Father’s Day

I remember the blue shirt he wore the last time I saw him. I remember him singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” while fishing the river. I remember the way he swallowed his tongue for the amusement of his boy.

The Choctawhatchee Bay is calm this morning. I’m fishing. I always fish on Father’s Day weekend.

There is a blue heron standing on the shore, looking at me. He doesn’t move. He only stares.

Strange bird.

Today has been an unproductive day. I caught exactly one catfish and an old Pepsi bottle.

I have eaten my weight in Conecuh Quick Freeze Sausage and Bunny bread.

Things were going fine until this bird showed up for a staring contest.

My wife believes people come back as birds after they die. I don’t know how she came up with this idea.

Once, outside Mobile, we stopped on a red dirt road so she could introduce herself to a flock of turkey buzzards in a hayfield.

An ugly bird stood a few yards away from the flock. It stared at my wife and would not move.

“Do you see that bird?” she said with a grin. “That’s gotta be my daddy!”

I threatened to carry her off to Searcy if she didn’t get back into the truck. She ignored me.

But this heron is not ignoring me. He looks at me with sharp eyes. Maybe my wife is on to something. This bird could almost pass for my late father if you used your imagination. Long legs. Bone skinny. Quiet.

“Hey,” I yell to him.

He is unmoved.

“Don’t you have anything to say to me?” I ask.

The bird doesn’t even blink.

So I cast my line into the water and pretend I can’t see him. He steps closer.

I miss my father. I’m ashamed to tell you that. Because it’s been too many years, I should be over him. I should be grown up. I’m not.

It’s Father’s Day weekend, and I’m twelve all over again, floating in my boat.

I remember watching Daddy look at a flock of birds, once. His skinny legs came clear up to his shoulders. His gaunty neck was ten-feet long.

He said, “Birds really have it made, don’t they? They all seem so, so…”

Peaceful. Carefree. Happy. Fill in the blank.

Anyway, it gets harder to remember his face, or his laugh. And it’s hard to remember his voice. But I do have a few memories to chew on. And today they’ll have to hold me.

I remember the blue shirt he wore the last time I saw him. I remember him singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” while fishing the river. I remember the way he swallowed his tongue for the amusement of his boy.

And I remember the last words he said to me: “I’ll see you tomorrow, son.”

Son.

Nobody’s called me that in a thousand years. I don’t even remember what it feels like to be one. But I’m not sad, today. I’m just remembering is all.

The heron leaps into the air. He takes flight. He makes big circles. His ten-foot-long neck is something else.

He moves so gently, it looks like he’s not even trying. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that bird was carefree. Happy, even.

I pray he is.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

19 comments

  1. Arlene - June 18, 2017 4:54 pm

    No father could ask for a better son. You have done him proud.

    Reply
  2. Pat - June 18, 2017 5:01 pm

    <3

    Reply
  3. Pat - June 18, 2017 5:02 pm

    * that was meant to be a heart in a fancy typeface~

    Reply
  4. Rolfe - June 18, 2017 5:08 pm

    Another great one. I wish a lot of things could be as easy as a heron reaching with his wings and pulling up on the air.

    Reply
  5. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - June 18, 2017 5:22 pm

    Got me teary-eyed again! I miss my papà too. I think he’s watching over you and his heart is filled with pride at how well you turned out. Bless you.

    Reply
  6. George Buchanan - June 18, 2017 5:24 pm

    You have such a way with words! I miss my Daddy every day. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads in Heaven.

    Reply
  7. John Jay - June 18, 2017 6:25 pm

    I lost my father when I was 20 years old, not eight. It still hurt bad…it still does 46 years later. My dad’s death changed my life in so many ways, and not always for what I thought was the best way, but I miss my dad. I think I miss him and his “dadness”, I miss his companionship, and his friendship. Where he was there is still a hole in my heart. He was a good Daddy. I was so lucky to have him.

    Reply
  8. Sam Hunneman - June 18, 2017 7:05 pm

    57. I was 29. There’s no “should” in mourning, and there’s no “getting over it.” Living with it – or without him, as the case may be – that’s all we can do, eh? And tell each other it’s OK, that some of us just need to go home earlier than others. It’s geese with my dad. North in the spring, South in the fall. I just feel him passing over.

    Reply
  9. James Thomason - June 18, 2017 8:23 pm

    I enjoy your writing. I’m lucky. I lost my dad just over a year ago. He lived until he was almost 85. 25 years after his first heart attack. He always took me fishing even though I’m sure he would have caught more without a little kid complaining about being bored and wanting to go home. I am stocky with big calfs like my maternal grandfather, Big Daddy, but my dad was 6′ 1″ with skinny legs like that Herron. I miss him but I am glad that he lived long enough to know my three sons and they could know how great a man their grandfather was. He only went to the 7th grade but sent me through engineering school at the University of Alabama and lived to see two of his grandsons graduate from Alabama and the other graduate from Auburn. Not bad for a lint head cotton mill worker who only went to the 7th grade before he started working in a saw mill to support his family. Kind of like in Rick Bragg’s book, The Most Thet Ever Had. Long message but feeling a little emotional today.

    Reply
  10. Marty from Alabama - June 18, 2017 8:31 pm

    OK, Sean. You have got to stop. No, not the posts, but the type. Two days of tears and I’m about to blubber out. How ’bout a funny haha post? Just kidding. Into every life, you know the rest. Your posts are up right after my morning devos. Sometimes I feel like I’m sitting in the swing hanging in the big oak tree just letting it twirl around. The birds are singing, ducks quacking and the geese are out in the lot where they can’t bite you. Another partial lyric and I’m gone: Take me home . . .

    Reply
  11. Todd - June 18, 2017 9:49 pm

    Thanks, Sean. What a great post. But no shame in still missing your daddy. I am 53 years old and my dad passed away in 2012. He was a preacher. Today in church his favorite song was the first one we sang, and during the offering the pianist played a lovely rendition of “In The Garden”, which is the first song I ever learned while my dad played a piano in a nursing home for the residents when I was a little boy. Coincidence? I don’t know. What I do know is that I felt my father during church today and the tears flowed. I did not even wipe them away. There’s no shame in missing your daddy.

    Reply
  12. Jack Quanstrum - June 18, 2017 11:23 pm

    Sweet story! Makes me think alot about my dad. No longer here. Thank you Sean for the story because I am remembering good things about my Dad. Things like riding his old time bicycle at 92 and still bowling at 91 as well as playing golf. He never quite anything in his his life and that was freeing for him.

    Reply
  13. Bobbie - June 18, 2017 11:52 pm

    Happy Father’s Day, son!

    Reply
  14. Diane Enloe - June 19, 2017 1:15 am

    Just so good, as always! Happy Father’s Day, Sean!

    Reply
  15. Vicki Parnell - June 19, 2017 3:40 pm

    Oh my sweet goodness. I just found you Friday, thanks to my cousin in Chatom, AL and the article about Courthouse Drugs.
    I haven’t heard “Searcy” in for EVER!. When I first moved away from Chatom and used that expression, many people looked at me like I was crazy, first time I realized “you’re not in ALABAMA any more”.
    Thank you for your blog. Keep those Alabama stories coming, they make me homesick and I need that. Especially around Fathers Day.

    Reply
  16. Barbara Nelle Ewell - June 19, 2017 6:20 pm

    Sometimes you break my heart. Bless you.

    Reply
  17. Marsha - June 19, 2017 11:21 pm

    I am 51 years old. My momma died of colon cancer when I was 13 . I spent 20 years trying to forget that my momma died, drugs, alcohol. Today I am sober. And sad. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my momma. The hurt never goes away. I am still trying to be the mom to my 24 year old daughter, that my momma would be proud of.

    Reply
  18. Starla - June 20, 2017 2:36 am

    My Dad died when I was 7 days old and unconsciously I’ve spent a lot of time looking for signs of him. Although
    When I was growing up in Dothan, there was a cardinal that showed up every morning on the fence outside my bedroom window for maybe 5 or 6 months. I’d like to think he had a feathered friend looking out for me. I guess I’ll always be looking for my Dad

    Reply
  19. Robert Carlson - June 20, 2017 8:34 pm

    Hey Sean!

    I’ve been reading your emails and enjoying them…actually they make my day…most days.

    You know, son, you’ve got a way with words that stops our thinking and makes us take notice…especially of others.

    Son, hope you don’t mind my calling you that, I want you to know that I’d be proud to be your dad and I want you to know that your Dad’s real proud of his son…YOU!

    The Lord’s blessings to you and your family and all you hold dear,
    Bob

    Reply

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