Dear Aunty Pam,

I am a 54-year-old overweight woman with both diabetes and exercise-induced asthma. I’m trying to get healthier but it’s always been a struggle.

My problem is that I come from a big family with lots of nieces and nephews (13 at the last count) and each year my siblings and I rotate who hosts Thanksgiving. This year it’s my turn and when I spoke up to say I am too afraid of contracting COVID-19 and really struggling with it or even dying, I feel like I’ve been frozen out of my family. Of my four siblings, three don’t believe the virus is a big deal and the fourth agrees it is, but seems to think we can work around it if everyone acts responsibly. But I’ve seen how my siblings parent and many times they just let their kids do what they want and I just don’t believe everyone will wear a mask and distance. I’m simply too nervous to host or attend.

Can you help me think of a way to get across to my family that I love them but I just don’t feel safe in a big gathering? When I’ve emailed to tell them, or left voicemails, I either get a very short, cold reply or no answer at all. One even said I was just trying to get out of hosting and using COVID as an excuse. This breaks my heart because I love my family and they just don’t seem to care.

— Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken,

If Aunty Pam could reach her considerably long arms through cyberspace, I’d give you the hug around your neck that you deserve. As it is I will send you a voucher to Total Wine, if that helps.

In all honesty you have been treated abominably and I’m not sure you need to try to get across to your family that you love them yet also fear for your health because you already have done so in your emails and voicemail. You are indeed at a high risk of not faring well should you contract this virus and what a shame it is that your nearest and dearest, instead of feeling a loving concern for your well being, instead choose to view your decision as an inconvenience, perhaps cunningly invented to shirk this year’s hosting duties.

You don’t say if you are married or in a relationship and it pains me that you might find yourself on your own this Thanksgiving. However, by choosing not to attend, you would have found yourself in the same boat, just without sibling condemnation hanging over your head. A little self-love and self-care is needed here. Prepare a lovely meal for yourself and a guest with whom you’d feel safe — there’s an awful lot of lonely folks out there that would find such gratitude by that gesture. You can easily distance and perhaps even dine outside if it’s a nice day. A brisk walk with the dog, or yourself, is good to clear the head as is listening to your favorite music and watching a favorite movie. A scheduled Zoom gathering with friends can be heartening as well.

I’m not saying the above will make your day turn out to be hunky dory…in fact, it may still feel like a struggle. But do please acknowledge your actions to be the truth, as that’s awfully freeing. You are honestly frightened of becoming ill and as cases are spiking throughout the country, your fear is justified. I am positive your doctor would tell you the same thing. Just remember, dear heart, you are loved. If not by your rather selfish family at this moment, certainly by countless readers of this column. Rather giddy, isn’t it, knowing complete strangers are blessing your heart in Spartanburg, Gastonia, Myrtle Beach and all over the Carolinas!

Cheers, dear!

Aunty Pam

Comedian Pam Stone can be reached at pammstone@gmail.com