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A father, his baby, and a family divided by the pandemic

  • April 16, 2021

For a moment, he couldn’t remember his nephew’s name. Ryan Flanagan paused and sighed, overcome by the lapse.

“I guess it’s a sign of how little I interact with my brother right now,” he said quietly. 

Rhodes Flanagan was born last September to Ryan’s brother Brennan and his wife Haylee, who have been vigilant about COVID safety. The now 6-month old arrived in the grip of a pandemic, to a world defined by limits. Rhodes hasn’t gazed upon his grandmother’s face without her mask, hasn’t felt her lips on his cheeks or seen how widely she grins in his presence. Brennan’s three siblings all live within 15 miles of each other around Kansas City, but his twin sister Caitlyn and brother Ryan have only seen Rhodes a couple of times. His brother Kean hasn’t met the baby, because he refuses to wear a mask. 

Being safe, does that mean that they are going to stop caring for me because I'm being too difficult or worrying too much? said Brennan, pictured here with Rhodes.

Rhodes was born into a family divided. For the Flanagans, some fractures formed well before COVID, but when the health crisis took hold of the country it pitted conservative family members against more liberal ones, the individualistic against the collective-minded, the risk-averse against the risk-tolerant. The Flanagans span the spectrum of COVID behavior.

Siblings fighting. Spouses at odds:How to fix relationships damaged by COVID

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