Plague Diary #002 (Letter #007)

Baby touches her masked father

Taking things seriously

Friday, March 27, 2020

I TOLD you so two months ago! – Your mother, repeatedly

My darling Baobao,

In case my last letter made it sound as if I am smugly watching the world burn with my feet up on the barka-lounger we don’t even own (or have possession of, for that matter) while I pop beer after beer with confidence that “I’m all right, Jack!” (Wikipedia it, daughter mine!), nothing could be further from the truth.

Or at least, little could be further from the truth.

The truth is, in the course of a life that’s now shockingly long, I’ve experience a number of pandemics that fizzled out in a most un-dramatic ways.

There was the swine flu outbreak in 1976, about which I remember mostly my father being pleased that Vitamin C spared us any problems. (Note that he was probably wrong about that; but we didn’t get sick, nor did anyone in Sudbury, to the best of my flawed recollection.

And I lived in Toronto during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Looking back, my lack of concern was misguided, but I — and Toronto — were lucky that the outbreak didn’t spread widely.

There were other false alarms as well, though none of them come to mind just now. And I’ve certainly never before gone out in public wearing a medical mask!

Love in the time of Corona

My point is: I have no direct experience with infectious diseases being a personal threat, and, I share with far too many people a gut-level belief that bad things Mostly Happen To Other People.

In other words, two and three months ago, when your mother was reading widely about the progress of the novel Corona Virus outbreak in China, I was (yes, it’s true, though I am a little embarrassed to admit it) quoting statistics about how many people die of the flu in an average year.

“I TOLD you so!”

Your mother, not exactly as shown.

It doesn’t happen as often as your mom likes to think — and probably not as rarely as I prefer to believe — but when she’s right, she’s right. And she was right to take Covid-19 seriously when I didn’t.

My conversion came a little slow (though not as slow as your mom thinks!). But as I’ve recently noted, I have changed my behaviour, in large part to make sure that you stay as safe as possible, but also because I have learned that I was wrong. (That’s right, Raven: I was wrong. I know you love to hear me say it!)

It’s true that I am pretty sceptical of authority, but when everyone in the world &dmash; from China, through Russia to the United States of America (however clumsily the latter is dealing with it) — are taking this pandemic seriously, I’m going to listen to the and take it seriously, too.

And yesterday, I — we — took it more seriously than ever, thanks in part to this extremely convincing video on how to keep your home safe from groceries, created by one Jeffery VanWingen, a family doctor from Michigan.

To make a story short, the three of us went out for groceries on Thursday and, besides wearing the masks we are lucky enough to have found and carrying a bottle of home-made disinfectant (70% rubbing alcohol, 30% water) to spray down shopping cart handles and such, we were pretty scrupulous in following the advice provided in the video above.

(Which I strong urge all of you Gentle Readers reading in the present day to watch. It’s a well-made video as well as informative: to-the-point and without any annoying background music. Very much the kind of just-the-facts video I like.)

So. Yes. Your mother was right and your father was wrong; not for the first time, nor for the last. it took me too long to take this pandemic seriously as something that might affect us. But when I’m wrong I’m pretty good about admitting it and making a change.

We’ll keep on doing out best, Baobao, to keep you safe as well as happy and comfortable. I am sorry that it’s going to be quite a while before we can return to our local Early ON play centre. Hanging out with other babies would be good for you, but not at the risk of you (or us) getting sick.

On our last visit, it seemed you were starting to take an interest in other babies. But there will be other times in the months, if not days, ahead.

Love always,


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NOTE TO THOSE READING IN 2020: Below please find a far-from-exhaustive list of (mostly Canadian) resources for more information about Covid-19.


  • Kirsti says:

    Your wife and I are cut from the same cloth and no one was listening to me either till 3 weeks ago. Stay safe.

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