Heeding his own advice, Anthony Fauci and his wife, Christine Grady, will be spending Thanksgiving this year apart from their loved ones. It's the first time none of their three adult daughters will be home for the holiday.
Fauci, a physician who's the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned Americans this week to "think twice" about Thanksgiving plans that might risk spreading the coronavirus. By Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advised that people stay home for the holiday for the same reason.
The couple's daughters chose not to visit this Thanksgiving because their 79-year-old father is in an age group that's at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
"I've been busy throughout my entire life, and I'm conscious of the fact that I missed a lot of things when they were growing up," Fauci told Grady in a StoryCorps interview this week. "So any chance I get to be with them is precious."
Still, he said he wants them to know he's proud of their decision.
"Proud of them in so many ways," added Grady.
The couple also recalled their early parenting days.
"Do you remember what it felt like to first become a dad?" Grady asked her husband.
"I was afraid," Fauci said, "that we had this responsibility for this baby."
"I was this highly respected physician. I can take care of any adult you want, but I don't know how to take care of a baby, so I was very nervous.
"When you have a baby in the house that's just born, you're afraid they're going to stop breathing or something. But I figured this has been going on for millennia, so I could handle it."
Grady asked Fauci, a longtime runner, whether he sees any parallels between running and parenting.
"Yes. The long haul of it — it's an uber-marathon, so you just have to hang in there and not give up," he said.
Grady, a nurse and bioethicist who serves as chief of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, said, "I approach parenting with everything I've got, and I think I approach my work with everything I got too. And I know you do."
"I mean the idea of sticking with something and not giving up, even when it's painful," Fauci said. "What we're going through now is very, very stressful — stressful because there's an almost insurmountable work to do. The quicker you get a vaccine out that's safe and effective, the more lives are being saved."
Despite the unusual holiday this year, both Grady and Fauci agree they have a lot to be thankful for.
"Yeah, the thing that I'm most thankful is that, quite frankly, is you," Fauci told his wife.
"We have each other, that's for sure," Grady said.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jey Born. NPR's Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
NOEL KING, HOST:
Time for StoryCorps. Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and lots of families will not be getting together this year. But maybe you could record some remote StoryCorps interviews, talk about your lives and loved ones, like this interview.
ANTHONY FAUCI: What do you remember about the first time we actually ever met?
CHRISTINE GRADY: You weren't as scary as people made you out to be (laughter). Everybody was afraid of you. And when I first saw you, I thought, what are they talking about? He's young and handsome and doesn't seem that scary (laughter).
KING: You know one of those voices. It's Dr. Anthony Fauci talking to his wife, Dr. Christine Grady. She's also a leading government health official. They recorded their StoryCorps interview this week. They will be doing Thanksgiving this year without their three daughters.
GRADY: Do you remember what it felt like to first become a dad?
FAUCI: (Laughter) Yeah, I was afraid.
GRADY: Afraid of what?
FAUCI: That we had this responsibility for this baby. I was this highly respected physician, you know, and I can take care of any adult you want, but I don't know how to take care of a baby. So I was very nervous. When you have a baby in the house that's just born, you're afraid they're going to stop breathing or something. But I figured this has been going on for millennia.
GRADY: So you could handle it.
FAUCI: So I could handle it.
GRADY: You've been a runner as long as I've known you. Do you see any parallels between parenting and running?
FAUCI: Yes, the long haul of it. It's an uber marathon.
FAUCI: So you just have to hang in there and not give up.
GRADY: I think I approach parenting with everything I've got, and I think I approach my work with everything I got, too, so - and I know you do.
FAUCI: I mean, the idea of sticking with something and not giving up, even when it's painful - what we're going through now is very, very stressful. It's stressful because there's an almost insurmountable work to do. And, you know, the quicker you get a vaccine out that's safe and effective, the more lives are being saved. So let me ask you a question. Our daughters have decided not to join us for Thanksgiving because their daddy is in a risk group because of my age. What are you going to miss the most about that?
GRADY: I'm going to miss having them here. Thanksgiving is such a special time of year, and I'm sad that they're not going to be here. But we've got an enormous amount to be thankful for. So what are you going to miss about Thanksgiving?
FAUCI: I think much the same thing. I've been busy throughout my entire life, and I'm conscious of the fact that I missed a lot of things when they were growing up. So any chance I get to be with them is precious.
GRADY: If you could leave a message with them from this interview, is there something you would want them to know?
FAUCI: Yeah, that I'm proud of their decision.
GRADY: Proud of them in so many ways. I think we have a lot to be thankful for.
FAUCI: Yeah. The thing that I'm most thankful is, quite frankly, is you.
GRADY: We have each other, that's for sure.
FAUCI: Yeah, we have each other for sure.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRYAN COPELAND'S "ELEGIAC")
KING: Dr. Anthony Fauci and his wife, Dr. Christine Grady, recording with StoryCorps. As an alternative to getting together with your family this year, try using StoryCorps Connect. You can learn more at thegreatlisten.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRYAN COPELAND'S "ELEGIAC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.