Tim sat at the kitchen table, emotionally exhausted and physically tired from the long harvest season. While the year had eventually turned out reasonably well, the good yields could not take away the frustration of the long, wet spring and the long, cold harvest.

Christmas was approaching in just a few weeks, and Tim was not excited about the season.

Traditionally he was not a big gift giver. His wife did almost all the shopping. She bought for the children and for the grandchildren. Sometimes he might make a hint, comment or suggestion. But for the most part his shopping revolved around buying things at Walmart for his wife on Dec. 23.

Without any conscious effort, he had become the Scrooge and “Bah, humbug” of most Christmas celebrations. As a child he used to be really excited about the snow, the cold, Christmas lights and especially the presents. Christmas had lost most of its appeal.

But now in his older age, as he sat at the table, he pondered what he might do to improve the season. One time years ago they had identified a needy family, and for 12 days celebrating the 12 days of Christmas tradition, they secretly brought gifts to this family. Their children had been young at the time and thought it was so exciting. They were around this other family enough to see the joy that this brought to them.

And then in a stroke of genius, Tim arrived on a plan which would bring the joy of Christmas back into his life. He would do the 12 days of Christmas, and he would be the recipient of all the presents. Who knew better what Tim really wanted than Tim himself. At first it seemed foolish, but the more he thought about it the more excited he became. So he implemented the first steps of the plan.

He made a list of things he really desired. Item one on the list was a wire welder. He had never had one but always thought it would be a cool thing to have. Think of all the things he could make for the grandchildren and all the farm repairs that would be more easily done with a good wire welder.

Second on his list were running boards for his truck and a little bit of chrome for the exhaust. Other people put these things on their trucks as soon as they got them. His truck was plain looking and somewhat bare. He would fit in when he parked at the co-op from now on.

A few years ago he had built a shop with a small office. He thought a table with some chairs and a large new TV would be a great addition to the farm office. But the TV should not be so large that people thought he was showing off. That would be gift number three.

Not thinking to ask his wife for her opinion, gift four was a new couch for the living room. This couch had a recliner that came out with places to put remote controls and cold or hot drinks. You could recharge your cell phone and access the computer at any time. How surprised his wife would be to see gift number four.

Gift number five was a little more pricey, but it was a Christmas gift after all. The Gator he had was only two years old. The new models had features which he knew the grandkids would love, and it just so happened they were the same things he was interested in.

In the course of just a few hours he was able to come up with all of the 12 gifts he desired to have. That afternoon he spent some time on the Internet and on the phone with some of the equipment dealers.

By the evening, he had come up with an approximate figure of their costs. The next day he visited with his accountant to see if these things would be deductible as legitimate farm expenses. He was reassured by his accountant that everything on the list was deductible except the couch.

Since most all of his Christmas presents were now farm expenses, off to work he went. He ordered online, shopped in town and spent time at the implement dealer. By the end of the day everything was in place and all he had to do was wait for the 12 days before Christmas.

When he went to bed that night he slept well. He was happy that he would finally get what he wanted for Christmas. His wife could see a noticeable improvement in his mood and attitude. She asked what was going on and he smiled and said, “I believe I have just got the spirit of Christmas. It just took me 50-some years to figure it out.”

That night as Tim slept he began to toss and turn. In the middle of the night he had a dream. In the dream everything he had planned out did not turn out as he expected.

He dreamt it was the 12th day before Christmas, and on schedule the UPS man arrived at the farm. He delivered a large box unloaded by the house. Inside was a large wire welder with all the possible attachments. Tim took it to the shop and hooked everything up. He spent the afternoon doing some test welding and then looked around to see what he could fix. Sadly, there was nothing.

On the 11th day before Christmas the couch arrived. His wife was surprised to see a new couch in the living room. The couch was not the color she wanted. The couch was not the shape she wanted. The couch had so many wires and cupholders that she was embarrassed to have it sit in her living room.

And so the dream continued day after day, with gifts arriving and things turning out poorly. By the time the 12th day came, Tim dreaded the arrival of the last gift. And true to form, the 12th gift was no better than the first day gift.

This perfect plan of having a wonderful Christmas season with all of the presents which would make his heart happy was a failure.

He woke up and looked at the clock. It was 3:30 a.m. He was covered in sweat and his heart was beating quickly. His wife was soundly asleep next to him and he carefully got up and made his way to the kitchen. Sitting down at the table in the dark, he held his head in his hands, feeling a deep disappointment in the holiday season and his inability to find happiness.

He eventually wandered back to bed and fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning the sun was up and he felt as if he’d spent the entire night tossing and turning.

As he began the next day, everything went as usual until one of the neighbor’s stopped by. A farmer a few miles down the road from him had had an accident the night before. He was combining late and fell asleep pulling a wagon of corn home. He was not hurt seriously but there was a lot of damage to the wagon and some of his other equipment wasn’t working correctly. The neighbors were getting together to help out.

As Tim surveyed the damage, an idea came to his mind. He suggested that they bring the wagon and other equipment to his shop as he had a new wire welder and perhaps he could help out…

Look for the conclusion of the story of Tim’s Christmas gifts next month.

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

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