can do at this point. They don’t have enough people or resources.
A friend of mine in Brazil told me how the variant of the virus is affecting her close friends and their families. When COVID first started, you would hear about one or two family members getting the virus. This new variant is affecting every family member, including children. Even people who are careful.
This year my dad is turning 80 years old. I was hoping we could get our vaccines and head down to Brazil to celebrate with him. But right now the reality is starting to sink in. The situation in the south of Brazil, where my family lives, is really bad. It is not safe for us to travel. I am working on other ways to celebrate his birthday from here.
My husband and I are settled in this new way of life. We are locked in the house most of the time. We order food from Amazon once a week. We are cooking more often. We order take out about once a week, rotating between Indian food and Asian food. We give generous tips.
We work during the week. I pull out my coloring book and watch movies on the weekends. I make a conscious effort to not work on the weekend. I remind myself that I need to give my brain a break. When the weather allows, we go out for a hike.
As an immigrant, I made myself a promise that I would always go back home once a year to see my family. It is hard to be away from them for more than a year. Now, for their safety and my own safety, I am breaking this promise.
We dream of the day when we will feel safe to travel and see our loved ones again. I think this day is getting closer here in the U.S., but not so close for my loved ones in Brazil.
Lidiane Mocko is a customer relationship management consultant who lives in Lakewood.