Rhinitis


  1. Over leftover spaghetti, my wife informed me of my one year-old son's recent malady: allergic rhinitis. I looked at the dinner plate and swirled the sauce around, and in between the tines I fiddled with pasta. My hunger dissipated and I grew uninterested with the prospect of having dinner. Allergic rhinitis runs in the family: my Dad, my eldest sister and I have had our sneezing sprees every morning, and it was at its peak when pollen was blown past us on summer days at Bryant Park. I even had it worse: asthma at four acquainted me with nebulizers. I know this wasn't even close to a serious disease like cancer, but for a bumbling twenty-something's first foray into fatherhood this was a revelation: my son, after all, isn't invulnerable. His first wound, I imagine, would be heartbreaking. What more of his first retort, his sudden hiss and expletive, his first offense at school, his first big lie. (I doubt it would be a fistfight: it's one of the things I have never engaged into as a child, and that which I will discourage him to do--what's the logic of a fistfight anyway?)
  2. Maybe this is one of the emotional rollercoasters parenthood has to offer. This reminds me of a professor's writerly advice on having your work critiqued in a workshop: if it were crumpled to death, or bled with corrections marked in red ballpoint pen, always remember to treat it like it were your child. "Even if on a workshop it turned out as this child with snot running down the nose, hurled by bullies at recess and arrived at your doorstep with ragged clothes," he said, never turn him away from you. To call him awful is, by relation, to call yourself one.
  3. My son has my cheeks and what my wife fondly calls as my "face shape". He even has one of my habits: driving his nails against other people's nailbeds. My wife insists it is just but a curious thing.  To my defense, as if it were something horrible, I told her that doing it feels comforting, a concrete term of endearment, touching an intimate body part (the fingers, the underside of nails) most people we encountered have never even gone to.
  4. I asked my wife about the allergic rhinitis, of how we can deal with it, of how long it will take for his meds to work. As worry creeped in, my hunger slowly came back. While my son was feeding on his mother's breasts I imagine myself rolling my son a joint in his teenage years, just like the professor did to his student in this Italian film set in the seventies. The scene is a huge leap from where we are--in the land of bib and milk bottles, of monthly trips to the pediatrician, of first words and milestones. Maybe all a parent has to do is to keep an ounce of precaution and a truckload of optimism, and being the impossibly naive person I know I always have it in my pocket.