Dear Annie: My husband and I are in our early 60s and have been married for eight years. I have four adult children and 11 grandchildren, while he has one son and two grandsons. My children are scattered across the country, while his son lives in the same small town as us.

Yesterday, “Derek” texted my husband to ask about our plans for Christmas so he and his family could decide whether to stop by on Christmas Eve or the afternoon of Christmas.

The problem is that we don’t want them to stop by at all. We love them, but they’re in total denial about COVID-19. They refuse to wear masks and even brag on social media about “outsmarting” the efforts of store personnel to enforce mask mandates. They have had large family gatherings all year (25-plus people in a small house). We haven’t attended any of these events, but we haven’t criticized them either. Nobody has contracted the virus (so far) from participating in the gatherings, which, sadly, reinforces their assertions that the virus is being taken too seriously.

My husband and I are relatively healthy but I have COPD, which makes me especially vulnerable. My husband is still working full time, but I’m confident that he’s taking every possible precaution. I’m retired and only go out when it’s absolutely necessary.

What can we do, Annie? Having them visit is very risky for me, but refusing to see them will probably cause a rift between my husband and his son. I feel like it’s a no-win scenario. Any advice would be much appreciated. — Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Though Christmas has come and gone, the desire to see family and friends remains. And you are correct that having COPD makes you more vulnerable, and your husband should take every measure to protect you. He is taking precautions at work, but now he has to take it a step further and explain to his son about your condition and vulnerability. You are high risk, and his son must respect that.

The vaccine is here, and, most likely, this will be the only holiday season that you will not be able to see family. But the most important thing is keeping everyone safe and healthy. The rift that saying no will cause is only temporary, and hopefully, with some proper and loving communication, you can all have a good laugh about it next Christmas.

If Derek is adamant about visiting, and your husband thinks it’s OK, then maybe they could do a drive-by in the car to say “hi.” Best of luck to you.

Dear Annie: Thank you for publishing stories about families willing and working to maintain civil relationships after divorce. I was a family law attorney, and then a judge, and then a mediator for over 30 years.

And I am sorry that my husband’s ex spends so much energy saying mean things about me, all the while having a “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” demeanor. Sometimes, even those of us with the most experience are plagued with those who won’t change. And she has inculcated her children with like attitudes. — Family Law Attorney

Dear Family Law: Thank you for your letter. Saying mean things about a children’s father or mother during a divorce is one of the most destructive things you can do for your children. Learning to take responsibility and be generous will make the difference in the long run. And in the meantime, biting one’s tongue might be the best move.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to Copyright 2021

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