Good Boys

So I’m doing a lot of thinking about Brian. I’ve never met him, and I have no idea how his daddy met his end. But I know this kid. In fact, I’ve lived with him all my life.

Whataburger is crowded with little boys in dusty baseball uniforms. The place is alive with laughing, happy voices, and cleats clicking on the floor.

They stand in line and pay with handfuls of sweaty cash.

When the herd gathers around tables, nobody is eating. Not yet. They are waiting for something.

One of the adults tells the boys to remove caps. Everyone bows heads.

“Dear Lord,” the man says. “Bless this food…”

All eyes close tight. All mouths clamp shut.

“And God,” he goes on. “Be with Brian and his family tomorrow, when they put his daddy to rest.”

One boy starts crying. The prayer stops.

The kid is becoming hysterical. A team-mother takes him outside. I can see them through a window. She lets him cry into her shirt.

Another boy follows outside. Then another. Soon, the team is huddled together on the sidewalk.

Brian.

So I’m doing a lot of thinking about Brian. I’ve never met him, and I have no idea how his daddy met his end. But I know this kid.

In fact, I’ve lived with him all my life.

A little about him: he’s a first baseman. He likes cowboy movies, he wants to learn guitar one day.

He likes biscuits and gravy—but only the kind his mama makes. He likes old and rusty things. He likes anything Ford. He has imagination, and sometimes this lands him in trouble.

He fishes, but isn’t very good at it. He climbs trees, but scares when he gets too high.

I also know that on the day after his father’s funeral, the kid will sit in his father’s work truck and talk to a ghost.

The truck smells like his daddy. There will be receipts in the ashtray. A Styrofoam cup of sun-dried Coca-Cola. A pair of rubber boots behind the seat.

And years later, the kid will be able to close his eyes and remember the smell of that interior.

Anyway, the boy will grow up fast. His nose will get bigger. His legs will grow long. His face will develop a few lines. He will have back surgery. He won’t sleep as well as he used to.

One day, he will look in a mirror and not see the kid anymore. He will see someone identical to his daddy. The same red hair, same out-of-proportion lanky legs.

On that day, the kid will be an adult. Sort of.

In some ways, he’ll never grow up. He will still like the same music, he will still read cheap cowboy novels. He will still watch baseball and believe, squarely, that he has the athletic facility to replace a first-baseman on the Braves.

He will still be the kid who once cried in front of his teammates at a Dairy Queen until Daryl’s mother had to help him to the car.

Or a Whatabuger.

And he will still talk to a ghost. And sometimes, he’ll do this in public.

“Daddy,” the adult kid will say. “I know you’re busy, but if you could tell God to look after a kid who just lost his father, I’d be obliged.”

The child’s name is Brian. He’s a good boy. I know this.

Because he is me.

29 comments

  1. Virginia - July 26, 2017 1:49 pm

    You must be a very special guy. It’s good to know there are good people left in this world. Don’t know how the younger generations will ever be able to have these memories. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Sweeney - July 26, 2017 2:33 pm

    He’s a lot of people, boys and girls, men and women. I am sorry for your loss and Brian’s too. I miss my dad everyday.

    Reply
  3. Lucretia Jones - July 26, 2017 2:54 pm

    Tears of deep emotion to my heart, mind, and eyes. . .I thank you. . .

    Reply
  4. Jean Percival - July 26, 2017 3:23 pm

    Well, you did it! This one had me in tears at the prayer. Thank you for sharing your life with us. God bless you.

    Reply
  5. Melodie - July 26, 2017 3:49 pm

    Once again, you have touched my heart and those of many others, I’m sure. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Debbie Galladora - July 26, 2017 3:56 pm

    My husband…

    Reply
  7. Barbara Nelle Ewell - July 26, 2017 4:14 pm

    I do cherish your words. And you. And Jamie. Now Brian.

    PS: & Mr. Latham.

    Reply
  8. Doris Wismer - July 26, 2017 4:23 pm

    Out of the park

    Reply
  9. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - July 26, 2017 4:59 pm

    Well, I’m crying in my lunch! Normally it’s breakfast but I had to leave before your post came out. How I’d love to give Brian a hug — I’d let him cry all over my shirt. I wish I could tell him everything will be all right — I wish I could be that certain. I do know that I can send my prayers up with yours to ask God to watch over him.

    Reply
  10. Jackie - July 26, 2017 5:16 pm

    Prayers for all of the Brians and Seans and rest of us who miss our daddies.

    Reply
  11. Jeannie - July 26, 2017 5:47 pm

    I pray that somehow this writing gets to Brian. He needs it today and everyday for the rest of his life!

    Reply
  12. Laura Young - July 26, 2017 6:51 pm

    We always feel the pain of loss, even many, many years later. I am glad Brian has people who love him, give him hugs and let him know it is okay to miss your Daddy even long after you have grown to be a man. I just know your daddy will pass on your message to God.

    Reply
  13. Sam Hunneman - July 26, 2017 7:31 pm

    Bless you, Sean. You’re a good kid. And a good man.

    Reply
  14. Kathy Barham - July 26, 2017 9:37 pm

    Sean,
    You open hearts and chase away demons.
    You love the South because of our people.
    You exhibit the best of us in your illustrations as well as your life perspective.
    You make me never, never want to leave.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  15. john niolon - July 26, 2017 9:49 pm

    God bless you Sean… I’m 70 next Monday and still talk to my dad and mom… they still give good counsel.

    j

    Reply
  16. Jack Quanstrum - July 26, 2017 10:16 pm

    Beautiful and touching story of self expression. Good work. Peace be with you!

    Reply
  17. Elizabeth Westmark - July 27, 2017 1:38 am

    I made coffee for all the neighbors the night my Daddy died in 1964. I was 13, with one brother 3 years younger and one 3 years older. The flood didn’t hit until, as a newlywed girl, I watched Lyndon Johnson’s funeral service on TV. I was okay until the choir sang The Old Rugged Cross., my Daddy’s favorite hymn.

    Thanks for your authenticity and wonderful writing.

    Reply
  18. Carol - July 27, 2017 3:54 am

    I can still smell my daddy’s car as he drove us to school on cold winter mornings in Alabama. Aqua Velva after shave blended with his freshly lit cigarette…I hate cigarettes. Many years later, they killed him. But somewhere in my 10 year old mind, it is a comforting memory. Strange.

    Reply
  19. Susan in Georgia - July 27, 2017 4:08 am

    Sean. Oh my goodness. What can I say but God bless Brian and God bless the young boy in you AND the grown man you’ve become.

    Reply
  20. Mary Anne - July 27, 2017 1:37 pm

    Tears and prayers. For Brian. For You. For any other kid who lost their dad too soon. Bless you, Sean.

    Reply
  21. David - July 27, 2017 6:14 pm

    Sitting at work in the ice cream shop still feeling the loss of over 20 years ago. We are all Brians and Seans, we feel the loss, cherish the memories. I have a picture of my Dad eating ice cream that looks down on me, as I am sure that he does. Thanks

    Reply
  22. Stephanie - September 15, 2017 10:29 am

    I’m beginning to think you are a major stockholder in Kleenex! No matter…you keep writing and I’ll keep buying.

    Reply
  23. Bill - September 15, 2017 12:19 pm

    Lost my Daddy when I was 30. I still talk to him, especially when I find a use for something I saved from his basement.

    Reply
  24. Annette H. Bailey - September 15, 2017 1:26 pm

    I know you get plenty of hugs from your sweet wife. Being a girl from the country and the south, I always want to give you a hug after reading one of your stories. Heck, I need a hug now and again too. My husband supplies me with many hugs. It’s just him and me. We weren’t blessed with kids and the explanation about being able to adopt would take a few pages but suffice it to say…we were robbed of that too. But that’s a story only for your eyes. Those who know and love us, said we shou,d have had four or five. We’ve helped raise plenty of nieces and nephews on the weekends and during the summer. They all wanted to be with us…they said we were fun and did things with them. But Sean…I wish I could give you the biggest, most country girl hug. Tell your wife, Annette says said hello and to give you a hug! Love your stories sir. ☺️

    Reply
  25. Sharon - September 15, 2017 3:07 pm

    I remember going to the barn before anyone else was up and sitting in my Daddy’s truck and holding his jacket because it smelled like him. I remember crying and talking to him. I fell asleep in that truck holding on to what I had left of him. I still talk to him. I was 15. He died at 45. We didn’t get to keep the truck, but I did keep his jacket. It still touches my heart.

    Reply
  26. unkle - September 15, 2017 4:42 pm

    It’s been 22 years . I was a full grown man when I went to Daddy’s closet and got his members only jacket and his flight instructor sunglasses. I only wear the jacket on Sunday or specal days. Those sunglasses are only worn at a graveside service. We have rules we try to live by, some are written on stone others are written on our hearts. I miss my dad. As the Great Ricky Recardo would say to lucy you(daddy) got so splaining to do. See you in Heaven. BE looking for mom too.

    Reply
  27. Linda Bailey - September 15, 2017 11:08 pm

    I have all my life had severe depression and anxiety. I take 4 different meds everyday. I thought that because of my meds that I’d lost the ability to cry. Since discovering your writings you’ve definitely proven me wrong! You are greatly appreciated

    Reply
  28. Gloria - September 16, 2017 2:09 am

    As always, you touch our hearts.

    Reply
  29. Pingback: Repost: Sean of the South – Birdcage Wisdom

Leave a Reply