Dear Sean

He was an upright bassist. An ex-professor of music at Auburn University. A fanatic for Ray Charles, Beethoven, Nat King Cole, Strauss, and Hank Williams.

DEAR SEAN:

I was wondering if you have any bad habits or vices. I have a couple, drinking and smoking, mostly, and I feel like they’re holding me back. Any advice?

Best,
DRINKING TOO MUCH

DEAR DRINKING:

Sure, I have bad habits. I wait too long to file income taxes. I haven’t made my bed since nineteen hundred and twenty. I avoid confrontation. And according to my doc: I eat too much barbecued pork.

I also apologize too much—which is an embarrassing habit. I don’t know why I do it.

I’m sorry.

My friend, Davey, was king of bad habits. Davey was an alcoholic for most of his life. And when I say “alcoholic,” I mean: face-down-in-his-own-vomit-for-six-hours alcoholic.

We painted houses together. At night, we played music at various bars and beer-joints.

He was an upright bassist. An ex-professor of music at Auburn University. A fanatic for Ray Charles, Beethoven, Nat King Cole, Strauss, and Hank Williams.

He was in his seventies, but years of hard living made him look two hundred years old. He had white hair, pale skin, stubbly face.

His one-bedroom apartment was on Campbell Street. His walls were lined with books—floor to ceiling. A feral cat lived on his porch. Dirty dishes sat in his sink.

Davey puffed Winstons all day. His emphysema was so bad he barely had the diaphragm-strength to smoke.

One night, we played in a Pensacola joint. He sat on a barstool during the break. The bartender asked what he wanted.

Davey buried his head and said, “Whatever you do, DON’T give me what I ask for.”

She looked at him and blinked. He ordered a stiff drink. She told him to get lost.

“Thank you, ma’am,” he said, then he tipped her a five.

We walked outside. He burned through a handful of Winstons, staring at the night.

He said, “You think anyone will even miss me when I die?”

Yes, I do.

Davey didn’t always stand strong against demons. There were bad nights. But I refuse to hold that against him. He was my friend.

And fatherless boys like me need all the friends we can get.

He taught me things. He showed me to play “Your Cheating Heart,” and “Stars Fell on Alabama,” and “Für Elise.” He loaned me money, even though he had none. He helped me be a grown man.

I have a quartz rock. It was a gift. Davey gave it to me, long ago when I was a smooth-faced teenager.

He said, “Whenever you look at this, I want you to think of your buddy Davey, and how much this old fool loved you.”

I’m looking at that rock now.

It’s just a stone, but it reminds me of an old unkempt man who once told a boy he was special. And a young boy who half-believed him.

Anyway, I apologize. I lost track of what I was talking about.

Oh yeah.

Bad habits. To tell you the truth, I don’t have answers, I’m Joe-Nobody from nowhere. I’m not qualified to give advice to a Labrador.

Just be good to yourself.

There’s some kid out there who’s going to cry very hard when you’re gone.

26 comments

  1. Regina Chandler - June 28, 2017 1:40 pm

    You did it again. You can touch me so quickly. It is evident your words come from your heart. Wouldn’t this world be more stable if more of us had a heart such as yours? Thank you for sharing with us.

    Reply
  2. Cathi Russell - June 28, 2017 2:07 pm

    You got me…again. Have a great day!

    Reply
  3. Jan - June 28, 2017 2:12 pm

    Amen and Amen!

    Reply
  4. Esteban Rudman - June 28, 2017 2:26 pm

    You aced it, Sean.

    Reply
  5. Thressa - June 28, 2017 2:27 pm

    My heart always goes out to you.
    Almost everyone has a talent or hobby to share with someone else. Share!! Share part of yourself with someone! Perhaps it will put your addictions and demons at bay.
    As a Christian I would also offer to share Jesus.

    Reply
  6. Esteban Rudman - June 28, 2017 2:37 pm

    You aced it, Sean. Love is the answer. And to love others, one needs to be in condition to love. Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF. And if you can’t love yourself… well, that’s where getting right with Jesus will help. We are not alone.

    Reply
  7. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - June 28, 2017 2:51 pm

    Doggone it! I eating lunch as I read this and I can’t swallow. The lump in my throat is huge and I don’t want to spit out my food. Very unladylike. All I know that you were special to a man who needed special in his life. Not too many people out there like that.

    Reply
  8. Teresa terry - June 28, 2017 3:02 pm

    Oh, you made me cry! And I don’t cry. I love reading you.

    Reply
  9. Donna - June 28, 2017 4:37 pm

    I love this, the part about not making your bed cracked me up! Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  10. Bobbie - June 28, 2017 4:38 pm

    Oh Sean, you give the best “unqualified” advice!

    Reply
  11. Mark Elder - June 28, 2017 5:51 pm

    Dear Drinking too Much,
    What Sean said and I’m pulling for you on this one. Take good care of yourself.
    Mark

    Reply
  12. Betty Hardin - June 28, 2017 6:43 pm

    Your remark about your unmade bed reminded me of my four boys…thought I could wait them out and they would make their bed, but no dice!

    Reply
  13. Michael Bishop - June 28, 2017 7:06 pm

    Several good pieces this week, Sean. I don’t have anything to add to the ones posted here, or to the ones posted on this week’s earlier essays, but I do want to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing in your own inimitable way. And forgive me if I don’t check in again for a while. . . .

    Reply
  14. Jack Quanstrum - June 28, 2017 8:42 pm

    Don’t judge others. Don’t think you have answers. Be good to others. Take of yourself. And be grateful. The book of Jack.

    Reply
  15. Jack Quanstrum - June 28, 2017 8:44 pm

    The comment should read take care of yourself. Sorry.

    Reply
  16. Ann McCray - June 28, 2017 11:55 pm

    A good friend introduced me to your writings…what a gift! I have enjoyed and
    felt each one I have read. Thank you!

    Reply
  17. Anne Trawick - June 29, 2017 4:37 am

    Broke my heart again.

    Reply
  18. Mary Beth - August 17, 2017 10:34 am

    The best part of waking up…is reading “Sean of the South” in the morning! My, my, my…how a few words from the heart can change the attitudes of many. The Bible says that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”. Your heart is chocked full of good! Thank you for sharing it with all of us!

    Reply
  19. Deanna J - August 17, 2017 12:39 pm

    Keep it up!

    Reply
  20. Steve Scott - August 17, 2017 12:59 pm

    Hi Sean, Very much enjoyed this story. I went to Auburn in the early sixties, majored in Music, studied with Bob (Fop) Richardson and knew a bass player named Davey Jones who sounds like your character but I don’t think he lived that long. He was from Tuskegee and somewhat of an irascible creature. I just subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading your stuff. I am a rank amateur at writing but am in a little writing group on Columbus, have my fifth children’s book coming out soon and will be doing a workshop on children’s lit at the Chattahoochee Writer’s Conference in Columbus next month. Rick Bragg is our keynote speaker. I have a little blog called: Chattin’ the Hooch – Ramblings of a Retired Mind. http://chattinthehooch.columbusandthevalley.com. Steve Scott

    Reply
  21. Ben smith - August 17, 2017 1:04 pm

    Awesome there isn’t many people in this World that don’t have vices. They come in all different ways. That’s a fact.

    Reply
  22. GiJo - August 17, 2017 2:14 pm

    … no words just tears while I’m trying to catch my breath on this one. My son would’ve loved reading you.

    Reply
  23. Sandra Simpson - August 17, 2017 3:09 pm

    Dear Sean
    You are such a good writer. You have a gift of being able to take the ordinary and make it remarkable. That is not a gift very many people have. I am so glad you share it with all of us. I hope that part of you never changes.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  24. Mary Crenshaw - August 17, 2017 7:01 pm

    we all need a friend like him.

    Reply
  25. Janet Mary Lee - August 17, 2017 7:26 pm

    We all need a friend like you!! With your heart!

    Reply
  26. Sam Seetin - August 17, 2017 10:36 pm

    Arf, arf …now give me 100 push ups for befriending an Auburn dude. Kiding aside… good stuff, now mark twain fathoms and write a novel.

    Reply

Leave a Reply