by Del Bartels... As heard on the Good Stuff with Jim Thompson

      The further he got from the cities, the more spotty was his cell phone reception. The roads weren’t good, but they weren’t too bad if he slowed down and was careful. His parents, younger sister and especially his grandparents knew he was on the way.

      A sudden change of plans meant he could leave his new job in time to get home for Christmas Eve. Seven hours of driving straight through, but he was going to make it. He was going to be really late, probably missing the family opening the presents. That was the really bad thing; he had planned on buying presents after Christmas to give to his family when he could visit over New Year’s. Now, with the suddenness of everything, he didn’t have any gifts for anyone.

      For years he had been striving for the perfect gifts. One of his fondest memories was as a first grader when he handed his grandmother a crayon drawing of her with “Grandma, I love you with all my heart” 

in neat block letters under it. Her eyes had begun welling up as she reached out to hug him. He was fascinated that anyone could be so happy that they would actually cry.

      Now, he had nothing. His last call, before reception cut out again, ended with his sister, still a senior in high school, saying that grandma was going overboard in being a mother hen. Everyone else was there already. Grandma just couldn’t sit still, waiting for him to get there. She was working herself into a tizzy, fussing over everyone, and grandpa was getting worried about her.

      The roads grew icier. He had to slow down even more. The lack of any presents was really worrying him. Over the years, he had been the one who knew exactly the style of watch for his father. His mother still admired that mantel clock every time she checked the time. His sister never took off the ring that he had given her. Grandpa’s name was proudly displayed on his belt, which he used constantly but kept in dress condition. Grandma was famous for pulling out the big leather- bound photo album he had given her. Relatives and friends would ask him for advice on what gift someone else might like. Admittedly, he was good at choosing the perfect gift. Fanciful or practical, his choices were just exactly what the recipient had wanted.

      Now, he had nothing. He had to cut the last call short to keep both hands on the wheel. Grandma was going to wear herself out with worry. 

Everyone was waiting for him. Grandma was ecstatic that everyone was going to be able to be together for Christmas. But, he had no gifts for anyone; from the best gift giver to nothing at all.

      He saw faces pressed against the windows as he pulled up toward the house. He half slipped across the porch to the open front door. He hugged and greeted everyone else, then it was grandma’s turn. As she reached to hug him, he was amazed. Her eyes were welling up with tears. He had brought her the perfect Christmas gift.