During my lowest moment of the pandemic, my 5-year-old son rescued me.

It was a rainy day in late April 2020 and my father had just been deposited, breathless and terrified, in front of the new COVID-19 entrance at a local hospital. Despite erring on the side of caution, both of my 70-something parents contracted the virus during the first wave of infection.

My mother experienced mild fatigue and a scratchy throat for a day. My father spent the next five weeks unable to eat, speak or do much besides lie sleepless and miserable on the couch. When he finally went to the hospital, it was with the expectation that he’d be there for a while.

I spent that morning on the phone with my mom and sisters, having little to say but needing to say something. When I hung up, I looked at the door to my office. My son had stationed himself there, pantsless, with a wide grin creasing his face.

The best way to describe it in a family publication such as MM+M is that he had discovered two symmetrical components of his anatomy. “They’re full of pee, daddy,” he announced proudly.

In that moment, nothing was actually better, but everything was better. My dad was released from the hospital that afternoon after receiving a week’s worth of nutrition via IV. He ultimately recovered.

Fast-forward to this year, on November 7, when the now 7-year-old and I ventured out for his vaccination appointment at a nearby CVS. He was on board with the prospect of receiving the shot, especially as it pertained to playing sports mask-free.

That relative zen dissipated the moment we entered the store. The next 15 minutes were spent chasing him up and down its aisles and attempting to buy his cooperation. I did what I usually do in such situations: Sit him on my lap, talk him through his fear — in this instance, the jumbo-sized needle was the culprit — and ply him with Sour Patch Kids. 

After an hour, he allowed the nice pharmacist lady within injection distance of his arm. He did, however, shoot her a look of profound contempt when she offered a Paw Patrol Band-Aid as his reward. He is very much my kid.

This, writ small, was what we’ve all done for each other for the last two years. He picked me up. I picked him up. The ability to do so in a manner that’s kind, considerate and, above all, human is what has distinguished the best of us. It’s a lesson well-learned, and acted upon, by the companies in this year’s Best Places to Work.

My son was scheduled to receive his second shot a few days after Thanksgiving. Apologies to anyone who found themselves in the immediate vicinity of CVS.