Ask Amy: Aging Father Doesn't Believe in COVID
These days, one person's lack of concern can affect everyone else's health
Dear Amy: My parents are in their late-50s. They live in their own home nearby. Their marriage has been rocky for many years. They seem to stay together mostly for financial reasons.
My husband and I have been very strict about contact since the pandemic started, especially because we had a new baby, born last year.
My mom helps out by providing childcare so that I can keep working.
She wants to be extra careful for the sake of our household, as well as her own.
The big problem is that my father thinks COVID is a joke. He won’t social-distance or wear masks unless he is forced to.
He’s acting childish and shows no concern for those around him, especially our young baby.
We stay away from him and won’t visit their house, but I’m still incredibly worried for my mom’s health!
She wears a mask whenever she’s with me or the baby, and sometimes even in her own home.
I feel so helpless. I’ve begged her to come stay with us, but she doesn’t want to let him feel like he “won” the house.
I honestly don’t even care if my father gets sick at this point, but I’m very worried about what his behavior could do to my mom.
What can I do to deal with my father?
— Very Concerned Daughter
Dear Daughter: You cannot control your father. If he doesn’t believe the CDC or pay attention to the various spikes and real risks of this virus, he’s not going to listen to you. Your only leverage is access to your baby, and he doesn’t seem interested in seeing the child.
If your mother is extremely concerned about her (and your) health, and yet won’t live with you because she doesn’t want your dad to “win the house,” then I’d say that her health concerns aren’t actually paramount.
If she is worried about her legal rights to the marital property if she left the home for an extended period, it would be wisest for her to consult with a lawyer.
The good news is that because of their broken relationship, your parents very likely keep their distance from each other while in their home. Your mother is observing safe COVID practice while she is with you. All of you should continue to guard your own health.
If you truly believe that your mother is placing her own health (and yours) at enhanced risk by living with your father, you should not ask her to come into your home until she can receive a vaccine.
Your family is exemplifying the challenges and compromises that most families have been facing. Worrying does not help. Mitigating your risks does.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson