The telephone rang on Christmas Day. For once it wasn’t the woman who says, “Don’t hang up. This is not a sales call” and then uses all the arts of persuasion to sell you something. Perhaps she doesn’t like to tell fibs on such a day.
No, this call came from one of my doctors. “It’s Dr. Shenassa,” my wife mouthed as she handed me the phone, with a look that said, “On Christmas Day?” It certainly sounded bad, although since I came to this country I have been much impressed by the friendly relations I have had with many of the many doctors I have had over the years. (Whatever changes come in healthcare I hope such easy relationships will not suffer. I’m always depressed to hear about the impersonality of doctors in other countries, including the U.K. where I come from.)
But no, this phone call wasn’t about cancer or heartbeats or blood pressure. He was calling, he told me, because he and his family had been watching the copy of the made-for-television movie that I had given him, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, called “Nicholas’ Gift,” that tells the story of how our 7-year old son, Nicholas, was shot in an attempted carjacking in Italy and whose organs went to seven very sick people.
“We were all overwhelmed,” the doctor said, “and wanted you to know how we felt.”
The thought of that whole family sitting and watching our son’s story on that of all days was particularly moving. It is the sort of inspiring reaction that has allowed us to live full lives again as Nicholas with his kindness and lovely sense of fun would have wanted us to do.
That is probably why the phone call reminded me of another Christmas when I was the one who sent a message that impressed an entire family.
The family was that of our paper boy — she’s actually a cheerful middle-aged Latina, but as a former paper boy myself I like the old job title. Sometimes I see her in the early morning as I back out of my driveway and we chat for a minute or two.
One year I sent her a Christmas card, adding a story that from then on, she says, her family told and retold every Christmas.
It was about a friend of mine who on his deathbed distributed to his family all the property he had accumulated in a hardworking life. The extent of it surprised even those who, like me, knew him well: a row of houses for his son, an apartment house for his daughter and an entire office block for his wife. Even the attending nurse praised his thrift and generosity.
“Generosity?” his wife retorted. “He had a paper route.”
Note: Copies of “Nicholas’ Gift” are hard to find even though it contains a performance by Jamie Lee Curtis that she told me herself was one of those she was most proud of in her entire career and that earned her an Emmy nomination. However, I have kept a few DVDs and if any readers want one I will send it to them at no charge while my supply lasts. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.