I know many of you out there have been worrying about what to get me for Christmas this year. To relieve your stress, and because my holiday shopping is done when everyone knows what I want, I have outlined below my bare-bones Christmas wish list for 2010. In years past, I would have asked for shops full of power tools, rivers full of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a valve to let the hot air out of Dr. Phil. This year, however, most of what I want requires no shopping, just a little magic:
• A do-over button for all of the many times I forget to remember to do something important, fumble the chance to get something just right, don’t spend the extra time, miss the message that I am missing something significant, let my ego drive, etc. An apology and effort to do better next time are just poor and humbling substitutes.
• The gift of occasional forgiveness from the people who love me, for I am an imperfect person bound to disappoint. One can never have enough forgiveness with his name on it wrapped and placed under the tree.
• The right thing to say, whenever I need to say it, including when the right thing to say is to say nothing. I am a physician with access to extraordinary treatments, but few have the potential healing power of the right words at the right time.
• The ability to stay connected with everyone important to me, including nieces and nephews, children and someday grandchildren, parents and siblings, friends and professional colleagues who share my passion for making this piece of the world a bit better, etc. I wish all of them could just hear my desire to do so speak for me, because I never seem to have enough time for all there is to say and do.
• More time in the day, in the year, in this life.
• The wisdom to appreciate that if you always go to bed wishing there was more time in the day, you probably have a pretty good life.
• That all the thousands of photographs I have taken of my family over the last 35 years could tell me the stories of the moments in which they were taken.
• And related, instant replay —- not for television but for my life, so I could rewind and replay the great moments to my heart’s content. The sound of my wife and both daughters laughing together, for example, is my favorite music, and these days I don’t hear it very often. When the girls’ own lives have taken them elsewhere and the silence left behind fills the house around me, I’d like to be able to rewind that happy sound and play it again and again, Sam. Or, my younger daughter walked arm in arm with me down the street recently; can I have that feeling again each day, please?
• My eyes opened to what others see. If I walk alone, for example, I am less likely to see street people than if I walk with my younger daughter, to whom not one of them is invisible. I see the complex problems that put them on the street begging for money. She just sees the person in need right in front of her.
• To be surrounded by people who make me want to be a better person and who are willing to fight with me when I am less of a man, a person, a doctor, a parent or a spouse than I should be. They give me the gift of improvement, although it is sometimes painful to receive.
• One more Christmas with my family all together. This year, for the first time ever, Christmas morning will find one of us missing when we open gifts together. We all celebrated together earlier this month, and that was wonderful, but the hole left on the 25th will be one more reminder that important chapters in my life as a parent are coming to a close when all I want to do is to keep rereading them.
• The best possible Christmas for all.
Erik Steele, D.O., a physician in Bangor, is chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.