Opinion

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Reporter's Notebook

Thanksgiving in Quarantine

Adjusting holiday plans on the fly with a sick baby

Having a baby has greatly expanded my medical lexicon, in ways that have made me question the merits of knowledge. I can now speak authoritatively on once-unthinkable failures of the human digestive system, but I’m not sure what to do with this information. It makes for poor conversation material at parties, unless I’m surrounded by fellow parents who have undertaken similar case studies in baby bodily functions.

For instance, I had never once had a single discussion about hand, foot and mouth disease until my 15-month-old son fell ill with it right before Thanksgiving. I initially thought it was a cattle affliction and was disturbed by the idea of disease-ridden cows somehow infiltrating my child’s daycare. Turns out, the two viral infections are different, despite their similar name. Now I know. Knowledge is power, I suppose.

Over the last week, my wife and I devoted a disproportionate percentage of our conversations to this newly inescapable topic. And we had plenty of time to talk about it since we canceled our trip to spend Thanksgiving with family in Livingston and quarantined ourselves at home with our sick baby, who at times was in so much distress that his pain seemed to transfer to my stomach.

For days, Fisher was covered in red sores and rashes and unable to sleep soundly for any decent length of time. Usually a food-consumption machine, he declined favorites like raspberries and yogurt, although his appetite returned sufficiently enough to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers. Kate and I felt helpless. It was a strange holiday.

A different Fisher illness had forced us to cancel a meeting this summer with one family friend whom we were expecting to see at Thanksgiving in Livingston, and he suggested that my son might be allergic to him. Given the health surprises of Fisher’s life so far, I won’t rule out anything, but our pediatrician hasn’t yet mentioned a Scott allergy.

We’ve all heard the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” As with many clichés, the essential truth of its message isn’t diminished by its overuse. Those dining without us in Livingston were loved ones, and although I don’t need further evidence of their importance, absence is a powerful reinforcement. I missed them enough to dream one night that Kate, Fisher and I were watching them eat, but they could neither see nor hear us through the glass.

But sometimes unforeseen circumstances change plans. That’s life. We adjust and find the good in the situation, and in this case there was plenty of good. I was able to spend an intimate Thanksgiving with my son and wife, the lights of my life, and for that I’m grateful. We made the holiday our own.

The three of us took advantage of unseasonably warm weather, and the outdoor activities distracted Fisher from his discomfort long enough to revive his dormant giggles. At other times, we hunkered down in our house, protected from a world that threatens vulnerable babies with an endless assortment of illnesses. Kate and I washed our hands a lot. Fisher gradually got better.

Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude for loved ones, and I hope everybody took advantage of it. It’s important to say it out loud every once in a while. Trust me, it beats talking about hand, foot and mouth disease.

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