Far From Home

he’s a happy man and in twenty minutes, he’ll be off work. He’s excited, he tells me, because tonight’s a big night. He’s going to introduce his girlfriend to his parents.

Colorado Springs—I found a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk. And because I am a competent, responsible adult, I raced toward the money, shouting, “MINE! MINE!” at my wife.

There they were, two Andrew Jacksons, crumpled. I made the same sound a five-year-old boy makes when he discovers the Tootsie Roll center to a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop.

I don’t often find money. It’s not one of my skills. I have a friend who finds money everywhere. He once found a hundred big ones outside a convenience store. I happened to be with him when it happened.

I never forgave him.

Thus, with my newfound wealth, I walked into a giftshop to do some dutiful vacation-junk purchasing. Here in Colorado, I am a tourist, and a tourist can never have enough plastic junk to clutter up his home, office, garage, guest bedroom, or storage unit.

Then, I overheard his voice.

He was behind the cash register, talking to a customer. His accent was pure Alabama. It had to be. He drew out his vowels the same way Good Ole Boys have been doing since the invention of the beer koozie.

I waited in line with an armful of overpriced trash. I was buying more than twenty-bucks’ worth—three T-shirts, a snow globe, a coffee mug, and a few bumper stickers for my accordion case.

That’s right, I play accordion. My grandfather played, too. Grandaddy told me long ago that the accordion was a great way to pick up chicks. He was grossly misinformed.

When it was my turn, I asked the gray-haired man at the cash register where he was from.

“Montgomery,” he said.

Bingo. Alabamians, you’ll note, don’t say “MONT-gomery” like the rest of the free world. They say, “Muh-GUM-ree.”

“How’d you get out here?” I asked.

“Long story,” he said. “I came here for my parents. They’re old and not doing so good. I’m real homesick though.”

He works here part-time, then leaves for his full-time job, caring for folks who are in their late-eighties. His mother has dementia, his father is a few steps from hospice. Most days, he comes to work tired, but he gets through it somehow.

Not long ago, he used to wait tables, but the schedule became too much to handle. The life of a gift-shop cashier is a much better fit.

And even though he doesn’t say it, I’ll bet he’s a wreck inside. Caring for sick people will age a man.

Even so, he’s a happy man. And in twenty minutes, he’ll be off work. He’s excited, he tells me, because tonight’s a big night. He’s going to introduce his girlfriend to his parents.

“I can’t wait,” he says. “I’m gonna cook us all steaks, and I just hope my mom has her mind tonight.”

I ask about his folks.

“My dad’s from Montgomery,” he went on. “My mom’s from a little town called Opp, ever heard of it?”

Heard of it? I’ve eaten boiled peanuts while watching a buck-dancing contest at the annual Rattlesnake Rodeo.

“Yeah,” he said. “I miss home, but it is pretty out here, my girlfriend and I love to hike, whenever I get free time.”

When his father developed cancer, he moved in with his mother and started taking care of him. Then, his mother started showing early signs of dementia, and it’s been a battle ever since.

And I wish I could have gotten more of his story, but the line of customers behind me was growing. People were getting impatient. One woman even cleared her throat and rolled her eyes at me.

So I paid my bill.

“Whoops,” he said, counting my cash. “I think you accidentally gave me an extra twenty.”

No sir. It was no accident. I only wish it were more. Call me if you ever want to go to the Rattlesnake Rodeo.

Good luck at dinner tonight.

15 comments

  1. theholtgirls - June 3, 2018 6:29 am

    You are such a blessing!

    Reply
  2. FRAN PURSER - June 3, 2018 6:55 am

    Here’s another gushy comment about how wonderful your stories are and how much they mean to me. Except, well , some days, lately, you’ve been my only big bright spot. I need it and so appreciate your efforts on behalf of your readers and fans all that much more. I feel like we’re friends. I share that with everyone posting, I’m sure. Thank you. I sure do appreciate my friends. Fran

    Reply
  3. Pat - June 3, 2018 10:23 am

    Good one! People everywhere struggle but also find things to be excited about. I like the way you describe the situations!

    Reply
  4. Thomas - June 3, 2018 10:28 am

    I thought I was the only person born in Opp. We are born there, then spread like seeds.

    Reply
  5. JULIE POEHLMAN - June 3, 2018 10:40 am

    Sean, I’m proud of you. I’m an only child and always wanted a brother, could you be him? I love to give. Since we couldn’t have kids, just four legged fur balls, I love to give to the unexpected person. Giving gives me joy. Seems like you have that trait too. I have been dreaming of movig to the mountains of east TN. That place makes my heart happy. As the bumper sticker says ” I WASN’T BORN IN THE SOUTH, BUT I GOT HERE AS SOON AS I COULD !” So, keep on giving. Giving is living. Thanks for the giving you do with your words.

    Reply
  6. Nancy Rogers - June 3, 2018 12:25 pm

    See, it truly is a “small world” after all.

    Reply
  7. Jack Darnell - June 3, 2018 1:30 pm

    Been to Opp, we have a very sweet and older lady friend there. Toughest woman you would ever meet! Still cuts her grass and cuts down trees to save her cat! Washes her own car and truck.
    BTW enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  8. Edna B. - June 3, 2018 1:56 pm

    Your new friend sounds like a wonderful young man. I’m sure his Mom will like his girlfriend. And that was a nice gesture on your part too. Your mom must be wicked proud of you. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  9. Nancy - June 3, 2018 2:05 pm

    I’m from Opp. Wonder who his mother is. Folks from Opp tend to know each other.

    Reply
  10. Scott - June 3, 2018 4:38 pm

    Best feeling I know of. Helping someone who can’t do a thing for you. Wish I did it more often.

    Reply
  11. Jack Quanstrum - June 3, 2018 4:53 pm

    Great story ! Put a smile on my face!

    Reply
  12. Jan - June 3, 2018 4:59 pm

    Awesome story! I do believe God puts people in your path Sean … people who need encouragement, someone to listen and understand. Of course the extra twenty, the ride or help in some way doesn’t hurt. And your readers are on that list as well – needing your encouragement, your insight and your belief that most people are good inside if you just give them a chance!

    Reply
  13. Harriet - June 3, 2018 6:22 pm

    I’m another one from Opp although I haven’t lived there for over fifty years. We Oppians are spread everywhere, but, to most of us, Opp is still home. Thank you for your kindness to your Opp acquaintance.

    Reply
  14. Linda Chapman - June 4, 2018 3:50 pm

    I know your mother must be so proud of you! I am!

    Reply
  15. Beckie - August 1, 2018 11:13 am

    I look to forward to reading your stories every day. You inspire me to pay attention and look for the good out there. Some days I have to look really hard to find it but it is there. Thank you for all you do.

    Reply

Leave a Reply