Questionable Caretaker: Day 1–10

Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons
5 min readJun 28, 2020

The All-American Aversion to Showing Weakness Does More Harm Than Good

I didn’t imagine that leaving New York to go take care of my parents for the summer would be easy. It never occurred to me, however, that the hardest part would be making the Floridians around us wear masks.

Here, doing the one thing that dramatically reduces COVID-19 transmission is often viewed as acting like a “liberal baby.” This is a rub because the cultural pressure to not show weakness is how my family got in this mess.

On April 29th — my 51st day alone in my one-bedroom Astoria apartment with my cat — my cell buzzed. The last thing you want while sitting in the epicenter of a pandemic is to get a call saying that your father had been airlifted to the hospital.

No, he did not have the virus.

My father is the greatest man I’ve ever known, but he suffers from the disease of masculinity. A lifetime of projecting strength and protecting his family prevented him from accepting that at his age, there are some things he should no longer do.

Topping the list is climbing up into the crawl space above the garage of my parents’ old house. The closing inspection detected a leak, and he didn’t think twice about going up there, in an empty house, to see the problem for himself.

When my father accidentally stepped on the particleboard instead of the beam and fell 13 feet to the concrete floor below, it was the greatest misstep of his life.

A number of my friends have lost their fathers since the pandemic began. I am too grateful that mine is alive to stay mad.

I’ve never been married. I don’t have any children. This made me the most available, if not capable, person to stay with my parents and help my frail mother take care of my stoic bear of a father.

Released from the rehabilitation center on June 16th, he is in a back brace and unable to stand on his own or walk more than a few steps. His left arm is in a sling from a fractured shoulder. He is far from rehabilitated but the insurance dictated his release date, not his recovery.

All of my procreating friends have tried to tell me how hard it is taking care of another heartbeat. It’s not that I didn’t believe them; I just didn’t know.

Here are the first ten days of my father and I’s journey captured through the only thing I had time for — Facebook status updates.

Day 1) There might be Bailey's leftover from Christmas that I found in the back of the fridge in my iced coffee this morning. Who’s to say?

Day 2)

Dad: Will you do me a favor?
Me: Anything.
Dad: Get that basket of pills off the hutch.
Me: Sure. What’s a hutch?

Day 3) My dad needs to stand up for a bit every two hours. It’s a tricky process, so I like to make it ‘fun’ by poking my head through the door and loudly announcing,

“Heeeerzzzzz Keeelllleee!”

Day 4)

Me: Are you excited we get to hang out so much?
Dad: Sure.
Me: Because I’m a delight?
Dad: Yeah, sure…
Me: Say it!
Dad: You are a wonderful delight!

Day 6) Happy Father’s Day. I am your present.

Homemade Father’s Day Card from One Turkey to Another
Homemade Card “From One Turkey to Another”

Day 7) Today I cried where my dad could see because taking care of someone means telling the truth.

Day 8)

Dad: Why are the seven plagues upon me?
*Me: I don’t know but if locusts start flying out of your ass, I’m done.

*Uncensored version, originally edited for Facebook.

Day 9) My sister is a phenomenal human being and best friend.

Day 10) Devised a new method to help me help my dad up, I park the wheelchair in front of him, lock the wheels, and then park my mom in the chair. He pulls, I boost, Mom peps. Once up, he holds the handle with his good arm and marches in place chanting, “ho, hup” while my mom times how long he can stand. All three of us laughing under our masks. On a family trip to nowhere.

My father spent the majority of Day 11 in follow-up appointments at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. You know Jacksonville? Where the Republican National Convention is going to be in August despite the fact that Florida broke its single-day coronavirus case record, with the health department reporting nearly 10,000 new cases of COVID-19, as I type. Who knows where we will be by August?

Where we won’t be is anywhere near my father being as mobile as he’d hoped. The news from his doctors was not good. My dad woke up that morning ready to finally see the light only to learn that the powers that be aren’t done digging the tunnel.

Sound familiar?

I have many questionable caretaker days ahead. It’s been suggested that I create a Twitter account for my posts. But I’m too tired, and I hate social media. Yet, as soon as I hit “publish,” I’m going to share these words on social media. Like it or not, it’s my tether to the world beyond these walls.

Because I hate going outside to face the teeming masses of bare-faced Floridians even more.

Yes, my parents and I wear masks around the house. Despite the skyrocketing number of cases, the policy at the rehabilitation center is that patients are tested when admitted but not upon release. Even though my father was there for weeks and exposed to countless people, he did not receive the COVID test we requested before coming home. So, on top of everything else, we are doing our best to self-quarantine my father from my mother for at least two weeks.

Protecting each other and caring about the people around us does not make my family weak. Asking for help because I am in over my head trying to take care of my father does not make me weak.

I appreciate your positive words and prayers, but they will do more harm than good unless you are speaking them from behind the strong shield of a mask.



Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

Writer, educator, and producer of No, YOU Tell It! ( Stalk my Insta adventures @KJ_Fitzsimmons @noyoutellit