A Country Doctor’s Christmas

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a sentimental streak in me. It often manifests itself at Christmas. As a Swede, I didn’t grow up with a Thanksgiving holiday, which is when many Americans take stock in where they are in life. For me, until I emigrated here in 1981, Christmas and the days leading up to New Year’s Eve was my week of introspection, reflection, gratitude and reorientation.

My most ambitious Christmas blog post was the 2011 one where I lifted phrases and sentences from the writings of Sir William Osler and created an imaginary Christmas letter to primary care doctors everywhere. I still like that one and it is getting views now, even without me promoting it.

My favorite one is probably the 2012 one harkening back to the Hebrew tradition of the Mezuzah, because it is about spaces being blessed and respected and about how we slow down for Holidays. Even though my circumstances have changed since I wrote it, I still cherish coming home to my little red farmhouse (lit up at sunset by timers in almost every room), where two horses and two Alabai dogs eagerly await me these darkest of days in northern Maine.

This year, as I have since I moved back to Caribou, alone, in 2019, I make a day trip to Bangor to celebrate Christmas Day with children and grandchildren. Then, for New Years, they join me in Caribou for Swedish Christmas food and Finnish fortune telling with molten soldering lead poured into ice cold water. The shape foretells your fortune for the coming year, a pre-Christian tradition.

One reflection I am making this Christmas season is the fact that next year I will be turning 70. I still remember when my father told me, on my fortieth birthday, that he couldn’t believe that he’d be turning 70 the following year. And I remember thinking to myself that he looked and acted like it.

I think people these days act younger than my parents generation. I am a lot more active physically than my dad was, and I’m a lot goofier, rolling around in the snow with my dogs and doing most things without power tools, taking myself a bit less seriously than men my age of the previous generation did.

My dad retired at 62, and here I am plugging along as I approach 70. I treasure every day of my life and I am looking forward to 2023.

In some ways, every year is a new beginning. For me, this year, it very much is.

A Christmas Message to All Physicians from Sir William Osler

Touching the Mezuzah

2 Responses to “A Country Doctor’s Christmas”

  1. 1 Zaiga Sears December 21, 2022 at 10:24 pm

    Love reading your posts. My heritage is Latvian and we too brought in New Years with molten lead poured into water. I remember scrutinizing those pieces wondering what life had in store! Never could have guessed I would leave Australia to USA, serve 21 years in USAF as a Family Physician, then move to NH and continue to serve veterans providing medical care in the VA. Zaiga Sears DO

    Sent from my iPad


  2. 2 Jeff Mack, MD December 22, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. Your story of soldering lead reminded me of removing tinsel from the Christmas tree in the 1960’s when it was made of lead. I too would melt it down and pour it into a cup of water just to see the interesting shapes. I wish I had know then that it would foretell my future. LOL

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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