Alabama Rain

And right now, she sits on the porch steps, watching a million barrels of rain. There is thunder. Lightning. The sky is black.

The bottom has fallen out of the sky. My wife and her mother are standing by the front door, watching cats and dogs fall from heaven.

The Weather Channel is on TV. The map shows radar splotches over South Alabama and the Panhandle.

My wife has a bouquet in one hand, a purse in the other. She’s wearing her nice shoes.

My mother-in-law is beside her. She’s wearing what any dignified Belleville Avenue woman would, when leaving the house:

Pearls, ruby lipstick, white sling-back heels, Youth Dew, and her hair is fixed in place with Bullseye Shellac.

“Looks like we’ll have to wait out this storm,” says my wife.

There is disappointment in her voice.

Today is the five-year anniversary of her father’s death. She is supposed to be leaving to visit his grave, only the weather isn’t playing nice.

She leans against the front door, eyes closed.

I don’t know if she remembers, but this front doorstep is exactly where my wife got word of her father’s passing.

When she heard the news, she dropped the phone. She fell to her knees and cried with an open mouth without making noise.

I held her. She went limp. She moaned in a pitch low enough to vibrate my spine.

“Please, no!” was all she could say.

Five years.

The day of our wedding her father was in the parking lot, waiting for me. He stood on the curb watching an orange sky.

I wasn’t well-represented that day. Inside the chapel, I had three members in attendance. My mother, uncle, and sister. I’ve never felt so happy and alone at the same time.

He patted my shoulder and he pulled me into himself.

“You’re about to be my son,” he said. “Let’s go make it official.”

Then, he slipped a hundred-dollar bill in my hand and winked.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“Just ‘cause,” he said.

He took me fishing. He was good with inappropriate jokes. Sometimes, he gave me coolers of fresh shrimp, five-gallon buckets of tomatoes, and bags of okra for no reason.

Brother Jim.

Once, on my birthday, after supper, he cornered me in the hallway. He tucked a hundred-dollar bill into my pocket.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Just ‘cause.”

His funeral was a big one. I stood with my wife in a receiving line and watched her shake hands.

In my life, I have been party to two funeral receiving lines.

One was for a man who once called me son. The other was for Brother Jim.

He laid in his casket wearing a half-smile. His skin looked chalky—not at all like I remembered. His ratty Alabama cap was beside him.

My wife kissed his face before they shut the lid.

I squeezed her. She gripped my back so hard she left marks.

And right now, she sits on the porch steps, watching a million barrels of rain. There is thunder. Lightning. The sky is black.

“Guess I’m not going anywhere,” she says.

I put my arm around her and tuck a few dollar bills into her hand.

“What’s this for?” she asked.

Just because, Jamie.

24 comments

  1. Marty - July 17, 2017 2:39 pm

    Not a good way to start Monday, a Monday in an Alabama July. Hot as blue blazes and the humidity is so heavy you feel it when you walk outside. And what do you write today? One of the saddest posts yet. What child doesn’t think of the day they lost their dad, be it the fifth anniversary or the 54th. That day is forever etched in your mind. Same goes for your mother and siblings. And in our family it was grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and then some more. And don’t forget those forever friends that just seemed to make like better. All these days have feelings attached, some more, some less. I guess that is what life is about. And even the Alabama weather isn’t so bad when you compare it to the heat that rises from the concrete of the big cities. I like grass flooring for my outsides.

    Reply
    • LARRY WALL - September 12, 2017 8:51 pm

      Marty, you have a pretty slick writing pen yourself. An ability to say things in visual ways. But I’ll bet you have been told that you could try a hand at being an author.

      Reply
  2. Sandi - July 17, 2017 2:56 pm

    This story tugged soooo hard at my heart strings.
    It hurts deeply to lose a loved one, and made me time-trip to the day my own father died. Some things we just never forget.

    Reply
  3. Frank - July 17, 2017 5:03 pm

    Once again I sit, amazed at how deftly you master this elusive craft of touching others with the written word. Although I am surprised, I should not be, because you do it so often.

    Reply
  4. Janis - July 17, 2017 6:01 pm

    Youth Dew…I wore it religiously when I attended Chipola Junior College. Just the mention of that iconic fragrance took me back to those “grades 13 and 14”, as I considered them, since I commuted daily with other students from my hometown via a student-driven school bus that hauled us the 30 miles to and fro for those two years. And the “just ’cause” gifts from my father that became the parting ritual as I headed back home after a weekend or vacation visit, long after those Chipola rides ended. My father would let me know where he would be, in case he was not home when I left, so I could find him and tell him goodbye. It was not so much the monetary gesture as it was that comforting “Thank you”; “Now be safe”; “I will”; “I love you”; “Love you, too”. This all ended in September 1981. I was my daddy’s little girl. I still am. As your Jamie was and still is.

    Reply
  5. Carolyn Huggins - July 17, 2017 6:29 pm

    The mark of a really good writer is that he/she can tug at your heart strings
    with his/her words, give one visions of those words, and stir up like memories. YOU are a very good writer, as you did all three!

    Reply
  6. TN Lizzie - July 17, 2017 6:55 pm

    Oh, my goodness; those last 3 lines. What a tribute to the life that her father lived and shared with you! Thank you for loving her just right, and for sharing with us.

    I’m new here, but I will learn to keep the tissues beside my computer when I read your blog!

    Reply
  7. Donna Holifield - July 17, 2017 7:24 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  8. Ann Gaddis - July 17, 2017 9:00 pm

    Precious

    Reply
  9. Wendy - July 17, 2017 9:21 pm

    It was January 24, 1977. It often seems like just yesterday. Once in a long while, it feels like a hundred years ago. I miss my Daddy so much, my heart thinks it may literally break in two.

    Reply
  10. Jack Quanstrum - July 17, 2017 11:01 pm

    Nothing like an Alabama rain full of cats and dogs! Touching story Sean. Glad you have each other. Special father-in-law. I had three special father-in-laws. Your story reminds how special a father-in-law can be. Pleasant memories for me. Cherished memories brought to the forefront of my mind. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  11. Jane - July 18, 2017 12:50 am

    It was January 25, 1960. I was 10. My Mom came home from the hospital and simply said,”He’s gone”. I remember it so vividly. I was Daddy’s Girl! It has been over 57 years! Can’t remember what I did yesterday but I remember that so well!

    Reply
  12. Lucretia Jones - July 18, 2017 12:57 am

    . . .and thst is life. . thank you. . .

    Reply
  13. Joann Wilson - July 18, 2017 1:25 am

    Sweet Jesus. So sweet.

    Reply
  14. Michael Hawke - July 18, 2017 1:51 am

    You touch hearts. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Just Southern - July 18, 2017 1:38 pm

    I don’t know if it’s a wide spread old South saying or just a quirk of my kin, but we say that when a truly loved old one passes it’s gonna rain on the day of the funeral because all of creation marks their passing. Sounds like creation remembers the anniversary of a passing as well.

    Reply
  16. Susan in Georgia - July 18, 2017 2:24 pm

    Your words touch my heart and soul. Everytime. What else can I say?

    Reply
  17. Tamara Olive - July 22, 2017 8:04 pm

    I read this today for the first time (new subscriber). It just happens to be the 24th anniversary of the day I buried my daddy. The timing was perfect. I cried for Jamie and for me. After 24 years I didn’t feel like I had permission to cry about it anymore. Thank you.

    Reply
  18. Lori Ashbaugh - September 3, 2017 10:07 am

    You could have been describing my daddy with this one. 10 years this Saturday and the pain still feels as raw and deep as it did the day it happened. That’s something that I did not expect. People say it gets better, but that’s a big, fat lie. My husband didn’t have much of a dad, and like you, he got a father in law who took him on as a son. He’d say “I wasn’t sure about him at first, but now I wouldn’t trade him for a good Coon hound.” Thank you for writing . There is nothing that I like more than a good southern writer, and you do us proud. This one, in particular , is special.

    Reply
  19. Bobi - September 3, 2017 2:43 pm

    When I turned my calendar Friday I went into a place that I can’t seem to find my way out of. It will be a year the 16th of this month. I feel like I shouldn’t be happy about everyday life, because he isn’t here. When I cry I am afraid of being told I need to stop or get over it. I realize I then step back and away from them. My group is getting smaller.

    I appreciate this showing up in my feed this morning. For once agin I can blame you when they ask what’s wrong… I can say … oh it’s just something I read

    Maybe today I can make my dash matter somewhere somehow

    Reply
  20. Jody - September 4, 2017 12:24 am

    Being a Daddy’s girl is a forever gift of precious memories. I have two daughters who were Daddy’s girls Thank you Sean .

    Reply
  21. Brenda Gruenewald - September 4, 2017 1:02 am

    Loved it.

    Reply
  22. Wanda - September 4, 2017 4:46 am

    My daddy is still with us and still working like crazy to leave us something when he goes-at 86 years old. He’s given me love, discipline, and a strong work ethic through my 64 years of life. Hes given me more than my son’s “daddy” ever thought of giving him. I can’t imagine what losing him will be like. The only thing I really need is more years, a lot of years.

    Reply
  23. Ben smith - September 4, 2017 6:04 pm

    Love is a great. It’s part of lives amazing thing’s that never leaves you. Just because G0d Bless use all.

    Reply

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