There are too many people, and I don't have the money for so many gifts. So here, in my small way, in my little corner of the Internet, is my Christmas list of people I'd like to wish well to for 2013.
1. RPA Hospital
Keeps my wife alive. Sometimes, that's been hard. And the names are too many to list, but Dr Roger Garsia of Immunology has worked well on a difficult case; his interns are without peer (in particular, Dr Myanh Nguyen deserves great success); and Ms T's chemo is down from fortnightly to quarterly.
A special out-of-2013 mention to Dr Gok Paven, now at St George, who led the team that first worked out what was going on, and is still a pillar of our world.
I must mention the nurses in Gloucester House, now the poor cousin to the famous suit-run joint over the road, who still get to handle the miserable cytotoxins that keep Ms T alive.
- The Register
I've never had so much fun in my job as I have had working for The Register, and along the way I get to work with good people. Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor, is one, but there are plenty of others. I hope you know who you are.
- Dr Colin Lim
Our GP. He gets the day-to-day stuff, the boring “just here for ten prescription refills” stuff. He still feels bad that four years ago, he didn't spot what was wrong with Ms T – even though it later took six specialists to get to an inconclusive choice of possibilities. That was the worst coin-toss of my life, and I can't blame a suburban GP for not cottoning onto what was going on!
- Guests at Bunjaree Cottages
It's not just that they pay bills. Or that they're helping my main mission with Bunjaree Cottages, which is to keep 14 hectares of bush – including my beloved Lyrebirds and Antechinus, and a big hunk of hanging swamp – out of the hands of concrete-lovers.
This year has been a signal year of “nice people” and “people who get it”. People who treasure the bush and the environment and the values. Once, in a desperate circumstance, I had to teach a guest over the phone how to find and then start the backup electricity generator: he was insanely pleased with himself at the idea of going back to his family with a new set of “real bloke” credentials to show off, so he didn't complain – he even wrote nice stuff in the guest book!
Making people like that happy, giving them a relaxed holiday … to quote “black hat guy” from XKCD comics, “that's how I roll.”
A special mention for @Ponder_Stybbons and another local to the Mountains whose name can remain private, for all their help in 2013 in keeping Bunjaree Cottages clean, and making things nice for the guests. I've rarely met people with such unfailing good humour.
- My old friend from school
I don't resent your calls for help in depression. I treasure them. On your good days, you remind me why my depression damn well won't win. On your bad, I somehow help, and talk it all through with Ms T afterwards, and life is built out of small victories.
Stil would, anyhow, resent a December 25 7am phone call saying something like “Merry Christmas”. So I promise it won't happen, and anyhow you don't just haul gas bottles in emergencies, you also tolerate and even encourage conversation from my sons. Which isn't something everybody can manage. So thanks.
- Shara Evans
A long time ago, Shara took me in out of the rain with a job that lasted years. I already owe you for that, friend. This year we haven't been in touch so much, but when we have, I've always enjoyed it. And you are loyal in a way that few people can manage. Thanks.
- Twitter friends and blog-commenters
Damn, I've been lucky. When people re-Tweet this blog, or comment on it, I'm in terror. But what I get is a world of friendship and wonder.
Look, in person, I'm a bit difficult, a lot awkward … to quote the kids' movie “Mouse Hunt”, I'm a “cat that's … difficult to love.” But I've found so many friends, fellow-travellers, fellow-sufferers out there in the odd and sometimes hostile world of Twitter.
There is love in the world.
- You know who you are
You'd never forgive me for naming you in public, so I won't. At a great distance and in touch only by Skype and e-mail, you've become a rock of this household, a treasure beyond price. You've listened to me on the darkest mornings when merely facing the day looked beyond me.
You're loved by both me and Ms T, because somehow I managed to finish this year saner and better able to cope than when I started it.
- My first wife
One of the great treasures of my life has been to find that we still can love each other, in spite of history, and in 1976 you were one of my first genuinely close friends, and I'll hold you forever in my heart.
- My sons
Don't tell them. They think I'm an insufferable nag. I am. I'm also a critic and a scold.
On the things they do well, I'm insanely proud of them. And their job-seeking frustrations I remember from my youth. But they've already defeated some dragons that the world threw at them, and I get the upside of their intelligence, their devotion to Ms T, and their sunny natures. I don't know how I managed to be even a moderately good parent, but luck sometimes delivers the parcels that skill left behind.
- Ms T
You are my Christmas present. I want no other. "Stuff" has lost its allure.
Last year, doctors would have called up a bookie for odds against you making it. And we still hold each other each and every night, and at 2am when the world is cold, you're still warm. And when the day comes, you will fret and grouch your way through your unchangeable Christmas feast, and when it lands on the table, you'll relax and grin and drink champagne. And I'll pray that next year, we'll still be there to carve the roasts and laugh and drink, caress and kiss, because we both know there is a last Christmas in our future.
My love, let this Christmas not be our last. That's the only gift I desire.
The Thirteenth Trump
There is a last, a thirteenth wish. A silent prayer for the memory of an old woman Ms T and I knew only briefly as a customer. Who tapped my cheek and called me “that young man”, and loved her every visit to our little corner of heaven. If I'd known, I'd have stood quietly near the rear of your funeral and slipped away unnoticed.
You reminded me of my mother, who died before you at a similar age, and I loved every minute of the handful of hours I spent with you. Go well, dear Pat, and where you are, may you be young and flirtatious and beautiful again.