Good Listeners

My father-in-law, Jim, drove the truck. I sat in the passenger seat, eating my weight in roadside-stand boiled peanuts.

Highway 31—a long time ago. I don’t remember which tropical storm it was. But the weatherman said it was going to be bad.

So, my wife, my in-laws, and I left town for the safety of Keego, Alabama.

My father-in-law, Jim, drove the truck. I sat in the passenger seat, eating my weight in roadside-stand boiled peanuts.

My wife and mother-in-law rode in an Oldsmobile ahead. Both vehicles were loaded with every wedding photo, heirloom, and piece of fine China my mother-in-law owned.

We drove through rural Alabama, watching the peanut fields fly past at sixty miles per hour. Weather reports blared on the radio.

My father-in-law turned down the volume.

“Tell me about your daddy,” he said.

It was a straightforward question. But for me, it was an uncomfortable one. I stuttered through a few words.

Brother Jim said, “I don’t mean to pry. Ain’t gotta talk about him if you don’t wanna.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. It was that I usually didn’t. In fact, I’d gone so long not talking about Daddy, sometimes it was like he’d never existed.

That’s just the way death works sometimes.

I tried to open my mouth and say something, but nothing came out.

Brother Jim said nothing in return. He ate boiled peanuts from a plastic IGA bag. The truck got silent.

“My daddy used to take me fishing,” I finally said.

It was a pathetic, and juvenile thing to say. It didn’t sound very adultlike. I felt ridiculous for saying such a thing. I might as well have said: “Little Seanie make a poopie, mommy.”

But Brother Jim made no response. He only ate peanuts.

“What I mean is,” I went on in my grown-up voice, “My daddy used to take long fishing and camping trips, we’d fish all day. I’d get sunburned, so would he. We were both redheads. I miss things like that.”

He listened.

And I kept talking. I told things I’d nearly forgotten. I talked about the black licorice he used to buy. About how sometimes, he would swallow his tongue purely for entertainment value. This made Daddy famous among my friends.

“Swallow his tongue?” said Brother Jim.

It was really something.

We rolled into Keego. Brother Jim’s childhood home was small, located in the sticks. He and I unloaded luggage.

That night, the storm hit. It wasn’t a bad storm, but it knocked out the electricity. Brother Jim cooked a big supper in a dark kitchen.

Lightning flashed outside. Thunder sounded.

We ate by candlelight. And when Brother Jim asked the blessing, he said, “Thank you, Lord, for bringing Sean into our family.”

The next morning, Brother Jim, woke me. Early. He took me to a pond which was surrounded by cattails. He handed me a fishing rod.

We got sunburns together. I caught a tiny bream. He slapped my back so hard I almost went numb.

He smiled and said, “Hold it high, so your daddy can see it.”

And I did just that.

I count myself fortunate to have known a soul as precious as Brother Jim.

The same goes for Daddy.

29 comments

  1. Catherine - August 24, 2017 1:29 pm

    Blessed Sean. Thanking God for Brother Jim, your Dad and you.

    Reply
  2. Trudy :) - August 24, 2017 1:31 pm

    Everyone who walks through your life leaves an imprint. The ones you loved deeply and the listeners leave the deepest. Thank you, Sean, for your imprint on so many lives.

    Reply
    • Lois M Cockerill - October 8, 2017 5:29 pm

      Amen, Trudy!!! The loved ones and the listeners!

      Reply
  3. Martha - August 24, 2017 1:34 pm

    What a precious man, your father in law was. He loved intentionally. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  4. Steve still - August 24, 2017 1:45 pm

    Excellent. Absolutely excellent.

    Reply
  5. Debbie Bernard - August 24, 2017 1:50 pm

    You write in such a true Southern style that I feel like you are talking to me. Great talent. And this daddy post hit home. Thanks from Arkansas.

    Reply
  6. Pat - August 24, 2017 1:53 pm

    Your Brother Jim was a great man.

    Reply
  7. Gwen McGill - August 24, 2017 1:55 pm

    Not good for you to make me sob at work.

    Reply
  8. Diane Enloe - August 24, 2017 2:04 pm

    ❤️☺️

    Reply
  9. Cathi Russell - August 24, 2017 2:07 pm

    Weepy glees again. No matter what, we miss our daddies when they’re gone, don’t we? Thanks Sean, I needed to read that today.

    Reply
  10. Mary Anne - August 24, 2017 2:17 pm

    Thank you, Sean. You have such a gift. And you share that gift with your readers each day. Please don’t ever stop writing. I miss my daddy so much.

    Reply
  11. Candace Cartee Bradford - August 24, 2017 2:17 pm

    Wow, you got me! The Daddy of this Southern girl would take her fishing late in the afternoon at the F.O.P. Lake, my brothers didn’t like to fish, they have no idea what they missed. You just brought it all back to me, Thank You!

    Reply
  12. Sherri Jackson - August 24, 2017 2:19 pm

    Sean,

    Thank you for warming my heart today and bringing a tear!

    Reply
  13. Jacque - August 24, 2017 2:34 pm

    Brother Jim was a good man.

    Reply
  14. Vhamlin - August 24, 2017 2:54 pm

    You always make me tear up.

    Reply
  15. Dan - August 24, 2017 3:07 pm

    Simply beautiful.

    Reply
  16. Leia Lona - August 24, 2017 3:18 pm

    Thank you Sean, from all of us who miss our Daddies.

    Reply
  17. Nancy - August 24, 2017 3:26 pm

    Wonderful story, Sean. From the time I was three until the time he died when I was 11, my daddy took me fishing. I learned a lot of patience and felt a lot of love. He built a wooden fishing boat to fish the Black Warrior and I got to pick the colors; red and green. I loved Christmas and I was five. 53 years have passed and I’ll always miss him.

    Reply
  18. Melodie - August 24, 2017 3:32 pm

    WOW! From laughter to tears in nano-seconds! What a sweet, sweet story.

    My dad died when I was 2, and my mama never remarried. She was too busy working hard, and raising 3 young’uns. I bet my daddy would have taken me fishing, though! 🙂

    ‘Hold it high so your daddy can see it.’
    What a dear man that Brother Jim, was, and, your daddy. ♥

    Reply
  19. Frank - August 24, 2017 5:46 pm

    Beautiful, Sean. Just perfect.

    Reply
  20. Laura Young - August 24, 2017 6:14 pm

    I never cease to be amazed at how God seems to put the right person in our lives at just the right time! Brother Jim sounds like he was God sent! He reminds me of my Daddy. Jamie is blessed as was I to have such a father. Recently, my 39 year old son’s girlfriend was talking to me during a visit. We were talking about snakes and her recollection from her childhood about her father was how mean he was. She commented that my son had talked about how much he and I loved each other, “but that isn’t how it was in my family”. I felt bad for her because I had had such loving, caring parents. Isn’t it sad that so often, we don’t appreciate how blessed we are? I am so glad you found Jamie and were adopted into her family!

    Reply
  21. Jack Quanstrum - August 24, 2017 7:14 pm

    Beautiful story. We carry our loved ones in our hearts at all times as well as our trauma. Like is a unique and interesting journey. Thank you for sharing. Shalom!

    Reply
  22. Anne Trawick - August 24, 2017 8:13 pm

    No words, just tears.

    Reply
  23. Carolyn - August 24, 2017 8:19 pm

    I am sure you know how blessed you are to have been brought into “Brother Jim’s” family. I think that Vince Gill’s song, “Go Rest High On That Mountain” was written for guys like your Dad and my husband. Thank you for sharing your gifted heart.

    Reply
  24. Pamela McEachern - August 24, 2017 10:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing and I am happy you have some good memories to hold. Brother Jim was one hell of a man and he sure understood being a dad. God Bless you and Sean you must know how much he loved you to trust you to watch over those he loved.

    Reply
  25. Howie - August 24, 2017 10:49 pm

    Need to thank you for the joy your writing brings me every day.

    Reply
  26. Janis - August 25, 2017 12:04 am

    Not just tears, but sobbing boo-hoos that awakened my snoozing cat curled up beside me. I was Daddy’s Little Girl, so my heart is especially tender in response to sweet gestures of love from a caring Father…earthly and heavenly. You are blessed and a blessing!

    Reply
  27. Kathy Lane - August 25, 2017 2:24 am

    Everyone should have a Brother Jim

    Reply
  28. Roxanne - August 25, 2017 3:13 am

    My Daddy took me fishing. He loved to fish. I’d say it was his favorite thing in the world to do. He also loved boiled peanuts from roadside trucks. I bet he and your daddy and Brother Jim are having a big time together!

    Reply

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