Sick Days/Thanksgiving

“I owe my soul to each fork in the road, each misleading sign…”

-Poi Dog Pondering, Thanksgiving


I always think that it’s my job as a father to never get sick. And it happens seldom enough to reinforce that illusion. Colds and flus can sweep through the house, bouncing around among the children, and I often manage to emerge unscathed; all the better to be up all night to do what needs to be done, all the holding of the hair while a toddler is throwing up, changing the sheets by the light of my phone, administering medicine that is not a girl’s favorite flavor.

When it does hit me, it usually comes from somewhere else. I was out of work for six days in a row due to a devious combination of head cold, triggered asthma, and pinkeye. Now, as a parent, you know that there is no such thing as a “sick day.” Nothing about an illness gives us a license to cease any function of parenting. But to have to do all those things badly, slowly, and in my case, half-blind, is not good for the old self-confidence.

Of course, as in most things we are given that humble us, that make us slow down and live in the moment, it was a blessing. I got to be home with my children for a whole week, and I got to experience the wonder of the homeschool day. While I was out of commission—and let me once again emphasize the value of an excellent work sick leave policy—I was able to be right in the middle of a living, functioning family. There was much reading of books, and much snuggling, and much consumption of chicken soup and hot chocolate with marshmallows (this, along with antibiotic ointment and a good cough suppressant, really is the best medicine).

The turnaround came on Saturday, where we went for a hike—in my case, a very slow one—at McDowell Creek Park. The striking transition from the fiery show of autumn leaves to the crisp air and swollen water of the coming winter was just what I needed to start the walk back to recovery.

I was able to go back to work today, and I did certainly appreciate that. And tomorrow we are heading for the coast to spend Thanksgiving with family. I used to struggle to come up with the customary things to be thankful for (my grandmother was shocked when, at ten, I came up with “counterterrorism,” and I’m not sure I explained it to her satisfaction). Now it’s difficult for a different reason: what could I possibly leave out?

What I am thankful for: all of it. All of the things.

Enjoy your holiday.