Amy Schmidt, who lives and works in Madison, describes her experience with the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. Amy describes being on a vacation to see her parents in Florida and how that vacation was extended by necessity, first because of a fall her father experienced and then by the nation-wide orders to stay at home or shelter in place due to the pandemic.
[00:00:00] - Start of Interview
[00:00:38] - What have things looked like for you during the past few weeks
[00:01:22] - How did you navigate a medical emergency in this time
[00:02:20] - How has your father expressed his concerns during this time
[00:03:03] - How has your mother been during this
[00:03:40] - Have other members of your family been able to help out during this time
[00:04:24] - What’s it been like for you being in Florida with other family members in Madison
[00:05:11] - What does a typical day look like for you right now
[00:06:27] - What does work look like for you right now
[00:07:17] - What are some things that make you happy right now
[00:08:03] - What are things that worry you right now
[00:08:51] - What good do you think will have come from this
[00:09:38] - Anything else you want to talk about that didn’t relate to a question
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: My name is Danny Atwater and I’m a Library Assistant for Madison Public Library. This interview is being recorded as part of the Madison Living History Project Safer-at-Home Story Series. Today’s date is Friday April 17, 2020 and this interview is being conducted via the video-conferencing software, Zoom. So, let’s begin. Please tell me your full name and describe your connection to Madison.
Amy Schmidt: Hi. My name is Amy Schmidt and I’m a Library Assistant at Madison Public Library. I have lived in Madison since 1987.
Interviewer: Amy, what is your safer-at-home story? What have things looked like for you during the past few weeks, especially in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Amy Schmidt: Well, I, I came on a vacation to Florida to see my parents on the tenth of March and the next morning, the eleventh, my elderly father fell and broke his hip. And so, that was the beginning of my vacation and I, I’m still here five and half weeks later because—(sighs)—you know, then there was all this stay at home stuff we had to do. So, you know, a bit of a personal crisis at the time of an international crisis.
Interviewer: That sounds like it would be very hard to have a medical emergency like that during a time when hospitals seem like a scary place to be. How did you navigate that?
Amy Schmidt: Yes. There, there was a lot of worry and anxiety about when he was in the hospital. At that point we could still visit him until—I forget, you know, a few days into it and then we couldn’t visit anymore. But still worried about, you know, with the people there were possibly bringing to him. And then when he moved to rehab we were, we were relieved but then also worried with those people and now that he, he finally did get back home couple weeks after he fell then we had healthcare workers coming to our home, here, and worry and anxiety about what those people might have. So, yes.
Interviewer: How has your father expressed his concerns during this time?
Amy Schmidt: You know, he—(laughs), hmm. He was out of it for much of it so, you know, his concern was getting back home. They were originally going to be going back home to Michigan at the end of March. And so that whole plan was thrown out. It’s been hard for him to accept that he had to stay in place and, so did we.
Interviewer: Similar question, but in regards to your mother, how has she been during this?
Amy Schmidt: It was hard when he was gone. I think that would have been the case no matter when it happened, you know. It’s hard for them to be separated after you’ve been married for—whatever, fifty, sixty years—I don’t even know. So, that was very difficult and I was doing quite a bit of caregiving for her and their dog during that time. And she’s much better now that he’s back.
Interviewer: Have other members of your family been able to help out during this time?
Amy Schmidt: My brother, Pete, was here when, when it happened and his wife was also here. She left—his wife left and went back to Colorado, where they live and she got the virus unfortunately, somewhere—either airport or in their ski-town. So, that was very stressful with my dad being, you know, in the hospital, my sister-in-law having COVID symptoms and it, it was stressful.
Interviewer: What’s it been like for you being in Florida helping some family members but being away from other family members back here in Madison?
Amy Schmidt: Well, my husband’s a teacher in Madison and he, he’s been, you know, doing okay, staying at home. But, yeah, it has been hard to be apart from him and also from our dog. I miss our dog very much. And my, my daughters are far away so I don’t see them normally anyway and luckily we are in contact, you know, by texting and zooming and everything.
Interviewer: What does a typical day look like for you right now?
Amy Schmidt: A typical day is a lot of caregiving. And just, you know, daily household stuff. You know, getting them their pills, getting breakfast and lunch, taking care of—toileting issues, taking care of just daily care stuff. And my brother is here too and he is a great chef, which has been a wonderful thing. (laughs) Through all this he, he cooks most, most dinners and he’s also been the one who’s gone out to the store. We do have a pool, because this is Florida, and we go to the pool in the afternoons and my mom has actually gotten in really good shape from us being here and taking her to the pool every day, which is kind of a strange, added, wonderful benefit. So, and then they like to have a drink at five o’clock and then we have dinner at six, and we watch the news. And, you know, typical retired people.
Interviewer: You mentioned that you’re a Library Assistant in Madison. What does work look like for you right now? Are you able to work remotely?
Amy Schmidt: Yeah, I am not able to work at all, it just—I’m kept quite busy with cleaning up and taking care of them and doing daily things. I, and I just, I also don’t have the mental part of it. I’m really not able to focus much more on, except for what needs to be done in the here and now. I do miss it and I feel like I’m being really left behind. Everyone else is doing interesting things and I, I wish, I wish I could be working but I am doing important work for my parents and for my family, so just trying to be happy about that.
Interviewer: What are some things that make you happy right now?
Amy Schmidt: Well, it’s hot and sunny and it’s snowing in Madison occasionally, it looks like, so yeah. Lots of wildlife here. I’m enjoying watching all the birds and, you know, the geckos are everywhere. So just the natural world here. It’s pretty quiet. Maybe see a couple people walking by on the dirt road. So that’s nice and I do like to write and draw. So, been doing some little cartoons, which help me keep my sanity. And, of course, keeping in touch with friends and family.
Interviewer: What are things that worry you right now?
Amy Schmidt: Oh, I’ve got lots of worries, let me tell you. (laughs) I don’t know, I just feel that we’re, we’re in this chess match with death and I really, you know, want to make sure we’re making the right moves timing-wise and, you know, in terms of leaving. We’ve just, we’ve decided to stay here, a number of different times we were going to leave and I said, “No,” and so I just—
A lot of worry and anxiety. And then also worry when my brother goes out to the store and comes back. You know, he’s our weak link. Is he possibly getting my parents sick, or me, so.
Interviewer: When all of this is said and done, what good do you think will have come from it?
Amy Schmidt: Well, obviously I get to have all this time with my parents and with my brother. And he’s an absolute rock, so that’s been really cool. You know, you find out what you’re made of when you’re stressed out and sometimes it’s not pretty and sometimes it’s okay. So I’m, I’m just happy to be with my parents and my brother. You know, I, I had really wanted to spend more time with them before this all happened. So, I really got what I wished for.
Interviewer: Is there anything else that you want to talk about that perhaps came to mind while we were talking but didn’t relate to the question?
Amy Schmidt: Hmm—It’s just such a mental game here, you know, at first when we were thinking we were going to be leaving I had so much worry about the process of leaving with these elderly people, you know, not only their physical worries but then the virus worries on top of it. You know, I, I feel like I’ve gone through such a rollercoaster of emotions. I know everyone has during this time, not just me. But I feel like finally I’m kind of peaceful about it, which is strange but good.
Interviewer: Amy, thank you for sharing your story with us today.
Amy Schmidt: Thanks, Danny.
[END OF RECORDING]