My dad doesn’t text me. Ever. It’s partly because he has a limited understanding of English and partly because we call each other every day anyway. These calls are brief — we often compare the weather in Nashville to Brooklyn and see who has it worse — but nonetheless are a staple of our relationship.
Two weeks ago, I had called my dad before class, urging him to get a COVID-19 test for the third time that week. He had just gotten a much needed sinus surgery the week before, but as time went on, it became harder for him to distinguish what was recovery and what was potentially COVID. But that Tuesday, he listened to me. A few hours later while sitting through a seminar, I got a text: “Al positivo.”
My entire body froze. My worst fear came true: one of my parents tested positive and there was absolutely nothing I can do about it. Even worse, I didn’t trust my dad to immediately quarantine. He’d been indoor dining and going to the gym a little before his surgery. It’s not that he didn’t think COVID-19 was real — he was the first to freak out in January when my roommate’s trip to China coincided with the beginning of the pandemic — but that everyone around him told him that his behavior was fine. (Yes, I tried telling him the risk of his actions, and even though his daughter is literally studying and reporting on this, he refused to listen). I worried that he could have been sick for a longer time than he realized.
After a lot of coaxing from me and my mom (who isn’t even married to him anymore!), my dad agreed to quarantine. That, in hindsight, was the easy part. My dad famously doesn’t complain. No matter what, he pushes through the pain. It dawned on me that I would have to become his remote nurse, asking him how he was feeling, whether he felt any discomfort in his chest, if he could still smell and taste things. If I didn’t ask him, no one would and he sure as hell wouldn’t have told me out of his own volition. I shipped him a thermometer and pulse oximeter hours later. From there on, the next two weeks were a constant barrage of questions. I FaceTimed him at least three times a day so that I could make sure that he was not only home, but actually resting and not mowing the grass with a 103 degree fever or something. I’m sure he got tired of me constantly nagging, but I know that deep down he appreciated it. The worst thing with this virus is feeling alone.
My dad was lucky. His symptoms were mild. Other than a few days of debilitating body aches and fever, he lost his sense of smell and suffered from headaches. But these past two weeks of uncertainty were absolutely unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, think, or process anything because my anxiety was eating me up alive. We all knew it could have been worse and I’m so grateful that it wasn’t. But, God, I don’t want anyone to ever go through that, ever. Stay home, wear your mask, and let’s keep each other safe.