Taking Care Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Jones, a preacher, has been in love all his life, yet his love has apparently not helped anyone. When the story opens, he is sitting beside his wife’s bed in a hospital fifteen miles from their home, waiting for the results of blood tests that the doctors hope will make possible a diagnosis of her illness. In addition to his sick wife, Jones is responsible for their daughter’s six-month-old baby girl and her German shepherd, for the daughter has left her husband and run away to Mexico (where she will soon have a nervous breakdown). Little happens in the story proper—Jones will probably visit other parishioners in the hospital, he writes a cheery card to his daughter in response to a letter from her, and each day he brings a yellow rose to his sick wife—but much happens in flashbacks, which reveal how the wife first fell ill and the early signs of their daughter’s problems. In the present, the overwhelmed Jones plays his multiple roles of husband, father, and mother as best he can.

In the seventh section of this eleven-part story, Jones delivers a sermon from the pulpit of his church, baptizes the baby, and serves communion, but all his actions seem to happen in slow motion, as if in a dream. In the next section, his wife is operated on to remove a large tumor as Jones takes care of the baby and cleans the house. His wife will be coming home for Christmas, and Jones puts up a tree but waits for her to help him decorate it. In the last section of the story, Jones picks up his wife at the hospital. They drive home with the baby, and together “they enter the shining rooms.”