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'I love you daddy': Milwaukee Navy man celebrates Thanksgiving with son, family from a distance

Posted at 5:25 PM, Nov 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-26 18:25:21-05

MILWAUKEE — For many Wisconsinites, it’s a Thanksgiving unlike any other due to being separated from loved ones. For one Milwaukee native, it isn’t just the coronavirus keeping him from his family.

The Balistreris dining room table was set for a Thanksgiving feast inside their home on Milwaukee’s south side. Due to the coronavirus, pictures were placed in front of seats for those who were unable to make it, 5-year-old Liam and his Navy dad Michael who are also several state’s apart.

“It’s been really difficult, I love Liam more than anything obviously,” Michael said.

Michael is stationed in Rhode Island for active duty and as he explains, the military has tight restrictions on traveling during the pandemic.

“We had the flights booked and everything,” said Michael’s sister Tina.

Tina planned to travel to North Carolina to connect with Liam where he lives with his other father and then fly together to be with Michael for the holiday. Earlier this week, they decided it just wasn’t safe.

“Liam has a condition called Arthrogryposis where he is really unable to use his hands or his legs very well,” Tina said. “Also as a part of that, he has a compromised immune system so we thought it wasn’t worth the risk.”

Instead, the family in three different states gathered together on one screen.

“Do you know why we can’t be together in person this year?” Michael asked Liam. “Because of coronavirus,” Liam responded.

The Balistreris tried to make things normal as possible by discussing all things Thanksgiving.

“What do you think the worst food for Thanksgiving is?” Michael asked Liam on Zoom. “The worst food is turkey,” Liam responded.

No turkey was involved, just conversation between a son and his father while grandma, grandpa and aunt Tina took it all in.

“It was terrible because both are right, seeing Liam and being with your family is right, but then it’s also right to not spread the virus so it was really hard,” Michael said.

“I love you daddy, Michael,” Liam said before the virtual gathering ended. “I love you too buddy, happy Thanksgiving,” Michael responded.

Despite the circumstances, it was still a happy Thanksgiving for the Balistreris. They’re hoping Christmas is even merrier with a long-awaited reunion in person.

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