This Generation’s Shut-Ins



Two of my adult children made major moves right before the pandemic rocked the entire world and sent us into an isolation most of us had only read about in dystopian novels. Newscaster Gayle King said she spent 105 days never leaving her NYC apartment.

A couple of years before the pandemic set in, I moved from Eastern Oregon to Central Oregon. I went from a place where nearly everyone knew my name, to a community where nobody knew I existed. While I don’t regret the move, it has had its challenges. As an Army brat, I moved around a lot growing up, but once I married and had children, we stayed in the same general locale for nearly three decades.

Then we moved, and I had to figure out new ways to get involved. I worked on the presidential campaign. I sat up coffee dates. I spent time at the library and bookstores. I joined some service organizations. I found a new church home. I signed up to substitute teach. I was just beginning to develop some friendships when Covid hit.

Because I fell sick very early on, and stayed sick for nearly a month in March of 2020, I, too, followed all the CDC guidelines. For months in 2020, I didn’t see some of my kids, or my grandchildren. I didn’t hug anyone other than Tim. We washed our groceries. We watched as friends died from this ungodly pandemic. Our pastor left the church to head up a homeless ministry. We didn’t meet friends for drinks, or vacations. We still avoid large crowds and restaurants. I quit substitute teaching. We no longer went to the local movie house, opting instead to watch movies at home.

Then the vaccine came along and we all got vaxxed. We celebrated by hugging each other. Hugging our grands. Eating together again. Hosting dinner parties with other vaccinated friends. We made a cross-country trip this past summer and did all sorts of things we had longed to do – Martha’s Vineyard and the Equal Justice Initiative Museum and Memorial in Montgomery. We saw family and friends and hugged them. We even ate out at a few restaurants. It was glorious.

But then the new Delta variant cropped up and cut our trip short. We arrived home safely. I got another vaccine. So did my husband. In October, I made my first plane flight in two years, to deliver an address at the university where I am working on my graduate degree. It was both daunting and enjoyable.

I was looking forward to 2022, to leaving the country and traveling to Scotland to study at the University of West Scotland. But then another more contagious variant reared its ugly head and now that trip, which has already been postponed is now postponed again.

Our hospitals, like yours no doubt, are full. Our hospital personnel are exhausted. Our schools are shutting down again. We are in yet another phase of the pandemic.

My daughter called me this week. The one who had moved to a new community just shortly before the pandemic hit the first time. “Will it ever end?” she asked.

“Probably not,” I answered truthfully. Not as long as selfish and self-righteous people are unwilling to get vaccinated, if not to protect themselves, then to protect others.

Instead of let them eat cake as their motto, they’ve settled on let the sums of bitches die. 

Over the past 48 hours, we have had two family members who needed emergency surgery. First an uncle who fell and broke his hip. No hospital nearby had the capacity to take him in as a patient. He had to be transported by ambulance hundreds of miles away, to nearly a different state. Then this evening our son ended up in the emergency room of a Wyoming hospital in dire need of an emergency appendectomy. “It was touch and go for awhile,” the attending nurse reported following the surgery that got underway nearly 10 hours after the onset of the intolerable pain. Touch and go because the appendix was on the verge of bursting by the time they got him into surgery.

Thank you to all of you who prayed for him. Thank you. Thank you.

Our son is one of the family members who also moved right before the pandemic. So here he is in a town where he hasn’t had the opportunity to develop a community. All the people who would be at his doorstep delivering food, running errands, helping him get up the stairs or down them, live thousands of miles away. Thankfully, he’s tripled vaccinated because he lives in a community that largely shuns the advice of the CDC.

We used to call people who couldn’t get out and do for themselves shut-ins. Churches had ministries geared specifically toward caring for “shut-ins”.

What do you do when you have an entire world on “shut-in” status?

A friend called me from Wisconsin today. His son is vaccinated but got the Vid anyway. (He wasn’t boosted). He missed two weeks of work and still isn’t feeling up to snuff. I have friends who are dealing with long-haulers. I bet you do as well.

My mama’s heart hurts that I am far away from my son as he seeks to recover from a successful surgery. It hurts for every single person out there who is coping with overwhelming loneliness, the new generations of “shut-ins”.  I miss church. I miss parties. I miss conversations over coffee. I miss traveling. I miss eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. I miss not having everyone so exhausted and angry all the time. I miss the ease of which I used to go to the store or the bank or the post office. And I miss the half of my extended family that refuses to get vaccinated. And it pains me to see how overworked our hospital personnel are, simply because anti-vaxxers are so selfish.

Oh, and I think Senator Rand Paul is a major ass who is using the pandemic to bilk people out of their hard-earned cash. It angers me that good and decent men like Bob Saget die and people like Rand Paul suck up all the oxygen in the world.

It’s all so exhausting you’d think I’d be able to sleep better but here it is almost 3 a.m. and I’m wide awake with only Alexa to talk to.

I know it is true that one day this will all just be a history others retell.

I just pray that day comes sooner rather than later.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Christian Bend: A Novel (Mercer Univ. Press) and the forthcoming Murder Gene, May/2022. 





Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

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