I was in Brooklyn on a Zoom meeting in mid-March, when I saw my mom’s name come up on my cellphone. “Your dad’s not feeling well,” she said.
I rushed to our home in the East Village to meet them. For the second time in a week, my dad, Jose, was admitted to the hospital. The following day we were told that he tested positive for Covid-19. My mother, Rosa, was worried that we’d get sick too. So she ripped sheets off his bed, and washed them along with the clothes he had worn.
About two weeks after Dad was admitted, his doctor called and told us that he might not make it past the weekend. I felt the color drain from my face. My mom’s knees buckled, and I held her as she sobbed inconsolably. All we could do was wait. I felt so hopeless.
My parents came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the early 1980s. They settled on the Lower East Side, and my dad began working at a bodega. For parents like mine, the neighborhood bodegas were a lifeline — a connection to the islands they had left behind.
Growing up, my siblings and I didn’t have much of a relationship with him. His life revolved around his business and friends. When he got sick, I spent many nights with my mother, asking questions about him. I wondered what life was like for him growing up. In his absence, I had the chance to better paint a picture of who he was.
One night I studied my face in the mirror while I brushed my teeth, realizing, maybe for the first time, how much I looked like him: my eyes, the way my nose bulges outward and sideways. I wondered what he would be like if he pulled through — would he be the same person? Would I?
Three months after he was admitted, he came home, walking through every room in the apartment, taking it all in. Framing and photographing these moments through tears made me feel that my family was one of the lucky ones.