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.


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.


  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!

  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.

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

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

  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.

  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.

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

    My husband…

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

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

    PS: & Mr. Latham.

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

    Out of the park

  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.

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

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

  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!

  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.

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

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

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

    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!

  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.


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

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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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


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