So I wait outside. That’s when I see her. She is on the sidewalk. A small woman with white hair and rough skin. She wears a red T-shirt with the words: “Y’all Hush” on the front. She is smoking.

Columbia, South Carolina—I stopped in the Capital City for food. I find a simple, no-frills chain-restaurant that is filled with cars.

I’ve been driving since morning. I’m not picky. A cold beer would be nice. Maybe a burger.

There’s a ten-minute wait. Even the bar is full.

So I wait outside. That’s when I see her. She is on the sidewalk. A small woman with white hair and rough skin. She wears a red T-shirt with the words: “Y’all Hush” on the front. She is smoking.

She tells me she’s waiting for the rest of her dinner party. But there’s a problem.

“My son had a flat tire,” she tells me. “God, I’m so worried. He is coming from Augusta.”

I can tell she’s nervous. She tries him on the phone, but he doesn’t answer.

“Oh,” she says. “I hope he’s okay. I’m worried ‘bout him.”

She lights another worrisome cigarette.

So I keep her company.

She tells me about her son and his two daughters—her beloved grandbabies. This brings a temporary smile. For a moment, she’s not worried, but a granny.

Our conversation doesn’t go far. I ask basic questions. I’m just trying to keep her talking. Talking fights off worry, my mother always said. I’m not sure if this actually works, but it’s worth a shot.

I learn about her. She’s from Waynesboro, Georgia, originally. She got married when she was eighteen. Her boyfriend did the honorable thing and married her. But his honor only lasted three years.

He left her with one kid and a second on the way. She was a baby herself when he ran. She was young and scared. It was the classic sink-or-swim scenario.

She dog paddled.

“I worked hard all my life,” she says. “Didn’t never ask NOBODY for help. Taught my kids work hard too, and to be respectful and nice.”

This is the gospel according to hard-working women. It’s a simple one.

Today, her kids have families of their own. Her oldest son—the one with the flat tire—works in Augusta. It’s not far, but it’s far enough for her to miss her grandbabies.

She lights another cigarette. She dials her son again. Nothing.

More worry.

I hate to see a mother fret. My mother used to worry so hard she could make herself short of breath. But then, this is a mother’s occupation in the world. To care too much.

“He ain’t answering,” she says. “What should I do?”

Well, all I know how to do is talk. Talking is free, and my mother claimed it helps a body feel better.

So she talks about her kids. She is busting at the seams with pride.

That’s how women like her are. They were put on this earth to do a job. Their life’s work is children. Babies, kindergarteners, middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, and beyond.

They’re expertise is kissing skinned knees, and singing babies to sleep. They give late-night advice to wayward teenage sons. They work full-time. They do it without bitterness—I don’t know how.

We are interrupted.

A middle-aged man jogs through the parking lot. He has a toddler on his shoulder, a little girl walks beside him.

“Oh thank God,” the woman says, stabbing her cigarette. “I was worried about you.”

Her face turns ten shades of happy when she sees them. She holds grandbabies in her arms and nearly cries.

We say goodbye.

The hostess leads them to a table. I take a stool at the bar. I can see her from across the restaurant. Her old face is wearing a grin. She’s bouncing a toddler on her lap, smiling, eating French fries.

I know life isn’t easy. I know it’s hard, and unforgiving, and sometimes ugly. I know there are a lot of things out there to worry about. Who am I to claim otherwise? Nobody. That’s who.

But if you’ve read this far, there is something I CAN tell you—whoever you are. I know it won’t make anything better, I know we are strangers, and I know you probably hear this all the time, but it’s worth a shot:

I love you.

42 comments

  1. Jen - July 22, 2018 5:49 am

    Feeling beyond depressed at the moment and for hours, days, weeks now. It’s something I wrestle with regularly, given living with Bipolar. But it’s been worse since two friends were killed, leaving their young children behind. Why am I here – a multiple time failure, dependent on my parents, alone… When these beautiful people, who created a family, had lots of friends, were kind and outgoing were killed? I don’t want to live and I wrestle with that… Why the hell couldn’t it have been me? I’m glad you’re good to others and that you reach out. It’s a kindness.

    Reply
    • Susan Kennedy - July 22, 2018 3:54 pm

      You are here because God has a purpose for you. He loves you. Don’t give up! 💕

      Reply
      • Jen - July 23, 2018 5:42 am

        Thank you, Susan. 💗

        Reply
    • Toni Tucker Locke - July 22, 2018 5:39 pm

      Dear Jen, My mother was bipolar but never suicidal. I have had bouts of clinical and seasonal depression since I was fifteen. I, too, have suicidal thoughts–but a very wise youth counselor long ago told me, “A life given to God is not yours to take.” I do not know your faith story, but I can assure you that your suicide would hurt more people than you know. Life is precious. You are very dear to your parents. Seek counseling and help until you find the right combination of counseling and meds to help you feel better. Mother lived to be 97 years old under the tender loving care of my nurse sister who checked on her every day on her way to or from work. My sister monitored Mother’s lithium levels after Mother’s medical doctor refused to see her because she would often lash out at him in frustration and anger. Do not give up. Keep fighting for your mental health and stability. An exercise routine (water aerobics) three times a week helps me. Find out what works for you and just keep at it. Sean loves you and I do, too!

      Reply
      • jennifersekella - July 23, 2018 5:45 am

        Thank you, Toni – especially for sharing your experiences. I’m in counseling, working on other modes of stability, but recently it’s been hard. I really appreciate everyone’s kindness. 💗

        Reply
    • Jody - July 23, 2018 12:35 am

      Sorry for the pain you are feeling.

      Reply
  2. Ms. Palmer - July 22, 2018 5:55 am

    I love you too. Please drive safe.

    Reply
  3. Sandi in FL. - July 22, 2018 6:20 am

    I needed to read this post, so thank you, Sean. Your readers, myself included, love you and the way you share with us about situations that matter to somebody somewhere. God bless you extra special today.

    Reply
  4. Pamela McEachern - July 22, 2018 7:43 am

    God is good and so are you Sean. What a loving and compassionate soul you have and are willing to share with everyone. There is a message here and we all love you too.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  5. Dianne Rathje - July 22, 2018 10:36 am

    Sweet, sweet–thank you

    Reply
  6. Jo Ann - July 22, 2018 11:17 am

    I love you back, Sean

    Reply
  7. marisa2014 - July 22, 2018 11:28 am

    Back atcha, Sean! Thank you for putting things in perspective today. I’ve been fretting over things that don’t amount to a no-see-um.

    Reply
  8. Peggy Savage - July 22, 2018 12:00 pm

    Love you back…….

    Reply
  9. Terri Boykin - July 22, 2018 12:01 pm

    I love you back Sean. Be safe.
    Terri

    Reply
  10. Joy - July 22, 2018 12:02 pm

    Sean…what a wonderful gift you have…never to meet a stranger! Love your writings…and love you too (even though we have never met)!

    Reply
  11. Tina - July 22, 2018 12:05 pm

    Thanks for taking the shit Sean. And it does help. Love you back.

    Reply
  12. Suzanne Russell - July 22, 2018 12:16 pm

    I subscribed just a week or so ago. I’m glad I did. I love you too.

    Reply
  13. Kathy Burgess - July 22, 2018 1:07 pm

    South Carolina born and raised..Love you back, darlin.

    Reply
  14. Judy Ennis - July 22, 2018 1:25 pm

    Love you back….💕🙏🏻💕

    Reply
  15. Karen Irby - July 22, 2018 1:29 pm

    Sean, it’s 2 years ago today that my precious Gus passed away. He was 13 y/old and had spent 11 yrs. and 4 months with us. He was the sunshine of my life, and I’m writing this through tears. God, I loved that little guy! We have a 14 month old pup, Scout, and she’s a crazy girl, totally different personality, but she loves her “Mama” and life goes on…
    Love you, sweetie, and give Thelma Lou a big hug from me.

    Reply
  16. Carol - July 22, 2018 1:35 pm

    I Love you back. Maybe even a little more for you bring so much to my quite sometimes lonely life!
    I have wonderful children and grandchildren but you see I can’t keep up with them anymore,they ask me to go but it’s hard I can’t breath as good as I use too and you have a lot of stuff to “tote “!
    But God blesse’s me everyday and your stories is one of them!!
    Thank you Sean!!
    Love you!

    Reply
  17. Jack Quanstrum - July 22, 2018 1:56 pm

    Beautiful story from a kind heart. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  18. Judy Broussard - July 22, 2018 2:01 pm

    Thanks Sean, I love you and Jamie too

    Reply
  19. Edna B. - July 22, 2018 2:45 pm

    Sean, Pogo and I love you too. Today’s story is just precious. You have a gift of being able to put folks at ease no matter what their situation. This was so good of you to keep this woman company while she waited for her family. You travel safely my friend, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  20. Debbie - July 22, 2018 2:50 pm

    I love you!

    Reply
  21. Bobbie - July 22, 2018 2:59 pm

    I love you back!

    Reply
  22. Alice Morgan - July 22, 2018 3:00 pm

    Thank you Sean, for always affirming your readers. This morning your “I love you” made me teary eyed.

    Reply
  23. gayle r tucker - July 22, 2018 3:04 pm

    Sean, you seem a nice guy damaged by a horrible suicide when you were most impressionable. I am a suicide survivor so have some experience with all those unanswered questions. BUT, we see you spending a huge amount of time telling Daddy stories about a man who for whatever reason chose death over you, your sister, your mother, and his family. I realize you are trying to resolve this man’s decision but I also see a man who tells virtually no mamma stories. Yes ,you share snippets which can be construed as male tolerance to the female (white gloves, string of pearls and a hat), or that she worked hard to make ends meet. But, no long detailed stories of the woman who sacrificed her life for you after your father took the easy way out. Where are the endearing stories of your mother or the funny ones? Has your Dad’s betrayal filled too much of your memories to remember the person who took the difficult road and stayed with you? Take some time to remember the girl who became an old woman trying to show you someone loved you enough to remain in your life.

    Reply
    • sandysewwhatever - July 23, 2018 9:25 pm

      Perhaps because she is still alive and deserves her privacy?

      Reply
  24. Debbie Reynolds - July 22, 2018 3:07 pm

    Thank you Sean for being such an inspiration to so many, including me! Oh my life is hard, but thanks to you we see a lot of good! Love you too!

    Reply
  25. Susan Kennedy - July 22, 2018 3:55 pm

    Love you back!

    Reply
  26. CaroG87 - July 22, 2018 4:12 pm

    Backatcha…. much love from a SC girl and her dog. You keep writing and sharing good stories.

    Reply
  27. Jack Darnell - July 22, 2018 4:45 pm

    ‘Em Grannies is good, even in SC. As ever was, good stuff! THANKS (But I am still mad, I did not see you wave when you passed thru the Charlotte area!) LOL

    Reply
  28. Jan - July 22, 2018 5:43 pm

    Another beautiful story! Thank you from a full time worrying mother / grandmother!

    Reply
  29. Debra - July 22, 2018 5:48 pm

    Sean, thank you and you too are loved.

    Reply
  30. Grace - July 22, 2018 7:09 pm

    I love that you love moms!❤️

    Reply
  31. C.E. HARBIN - July 22, 2018 10:24 pm

    Thank you for the kindness you show to ‘invisible’ people. It is rare to meet a kind person and even rarer to be able to read about what’s going on in the real world where most of us live. Thank you, again….and you are loved.

    Reply
  32. bbkornegay@wildblue.net - July 23, 2018 2:48 pm

    I love you too!♥️♥️♥️

    Reply
  33. edshunnybunny - July 24, 2018 12:23 am

    And your readers love you back, Sean! I’m one of your newest fans, but I already look forward to your daily posts. Keep ’em coming.

    Reply
  34. Sue Riddle Cronkite - August 8, 2018 1:49 pm

    You’re right. It’s worth a shot.

    Reply

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