My family. There wasn’t much to tell. We were sad and poor. And I had no daddy—he ended his life with a hunting rifle. It wasn’t exactly uplifting dinner conversation.

I watched the sunrise over Brewton, Alabama. I was the only vehicle on the road when the sun started to peek above the the trees.

The sunlight hit Brewton just right. It looked golden. It was quite a sight.

Sometimes I get to feeling low. Brewton makes me high. Always has. I have good thoughts here. This is where I got a second crack at life.

Right after I was married, I visited Catawba Springs Baptist church with my wife’s family. I had much younger skin then, and a supple lower back.

The preacher mentioned us from his pulpit. Folks I’d never met clapped for us. Strangers hugged my neck. Old women kissed my cheeks. Three different men invited me hunting.

If I’ve ever felt more loved, I don’t remember it.

We ate a big Sunday meal. My wife’s father roasted a Boston Butt. He made squash casserole, butter beans, and creamed corn with too much black pepper.

I love creamed corn with too much black pepper.

“Tell me about your daddy,” said my father-in-law. “Tell me all about your family.”

My family. There wasn’t much to tell. We were sad and poor. And I had no daddy—he ended his life with a hunting rifle. It wasn’t exactly uplifting dinner conversation.

Her father’s blue eyes turned pink when I finished talking.

“That does it,” he said. “I’m adopting you, right here and now. Understand me? This means WE are your kin. And THIS is your home.”

It was ridiculous. And it seemed like an idle promise.

I’d heard people say things like that before. They were only words. Lots of folks enjoy saying charitable things, even when they don’t mean them.

Not him. This man was different. And so was this town.

Years later, we visited Brewton during Hurricane Ivan. We pitched camp in a small plank house, out in the sticks.

The bad weather tore through town like a freight train. It uprooted trees, tin sheds, and sucked clapboards into outer space.

During the storm, I got so scared my hands shook. My father-in-law sat beside me. He put his arm around me and started humming:

“Hog-head cheese and butter beans,
“Me’n you in New Orleans,
“That’s what I like about the South.”

Then, he told stories. Good stories. He talked about the local man who accidentally cut off his own arm with a chainsaw. He talked about Mister Bobby Smith—who played for Bear Bryant. He told me about Mister Ra-BITT and Mister Buz-ZARD.

I’d had about all I could stand.

“Thank you,” I interrupted him to say.

“Thanks for what?” he answered.

“For letting me be part of this family.”

“Don’t you thank me ever again, hear me?” he said. “Family don’t have to thank each other.”

I’ve been a few places in my time. I’ve met a few people. But I never met anyone like Jim Martin. And I’ve never felt what I feel when I am in this place.

Maybe it’s called love. I don’t care what you call it.

I needed some of it today.

27 comments

  1. Carol - May 7, 2017 8:08 am

    Jim Martin sounds like the kind of person we all should strive to be. I’m so glad that you had him in your life. You needed that kind of love. Jamie and her family sound wonderful.

    Reply
  2. Malinda - May 7, 2017 11:14 am

    I grew up loving Jim Martin. He and my brother Ed were wonderful friends and I love your tribute to him.

    Reply
  3. Nona - May 7, 2017 11:30 am

    My Daddy has been long gone now to be with the Lord 6 years …. but every single time I go home to his place there is something quite spiritual about rolling into the drive way. It sound just like this place . I feel that he is there and I get that same feeling that rushes over me and I never really want to leave ….. there is a peace there that he left behind …… and I take hold of it every chance I get….. which isn’t near enough.

    Reply
  4. Debbie Beach - May 7, 2017 12:49 pm

    😂 you always manage to touch my heart strings. You are God’s gift to so many of us.
    I won’t say thank you cause we’re family now!

    Reply
  5. Debbie Beach - May 7, 2017 12:50 pm

    You are God’s gift to so many of us.
    I won’t say thank you cause we’re family now!

    Reply
  6. Jane Melton - May 7, 2017 1:32 pm

    Just wonderful. Every day!

    Reply
  7. Susan Morrisette - May 7, 2017 2:08 pm

    When I was first married, we lived next door to Jim and Mary Martin. Jamie was just a baby. Jim and Mary we’re the dearest people.
    Ask them to tell you about a jail break, Jim standing in front yard with a baseball bat to protect everyone.
    I was a Drexler at that time.

    Reply
  8. Bobbie - May 7, 2017 2:28 pm

    We ALL need it and MORE of it!

    Reply
  9. Gaynell - May 7, 2017 2:52 pm

    Damn you’re good!

    Reply
  10. JP - May 7, 2017 3:29 pm

    Great read as always, spent some time in Brewton in the early seventies chasing a young lady whose father owned the local jewelry store, great memories!

    Reply
  11. Lynda Richards - May 7, 2017 4:47 pm

    I’m a new subscriber, was introduced by a southern friend several weeks ago. I grew up outside of Nashville and now I live in Alaska and miss some of the south. I watch NCIS New Orleans just to see the town and hear the people talk especially Lucas Black.I love your style of writing, Sean, it takes me back to my roots and I look forward each morning to see a new newsletter. Keep up the good work Sean. Consider me an ardent fan, excuse me a “downhome fan.”

    Reply
  12. Lynn - May 7, 2017 5:13 pm

    Thanks. I needed a little of it today myself. You uplift me even when you make me cry.

    Reply
  13. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - May 7, 2017 5:57 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  14. Jeannie - May 7, 2017 6:57 pm

    Oh, Sean!! Please tell me the Rabbit and Buzzard joke!! I heard it so many years ago and thought it was so funny, but could not remember it. I have asked so many people to no avail. So glad to see that you probably remember it. Please share!

    Reply
    • LindaD - June 30, 2017 1:05 pm

      Google “a rabbit, a buzzard and a turtle joke” and see if that’s it.

      Reply
    • Jean Campbell - July 2, 2017 12:22 pm

      The punchline is, “Tell Mr. Buz-zard and Mr. Tur-tele,” who were out in the yard and down at the well, respectively, “That Mr. Rab-Bitt is here with the fertilizer.”

      Reply
  15. Laura Young - May 7, 2017 7:09 pm

    There is nowhere like the South for families and such great memories. How blessed you are to have a father-in-law like Jim. your story about Ivan reminded me of what happened when “the hurricane that wouldn’t die” came through Alabama. I remember that I was without power nearly a week. In those days I didn’t have generator either (I have learned since then). As the weekend after Ivan moved through ‘Bama was approaching I was in a panic. I was supposed to be hosting at my house a Couples Bridal Shower for about 50 invited guests for my nephew. Several times during the week, my sister-in-law would ask “Do you think we should cancel?” I would say, “Let’s wait- surely we will have power by then.” HA! Then it was too late to cancel, so we decided to go through with it….in the dark. I borrowed ice chests, tables, torches and hurricane lamps, and we set up outside. I had a gas stove so could cook by candlelight. I was surprised so many people came. People would say, “I can’t believe you had this in the dark” as we laughed at the idea. Just as we got ready for the couple to open gifts, the power came back on. To this day, we laugh about the fun memory made by a bridal shower in the dark. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Kathy Phillips - May 7, 2017 7:59 pm

    Ok. You made me cry. That is exactly how family should be. I try every day to make my everyone I meet feel like I’ve known them all their lives. I have family that won’t do anything for anyone if there isn’t anything in it for them. I can’t say I hate them but don’t like it. I wish everyone could be like your father in-law​. Wishing you the best. Me and my boyfriend love reading your stories.

    Reply
  17. Barry Haggerty - May 7, 2017 11:43 pm

    Thank you so much for all words of wisdom and showing how we should still be living. I miss all the things you let us know. Grew up the same way you talk about. Except I had a father but he was always very hard on me. Your stories remind of the good times with him and forget all the bad. Keep writing.

    Reply
  18. Marsha - May 8, 2017 12:20 pm

    When I read the part about that man adopting you and that you were family, oh the tears came rolling. Thank you again Sean for making me see the real important things in life. Like creamed corn with too much pepper.

    Reply
  19. Linda Perry - May 8, 2017 7:04 pm

    Sean, I love your writing, it makes me think about people that made me feel
    warm an cozy an good about myself.
    Teachers, the wonderful Mrs Louise Cramer, at Selma St. school who always knew about you an your family an the things that were missing , like parents , no lunch money .
    Thank you again for making us all stop an think , so grateful !!!!,

    Reply
  20. Michael Bishop - May 16, 2017 12:53 pm

    Catching up with you after an interruption in service and a hiccup in our lives. And this is piece underscoring the fact that it’s good to be back. Thank you again.

    Reply
  21. Sylvia Williams - June 30, 2017 2:32 pm

    Your writing always, “Strike a Chord, Sean! Love it!

    Reply
  22. Christine Shaw - June 30, 2017 10:31 pm

    My father was raised 17 miles East of Brewton, Al in the middle of nowhere. I visited there as a kid. My grandmother had a pump in the kitchen sink, an outhouse, and washed clothes on a washboard for her family of eight children. My Dad bought her an automatic washing machine from his first paycheck from the Army. My Grandmother always had a smile on her face, she never complained. I have fond memories of that farm near Brewton. Thank you for reminding me of cherished childhood memories. My Dad is 85 now and still goes down there to work the land. He loves his heritage and so do I.

    Reply
  23. Irene Ellis - July 1, 2017 12:50 am

    Mr. Dietrich, I have become of your biggest fans since stumbling upon one of your writings on Facebook. I look forward to reading a new one each day. You bring something positive to an otherwise negative world. I thank you for that. I never would have imagined a reason to express my gratitude as I figured you are bombarded each day with thank yous from around the nation. Tonight, however, when I read your article about Brewton, I felt a gut wrenching need to speak to you. No, I’m not from Brewton and I didn’t lose my father at a young age. Instead, you and I belong to a club of which no one would want to be a member. “Those Left Behind After Suicide ” club. Even typing it makes me nauseous! From other writings I knew you had lost your father at a young age, but it was only after reading the Brewton article that I learned the cause. As I read it, my eyes filled with tears. What a burden for a young child! Yesterday, June 29, marked the 12 anniversary of my 27 year old son taking his life. It never gets easier, so I can only imagine the weight I carry being on the shoulders of a young boy. I was 53 years old and I didn’t understand. I still don’t. I never will. And, that, Sir, is why I had to thank you! You didn’t have an easy childhood, but you can still see the good in people. You see the chic in the shabby, the light behind the dark, the glass half full!! You are an inspiration! Please keep on keeping on!! Sincerely, Irene Ellis

    Reply
  24. Deanna J - July 1, 2017 1:29 pm

    Thank you for keeping our memories alive

    Reply
  25. Barbara Holmes Kelly - July 3, 2017 11:06 am

    I’m from Brewton. I grew up at T.R.Miller with Jim and Mary. Your writings are like walking down Bellville ave. Mary’s big beautiful home would be one of the houses you would see and her mother,a true southern lady, being friendly and gracious to all. Jim lived out of Brewton but came into school. He was loved by all. They were high school sweethearts. I’m glad to know their lives have been happy and blessed. Your writings are real emotions on paper. I come from your type of background but with a wonderful, God loving mother that taught me that I was equally as worthy as anyone, but not more, and I was to seek my hopes and dreams. She worked to care for her children. I like you

    Reply

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