Dear Sean

On my birthday last year, I sat on my porch and watched the sky. I sipped beer, took deep breaths, and counted stars.


I’ve got a son off at college, for two years. He never calls and hardly texts. Holidays and birthdays have gone by without even a text.

We drove to his college twice and he was too busy to see us. I thought we had a great relationship. Always gave him love and support.

Recently, we found out he was visiting town with his girlfriend and he didn’t even let us know or come by.

Any advice?


I have a letter for your son:

On my birthday last year, I sat on my porch and watched the sky. I sipped beer, took deep breaths, and counted stars.

I was thinking about a dead man. But I wasn’t sad—sadness wore off many years ago. I was lonely. And loneliness never fully goes away.

A little about me:

I learned how to drive stick-shift on my own. I learned how to tie a necktie by reading a book. I never learned to shave.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the biggest parts of my life happened without my father.

For instance, when I was younger, I bought a truck. I presented a boxful of cash to the lady selling it. It was a big day.

When she handed me the title, I was king of the Wiregrass. I wanted to tell Daddy about it. I wanted someone to be proud of me.

No dice.

And my wedding, of course. I was alone that day, too. I stood in the groom’s dressing room. I looked at my reflection and talked to myself.

“You’re a good boy, Sean,” I said aloud. I pretended it was Daddy saying those words.

And when I finished writing my first book. My wife threw a small party. There were illegal amounts of biscuits, tomato gravy, Conecuh Quickfreeze sausage, and Hank Williams music. Family. Friends. Layer cake.

But no Daddy.

I’ve gone through some unfun things, too, like anyone else. For example: when doctors found a lump in my wife’s breast. I was so worried that I quit eating.

I wish Daddy could’ve cheered me up with a story. Or at least taken me fishing. Pipe dreams.

Or: when my longtime friend did me wrong. I needed my Daddy then. I needed someone to tell me that this life will kick you in the teeth, but your daddy will always love you.

Also, I wish my father could’ve seen the winning grand slam of the World Series—hit by a kid from Pace, Florida. God. He would’ve loved that.

I wish Daddy could meet the girl I married. And my newborn niece. My dog. My in-laws. My friends.

I wish Daddy could’ve seen me grow into myself.

It’s taken my whole life do it. And my whole life happened without him. The whole duck and pigeon show. He never taught me how to tie neckties, drive a stick-shift, talk to girls, or balance a checkbook.

There’s a hole in me. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it’s a hole nonetheless, and I can’t change that.

You can.

Call your daddy today. I wish I could call mine.


  1. Scotty Merrill - July 29, 2017 1:25 pm

    I think you dwell way too much on your late father and his death by suicide. Maybe it’s time to let it go. You’ve about slung all the sympathy out of it.

    • Colleen Kelly Mellor - July 29, 2017 1:53 pm

      Why would anyone weigh in on another’s grieving as to whether it’s length of time is appropriate.. Sean’s letter says it all: The loneliness never goes away. Sadly, the kid who doesn’t bother with parents who supported him will miss that message.

      • Colleen Kelly Mellor - July 29, 2017 2:40 pm

        And by the way, the incorrect “it’s” above is not mine but autocorrect’s. IT’S used as possessive is one of my pet peeves (should be its).

    • Tana Branch - July 29, 2017 2:34 pm

      My daddy died at 36 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I was 10. I’m 74 and I’m not over it yet. Never will be. Gone is gone whatever the reason, length of days, years and regardless of my current wonderful life….the hole is there. I hear you, Sean.

    • Susan in Georgia - July 29, 2017 6:14 pm

      Oh my goodness, how sorry I am that this is the first comment on Sean’s story today. Scotty, that is your opinion, but it is sad that you felt it appropriate to add. No one EVER “gets over” a family suicide or the loss of loved ones completely. Sean, the words you wrote to the son of the father who wrote to you are genuine and beautiful. I sure hope the son sees it.

    • Nikki Gwin - July 30, 2017 2:27 am

      What an awful thing to say to someone. 🙁

    • Carolyn - August 2, 2017 3:35 am

      Scotty, your lack of sympathy is troubling. I hope your comment is out of ignorance from having never experienced devastating loss, rather from sheer coldheartedness.

  2. Diane Enloe - July 29, 2017 1:28 pm

  3. Nancy - July 29, 2017 1:51 pm

    Love this Sean. Helping someone with your words is a talent.

  4. Paul - July 29, 2017 1:57 pm

    PERFECT! Been there-done that. Both sides of story. No T-shirt!

  5. Catherine - July 29, 2017 2:06 pm

    Me too Sean. Wish I could get a hug from my Daddy.

  6. Judy Harris - July 29, 2017 2:18 pm

    The point you made is clear – Value your parents because time is limited. And there is no one better to hear that from than someone who knows first hand. Your words are priceless.

  7. Jack Quanstrum - July 29, 2017 2:41 pm

    Sad, but a story full of wisdom on how to live without. Thank you for sharing Sean. Shalom.

  8. jamie - July 29, 2017 2:46 pm

    I had many of the same experiences you did having the absence of a father. Only my dad was alive. In later years I was able to piece together his history which I’m pretty sure included abuse from his father. About the only thing I remember him saying of his father was, “He was never able to make me cry.” Dad’s generation was not one to share. I realized after High School graduation how dad did not have role model to emulate to be a father. He loved his wife and family. He was a good man who did the best he knew. I miss him.

  9. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - July 29, 2017 2:47 pm

    Scotty Merrill, you have the empathy of a doorknob! There is a void, Sean, and I wish I could tell you I understand completely. I don’t. I had my mamma and papà for many years. They are gone but there isn’t a day that I don’t miss them and wish I could call them and share my day. I wish I would have taken the time to call them more often and stop by and chat with them. It’s too late. I can’t change things. If I could, I would.

  10. Petey Kaletta - July 29, 2017 3:04 pm

    Sad for you Scotty Merrill, that you did not understand the sharing of Sean’s experience was simply to illustrate to the young man that fathers are valuable. Besides that, the experiences of our life make us who we are and losing his father at a young age certainly helped make Sean the caring, thoughtful person that he is today.

  11. Sandra Marrar - July 29, 2017 3:05 pm

    It’s 20 years in December since I lost my Daddy. I miss him everyday.

  12. Pat - July 29, 2017 3:05 pm

    Back to the subject of the letter. This son has gone out of his way to avoid his parents for two years? I suspect something else is going on here.

  13. Esteban Rudman - July 29, 2017 3:48 pm

    Karma. The more or less universal understanding that what goes around comes around. The law of the harvest. We reap what we sow. Narcissism has its immediate rewards, the moments of pleasure that soon fade and, like candy bars, leave us hungrier than ever. According to Viktor Frankl, three things give our lives meaning: loving relationships, creative work, and spiritual connection. Unless he is a sociopath, the young man will experience a deep loneliness and he will swallow the dry cobs of regret. The inevitable long-term consequences of narcissistic behavior. Sean, you are a great teacher. Those who cannot learn from your kind words will learn the law of the harvest.

  14. Ben Martin - July 29, 2017 4:08 pm

    This note is to the Scotty Merrills of the world. Thankfully we’re in a country that has freedom of choice and freedom of speech. Sean is exercising his freedom of speech every day, and he chooses to make it a positive, uplifting, thought provoking, and soul searching message for which many of us are thankful. It’s rare in this world to find this type of message. I know the Scotty Merrills of the world also have freedom of speech, and this Scotty Merrill chose to be critical, and that’s his “right” as someone living in America. However, instead of ruining Sean’s day, and possibly affecting the positive impact he has on his world, why don’t you exercise your freedom of choice and unsubscribe. Otherwise, please consider the consequence of your words before you hit submit. Have a great day!!

  15. Kathy - July 29, 2017 5:30 pm


  16. Marty from Alabama - July 29, 2017 7:31 pm

    This letter needs to be sent to a lot of people. Sorry you had the experience to be able to write it. Your daddy and mama are your best friends. But sometimes we just don’t see it until ….

  17. Thomas Savage - July 29, 2017 7:57 pm

    I hope “Daddy” isn’t paying college expenses. My rule is no contact no funds.

  18. Janet Mary Lee - July 29, 2017 8:09 pm

    Yep, it would be a step to send Sean’s letter. And yes, something else is going on there in that relationship…. Scottie, the letter was about Fathers…You are incredibly insensitive with your posting. I too hate it was first. However it is wonderful fodder for another great Sean column.

    Not all people lose their parents to death, no matter in any mode. I lost my mother by 16 due to mental illness and divorce, and my father too thru divorce and his upbringing which was not an open sharing of many things though he died at 70.

    Not a day goes by that I am not affected or miss those relationships. I am 64. It does not go away ever. It just changes forms.

    • Jack Quanstrum - July 29, 2017 8:38 pm

      So, so agree with you!

      • Janet Mary Lee - July 29, 2017 8:51 pm

        Sounds like the experience many have…

  19. Laura Fryburg - July 29, 2017 8:46 pm

    Sean as my great grandmother said “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders”. She was born in SW Va in 1860 and died when I was five in 1960.
    I have heard these kinds of stories before. It makes my heart hurt.
    I was an RN for 38 years. People used to say these kinds of things to me too.
    Maybe this man’s son will wake up and realize he was in the wrong and apologise for being young and stupid.
    Maybe he won’t. All I can say to anyone within ear shot you never know what will happen in 10 minutes from now. It’s important to say things that need to be said. It may be painful, it may not. But you just have to say the things that lay heavy on your heart. You just never know.
    Thanks Sean . You help make me a better human .

    • Jack Quanstrum - July 29, 2017 8:50 pm

      So true!

      • Janet Mary Lee - July 29, 2017 8:53 pm

        a wise post…thank you!

  20. Rene Hodges - July 29, 2017 11:50 pm

    Loved this post and shared it with a bunch of my friends and family. When my dad died, the world got a little dimmer. I am a realtor and it is my second career after getting out of broadcast sales. I can’t remember a day I didn’t want to pick up the phone and ask my dad a question about a band sill or a ledger board or roof pitch. He was a general contractor and was known to cut to the chase! Miss him every single day.

  21. Kathy Burgess - July 30, 2017 5:19 am

    I wish I could call mine, too, Sean.

  22. Connie - July 30, 2017 12:37 pm

    Beautiful and heart breaking.

  23. Bill Powell - July 30, 2017 3:33 pm

    My father died when I was only 19 months old and my mother raised me by herself. My mother died in 1996 at the age of 89 and I’m now 73. I can’t relate to having a father to go fishing with or anything like that. I used to ask my mother that I wanted a dad but I guess she never met a man that could measure up to my father. As I grew into manhood, my mother would say “you are getting more like your father every day”. I didn’t know what that was because I never knew him. Sean, reading about your father brings back all these old memories. Whether good or mad I really miss not having a father.
    War Eagle — Bill

  24. Judy - July 30, 2017 7:01 pm

    Beautiful & heartbreaking. I too am living (totally alone) without so much as an.occasional call to see if I’m still alive. My son lives 12 miles away & has a 3 yr old daughter I’ve only seen 3 times. (I drove there & vdropped in” uninvited. I raised my 3 kids mostly alone, a single parent struggling to keep food on the table. Now I’m disabled & in constant severe pain. I don’t have money they can borrow & can no longer go stay with my grandchildren for days on end. I have 3 children & none ever even call much less come by. My grandsons who live in Japan call me monthly. I don’t hear from anybody here. I think I’ll change the genders in your letter (with your permission) & send it to them. They ignored my letter asking if I’d done something wrong so I could apologize & make amends. I was there for them all their lives. I gave them a good home. I don’t understand why they totally ignore me now. I know this though, it sure does hurt. Thank you for writing the letter. Maybe it will help wake some aduly offspring up, even if my 3 aren’t among them. Sincerely, Judy Holley

    • Janet Mary Lee - July 31, 2017 4:55 pm

      Judy, your reply went to my heart. My children were raised well. I am alone now due to divorce after 40 years. I get no visits from my kids either. My daughter thinks it is too painful to come home. My son is busy and gets home about once a year. They both live about 15 miles away. I am lucky that my daughter and I go to shows, and occasionally to eat. My son has me over as he can, as his wife would rather be with her folks. She is more comfortable. And we get together, though not as often as I wish. As you can imagine, there is hurt mixed with pain. I see my grandkids when I want. But I have to plan and drive, and am 64, but not in the greatest of health. Fact is, I get tired. And I wonder, did I forget something raising them? But I talk with others my age and older. Same thing, no matter if they were raised well or troubled. Maybe our fast paced world is just too much, and we do not live in the same houses like people used to. I just know this sadness is echoed by many. And we all are tired.. But my best friend is Jesus, and my Father is God, who created beyond belief and imagination. Not shabby company. I have an old border collie and a younger hound who keep me company and keep me smiling. I shake my head, as I said, they were raised well. Part of it is this world, and part is our personal troubles. Do what you can do about it, then let go!! You have a friend here that will pray for you every day!! And some of Sean’s good and inspiring advice. And that’s not bad!!

  25. Meloney - July 30, 2017 8:16 pm

    That was well written. I miss both my biological dad and adopted dad every day and one day when that young man no longer has a dad…he will miss him too.

  26. Kathleen Dempsey - July 31, 2017 12:55 pm

    Sean ,
    I’m a northerner. Born up-state N.Y. Spent most of my life in Ct. with a little bit of Ut. & Fl. thrown in.

    You’re style lets me enjoy the way of the south . It’s become important to me. Finding my biological Father ,this year , a southerner from N.C. is a great gift and a wonder . How blessed am I that I have 2 great Dad’s.
    One that put up with me and one that gets the ever so slightly polished version . I’m now 63. I’m a bit reluctant to tell you of them because of your own Father story , for fear I seem to be a bragger. However it was through my newly acquainted Cousin that I was introduced to you and your writing.
    Thank you . Your observations of experiences of people is charming and charitable .
    I had a dream last night that I was with my Son again , he was not his 25 yr old self , but a 10 yr 0ld version . He had ended his life 16 yrs ago . I have been ok as a Mother can be , trusting in the Lord . The dream left me feeling sad because I used my time in my dream to scold him for ending his life. Now , this has no weight on you Sean or anyone else for that matter . This is simply a way for me to let my eyes moist up again after many years of ” feeling ok.” and to speak of him , my Donny, when it probably pains those around me to hear of him . After all there are no more words of comfort which can be said by another moral being to uplift my heart after 16 years I guess , all kind and loving words have been great fully received .
    After pondering my actions in my dream I believe, it’s a warning to me to spend my time in loving others and not in ” scolding”.
    This is longer than a book , so I’ll end now with another Thank you . Thanks for the connection to the heart from one ole Northern gal to one great Southern writer , you Sean of the South . I think I’m a little bit North and a Lil bit South after all .

    • Kathleen Dempsey - July 31, 2017 12:58 pm



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