I’m ready to walk away, to separate myself from those who have never – really – had my back, to ease away from those who now shun me. For a short while, I thought I’d gained acceptance into their tight little circle, that of my five sisters, each of us so glaringly different from each other. But I’ve felt the sting of their indifference for far too long, a discomfort gelling now into something that feels far more ominous with a potential for permanence.

Covid, coupled with a suppressed immune system that requires special care and precautions, necessitates that I avoid large gatherings, particularly those indoors. This has meant no weddings, no graduations, no birthday parties or bridal showers, no spending time getting to know new additions to our extended family. An outdoor gathering? Great! Otherwise, no. I’ll have to pass.

But it’s always there. That look of passing judgment. I sense eyes that gloss over my concerns, smug faces that ridicule and mock me – and not always behind my back. The President tells us the pandemic is over. The country can move on. All well and good for the majority of Americans but not quite yet for the likes of me. I must still exercise caution.

A niece’s wedding approaches, my youngest sister’s daughter is planning a small event, primarily held at a local park. I’ll be there unless the weather doesn’t allow guests to congregate outdoors. And there, it seems, the shun begins. Yet another continuation of disregard for the safeguards I feel are in the best interests of my remaining healthy.

Our life – my husband’s and mine – in this time of covid, is just fine. We’re happy and content. We never feel deprived. I don’t complain about not being able to go places or take part in the activities others now enjoy in this post-pandemic world. We keep busy and occupied with our own projects, interests and passions. It’s all good. And yet, there seems to be no compassion for my immunocompromised situation, no attempts to understand. Certainly, there is not a shred of empathy. Instead, I’m criticized and sometimes confronted for not taking part in family gatherings. This is my choice. It’s my health. It’s my life, one I wish to remain healthy, thank you very much.

And so, to coin a phrase, today is the first day of the rest of my life. If that means moving on without my family, so be it.

Serrated leaves of brethren black-cherry trees
wave to me outside our sunroom windows.
Empty wire-mesh feeders sway
in the muggy almost-autumn breeze.

Sluglike, I cross to the mailbox,
COVID-gloves in hand.
Wasted effort: Political flyers
for a candidate I’d never, ever vote for.

Didn’t I read somewhere
that September’s segue to fall
dictates longer sleeves,
cooler nights, solid shoes?

My sugar-self craves a hot cuppa chai
but not when The Weather Channel
tells me what I already know — we’re dying here
in this ninety-degree muck, reprieve not yet our due.

Predictably, others will soon
protest winter’s snowfall, her howling winds,
those frigid blasts of icy, northern air.

                       But I won’t…