George considered himself a good farmer, or at least better than most of his neighbors.

He was in his mid-60s and thought he was in his peak years. He had accumulated a fair amount of land which he worked hard to pay off. He considered himself a professional and a sharp businessman. While profit and assets were not everything, they were highly important.

George’s success had come at what he considered a small price. He had not made many friends throughout his life. Because his farm business came first, he had done things which alienated him from his neighbors and others.

Several times George had rented farms away from other people. When land came up for sale, he was often willing to pay a higher price, preventing his neighbor’s children from buying more land. George justified his actions by telling himself it wasn’t personal, and it was just business.

George felt that the others were envious of his wealth and success. He had an arrogant air about him, and he didn’t work very hard to hide it.

George’s wife, Betty, looked at life differently. She was not unhappy in her marriage, but she could see why the neighbors weren’t very friendly to George. Over the years she had tried to talk with him about behavior and attitude, but he was oblivious to the situation and failed to understand what she was trying to tell him.

Betty had a kind and helpful heart. She volunteered in their community and her kindness brought many friends. While George and Betty seldom did things with other couples, Betty and her circle of friends were constantly doing things off the farm.

Sometimes George was irritated that Betty volunteered so much. But he was so wrapped up in his own world of finance and business that Betty occupied a smaller and smaller role in his life.

The year of 2020 had been interesting. The virus had changed their community and George and Betty felt more isolated than before. A drought and then a wind storm had taken a toll on George’s crops. With so much of his corn down, harvest was dragging out much longer than George was used to.

Most of the time George’s harvesting crew consisted of a part-time hired man along with Betty.

As harvest proceeded slowly, George’s patience grew thin and he found himself chewing out the hired man and occasionally Betty. With about 400 acres of down corn yet to combine, George ran a rock right through the combine, doing serious damage to both the rotor and the concaves.

A damaged combine was the last straw for George. In his frustration he yelled at the hired man, making some particularly insulting remarks. The hired man responded by telling George exactly what he thought of him and quit on the spot. Not to be outdone, George responded back telling him how worthless he was.

Before George could make it out of the field it started raining, and then a half inch of snow covered everything. It was two and a half weeks before the combine was fixed and the ground was dry enough to harvest again.

Things had been tense at home. Betty was frustrated with George’s lack of self-control. His insults and arrogance with her and the hired man had her hurt her deeply. George was mainly unfazed by her frustration and was chomping at the bit to get started again.

On a sunny afternoon he and Betty began to harvest a flattened field of corn. George went a half hour when suddenly his stomach felt funny. He wondered about the lunch Betty had prepared for him. By mid-afternoon, he felt hot and knew he had more than just a mild fever. By 4 p.m. he could not continue.

That night George told himself his sickness was not the coronavirus, but just a fall flu. He spent the next day in bed with Betty bringing him chicken noodle soup and trying to be attentive to his needs. George was not an easy patient to be around. His demanding and arrogant behavior were amplified when he didn’t feel good.

The next day it became more difficult to breathe and even George thought it might be time to go see a doctor. He was promptly tested for the coronavirus and admitted to the hospital. When the test came back positive, George still felt he was invincible and would soon recover.

Being in the hospital did not change his attitude about life. George tried to tell the nurses and the doctor what to do and how to do it. He refused to accept their diagnosis and believe that he was seriously sick. On the third day George was put on oxygen and was told that if he did not improve there was a good chance he would have to be put on a ventilator.

For the first time in decades George was worried. Unable to control what was happening to him, his world became smaller and focused only on himself. Several days passed and George’s condition did not get worse, but he did not get better either. Betty was constantly at his side, trying to be attentive to his needs.

With no improvement in his condition after another week, George finally had to face the fact that he might die. This was something he had never considered. His farm, his wealth, and his prestige as a top-notch farmer all began to fade away. As the days stretched into several weeks, George’s only visitor was his wife. Betty continued to be patient with him and suffered through this demanding and stressful experience.

George’s condition finally improved and he was able to go home. He was still weak, and the trip from the bedroom to the kitchen was the full extent of his energy. He continued to rely on his wife to help with everything. He found himself sitting in the living room for hours looking out the window.

A few days before Thanksgiving, George was surprised to hear activity on his farm. Trucks and tractors began to pull in. Four combines, six grain carts and a small fleet of semis began working on George’s remaining 400 acres. Before sundown his corn was harvested and hauled to town. George was surprised and humbled that people would come and help him. He was even more humbled when it became apparent that the people had come to help Betty.

George’s neighbors felt no allegiance to him, but Betty was someone they had come to know and love. When her friends found out she needed help, they lined up to provide service.

George continued to improve during the first few weeks of December. He was beginning to feel a little like his old self again. Being confined to his home gave him ample time to consider the life he was living. He began to evaluate his priorities and even considering changing how he viewed and treated others. In the middle of his self-centered examination he was caught off-guard when Betty told him she had a fever and didn’t feel well.

George felt it would be a great inconvenience to him if Betty became sick. He wondered who would take care of him. The next day Betty tested positive for the coronavirus and two days later entered the hospital because she had trouble breathing. Feeling helpless, George could only watch and wait as his wife received care.

To be continued.


Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at plans@bobdun away.com.