My wife is asleep in the passenger seat. Thelma Lou, bloodhound, is chewing my wallet. For the last week, I’ve been saying things to this dog like: “NO! DROP THAT WALLET, THELMA LOU! I MEAN NOW!”

It’s early. I’m leaving Colorado Springs. My father’s mountain resting place is in the rearview mirror. Ahead of us: two more weeks on the road.

My wife is asleep in the passenger seat. Thelma Lou, bloodhound, is chewing my wallet.

For the last week, I’ve been saying things to this dog like: “NO! DROP THAT WALLET, THELMA LOU! I MEAN NOW!”

She loves it when I say this.

I’ve taken to hiding my wallet, and somehow she keeps finding it—even when it’s in my pants. So, like any diligent dog owner who cares deeply about their pet and discourages bad behavior, I am employing the ancient training technique of “letting her have the God forsaken wallet.”

Anyway, I’m spending this morning riding through mountains that belong in a John Wayne movie. I am enjoying a leisurely drive when suddenly:

ZOOM!

An SUV almost sideswipes me.

Horn honking.

ZOOM!

HONK! HONK!

What the?

The female motorist even shows me her sacred finger. And all at once, I understand. This is a major highway, and I’m going under the speed-limit.

Well, I don’t mind telling you that I’m not a speeder. I wish I were, but you can’t change who you are. You’re either a “go-getter,” or “lazy-and-walletless.”

My father used to lovingly call me Sean “the Slug” Dietrich.

I earned this nickname one summer when he told me to pressure wash our deck—which was roughly the size of Nova Scotia. He insisted that this chore would be good for me. Power washing, you’ll note, has never been “good” for anyone in the history of backyard accessory structures.

While I operated the machine, a neighbor kid named Joseph came riding on a bike. He nearly passed a kidney stone.

“COOL!” said Joseph. “YOUR DAD’S LETTING YOU USE A POWER WASHER?!”

“Yep.”

“You’re SO LUCKY!”

I thought about this for a minute. Then, drawing upon slug-like powers, I said: “Joseph, would you care to know the thrill of power washing a deck?”

“COULD I?” he pleaded.

“I dunno,” said I. “In some third-world countries, people pay good money to use one of these puppies…”

That was all it took. Joseph paid three bucks and a Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card. I ate sunflower seeds. And a slug was born.

The truth is, I’ve always felt bad about not being a “go-getter” like my father. That’s probably why I write about him so often. I wonder if he would be disappointed in me. After all, I’m different than he was. He was an ox. I drive too slow.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Anyway, Colorado Springs is behind me. I’m watching the world go by at eye-level. I turn off the interstate. I see a dirt road that catches my eye. I take it. The pavement becomes dust. I pass trees and steep hills. I keep driving until my ears pop.

I park at a scenic overlook. I step out to look at Purple Mountains Majesty. My dog jumps out after me, a gummed-up wallet is still in her mouth. I can see my father’s mountain in the distance.

Hi, Daddy.

I suppose what I’m getting at is this: I’m me. And for whatever it’s worth, it took me a long time to be okay with this. Not that you have any reason to care about what I’m going to say next, but I think YOU’RE pretty “okay,” too—whoever you are.

Each part of you. The good, the bad, the ugly parts. Okay. Okayer. Okayest. I know that sounds childish, and maybe it is, but the older I get the more childish I wish I were.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to drive the speed-limit. It’s okay to take dirt roads. It’s okay to miss people who die too young. It’s okay to hate pressure washing.

I’m happy with my life. I think you’d be proud of me, Daddy.

Rest easy.

Drop those car keys right now, Thelma Lou.

24 comments

  1. Lynda Finche - June 5, 2018 10:27 am

    Thanks for sharing this little piece of yourself. A great way to start my day:-)

    Reply
  2. Barbara Jean Morris - June 5, 2018 10:41 am

    I just enjoy these short blurbs of words. It’s 6 am Georgia time, up and coffee drinking. thank you for these words to read. I just love them.

    Reply
  3. Martha Owens - June 5, 2018 11:06 am

    Really enjoy reading your messages each morning. Always a great way to start the day. Love hearing about Thelma Lou’s escapades and miss Ellie Mae, too. Keep up these inspirational messages!

    Reply
  4. Barbara Pope - June 5, 2018 12:16 pm

    Thank you–I needed to feel worthy today. And proud he would be for sure.

    Reply
  5. Mary Calhoun - June 5, 2018 12:16 pm

    My cat grew up thinking his name was Rascal No!

    Reply
    • Deb - June 8, 2018 9:17 pm

      Mine thinks her name is “Gracie, Dammit!” LOL I loved the story, Sean. You never fail to bring a smile and/or a tear! Usually all in the same story 🙂 Thank you!

      Reply
  6. Amy - June 5, 2018 12:42 pm

    Sean, I know your daddy would be proud. I sure am.

    Reply
  7. Phyllis Hamilton - June 5, 2018 1:03 pm

    Wonderful! It took me 50 years to realize it was ok to be me. And, like you, I believe you should go ahead and give your love ones things they really want. I do!!!!

    Reply
  8. John Conger - June 5, 2018 1:17 pm

    Sean, live your music at A Simple Faith in Santa Rosa. Was just there. Missed you. Always uplifted by your music and attitude.

    Reply
  9. Joann Whittington - June 5, 2018 1:24 pm

    I want to babysit Thelma Lou!!!! It would be sooooo much fun!

    Reply
  10. Val Jensen - June 5, 2018 1:29 pm

    Love reading your messages every morning! What an uplifting start to my day. It also took me many years to find out that it’s okay to be me and your message today just reaffirms that….thank you.

    Reply
  11. Deborah - June 5, 2018 1:31 pm

    I too carry the moniker slug , actually slug woman. Graciously bestowed by my loving husband.

    Reply
  12. Edna B. - June 5, 2018 1:49 pm

    Wonderful story. Trying to potty train my little Pogo was not going so well, so I bought lots of scatter rugs and placed them everywhere. They were easy to wash. After a year or so, he finally got the message, and I still had all my hair. Pogo and I love reading about Thelma Lou’s trials. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  13. Charlu Kent - June 5, 2018 2:26 pm

    I’m feelin okayer everyday I read one of your missives. Thankyou 💙🐭❤️😎👌🏻

    Reply
  14. Earlene Reeves - June 5, 2018 4:46 pm

    I, too, enjoy taking an unfamiliar road just to see where it goes. Enjoying your messages.

    Reply
  15. Kim Ham - June 5, 2018 8:29 pm

    Sean, I just wanted to let you know that it is one of the highlights of my day to read your observations. I am a southern girl who has moved to Last Frontier, Alaska. I have a lot of friends who were raised the same way that I was, so I am not alone, but you remind me of playing in the backyard until the fireflies would come out. Thanks for sharing your world with us!

    Reply
  16. debbie glaser - June 5, 2018 9:29 pm

    I don’t understand how I can love reading your blog when it makes me cry so much.
    Thank you😢

    Reply
  17. Jack Darnell - June 6, 2018 12:56 am

    Thanks for a good read, as always, makes me feel good!

    Reply
  18. Carolyn Kent - June 6, 2018 2:48 am

    Your blog is definitely a highlight of my day too!!!

    Reply
  19. Marty from Alabama - June 6, 2018 2:51 am

    Been kind of in a “hampster on a wheel” state lately which means my schedule doesn’t get followed – any! So I am just reading today’s episode. Glad you and your dad have come to terms. And it seems Little Thelma Lou has her own agenda. That being, trying to train you.

    Reply
  20. mountnmania - June 6, 2018 3:31 am

    I really needed to read this tonight, that its “okay to miss people who die too young.” (especially a dad…my children’s dad) and Pikes Peak is my view every day. I love your writings! I’m glad you are okay. I guess we will be some day too, just not today…

    Reply
  21. Margaret Hunter - June 6, 2018 10:49 am

    Oh Sean you touch my heart. I needed to be beautiful today. But its about adventure. We took that road out of Colorado Springs. We had 3 kids in the car. It wound down to a single lane dirt road, yes in the mountain where you cant see around the next curve. There were no 7-11s or anything. The kids were thirsty and hungry. Suddenly there was an orange in the road. We stopped I got it. The most precious gem. The best orange we ever shared as we went round and round on the way to Denver, the slow way

    Reply
  22. Susan - June 6, 2018 1:43 pm

    Thank you for this column. I’m just learning to say I’m ok just as I am.

    Reply
  23. Carol - August 3, 2018 3:31 pm

    Sean, have you read “Blue Highways” by Willam Least Heat Moon? He likes taking the road less-traveled, too! His pleasure in sharing his discoveries is wonderful, like yours!

    Reply

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