Old People

“Wish my kids lived closer,” he went on. “My house is always quiet. Take my advice. Don’t never get too busy to call your old man. We live for those phone calls.”

I met him outside a barbecue joint in Lynn Haven, Florida. His hair was so white it glowed.

There was a tattoo on his forearm—a crude looking image of a bull. He used to be a rodeo clown long ago. It was a hobby, but turned into something that paid well.

“Not a bad job,” he said. “You DO have occasional bad days, but it’s big fun.”

I asked why he got out of the business.

“My wife got pregnant.”

Once, I met an elderly woman. On Saturdays, she bakes several poundcakes, layer cakes, sugar cookies, and banana puddings. Her adult daughters help. So do her granddaughters.

Until this stage of life, she never had time to teach baking. She was a single mother, fighting to keep her head above water.

“Want my girls to learn my kitchen tricks,” she said. “If I don’t teach them, all my mother’s recipes will disappear.”

Last year, her daughters and granddaughters were faced with a choice between summer softball, or cooking lessons with Granny.

They haven’t played softball since.

An elderly man from Crestview, Florida—he retired from driving semi trucks several years ago. He wore a large belt buckle and ostrich-skin boots.

“Driving was my life,” he said. “Retirement is killing me.”

He started driving after his wife left him, forty years ago. Since then, he’s seen America. Every part of it.

“Took my grandson on a trip once,” he said. “At first, he wasn’t happy to be away from home. But then I showed him the Grand Canyon.”

He handed me a photograph of his grandson, sitting behind the steering wheel of thirty-thousand horsepower.

“That boy’s everything to me,” the man said.

In an antique store, yesterday, I saw a man in a chair by the cash register. The window-unit AC was pointed at him.

The rest of his store was hot as Hell and half of Georgia.

“Lemme know if I can help you with anything,” he said, swatting gnats.

We talked. His wife died recently. He’s been alone. It’s been hard, but he’s tough as turkey neck, by God. He’s owned this store for years, he’s not about to quit.

He claims this place is what’s kept him alive.

“Trouble with old age,” he said, “You’re all alone. No kids, no wife. One day, I was like, ‘Shoot fire, I’m alone, I must be old.’”

Shoot fire.

He laughed at his own joke. Then, he rang me up and scribbled a receipt on pink carbon paper.

“Wish my kids lived closer,” he went on. “My house is always quiet. Take my advice. Don’t never get too busy to call your old man. We live for those phone calls.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my old man checked into the Beulah Land Motel years ago. So I bid him good day.

Then, I sat in my truck, wondering what color of hair my own father would’ve had, if he were still alive. White, maybe.

I guess what I’m trying to say is:

If you’re lucky enough to have parents left, call them.

21 comments

  1. Roxanne - June 26, 2017 1:34 pm

    I talked to my Momma last night, and my husband’s parents have just moved in with us. Pancreatic cancer and dementia. Your blog was timely.

    Reply
  2. Gerri - June 26, 2017 1:34 pm

    Your writings never fail to resonate with me, but this one…..

    Reply
  3. Kathy Daum - June 26, 2017 1:56 pm

    And be kind to those around you who need to hear from and see you.

    Reply
  4. Betsy Brown - June 26, 2017 2:03 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Shoot fire. That was great.

    Reply
  5. Joann Wilson - June 26, 2017 2:21 pm

    Amen. What I wouldn’t give to see Mama and Faddy again.

    Reply
  6. ArdisK - June 26, 2017 2:30 pm

    Good morning, Sean. This post made me cry, and think. Both my husband and I have lost our parents. My Mom has been gone for almost 11 years. She passed away from a massive heart attack behind the wheel of her car in her driveway; she was going to drive herself to the doctor. I try very hard to have good memories, sometimes I have to dig deep, but they are there.

    Reply
  7. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - June 26, 2017 2:54 pm

    I wish I would have asked more questions. My mamma and I were close but I didn’t ask what I want to know now. We left Italy to come here for a better life. Our part of Italy was given away to Tito. How? Where? Why? What about my grandparents? There are so many questions that will always be unanswered. Such a shame.

    Reply
  8. Gail Stewart - June 26, 2017 2:58 pm

    😢🙂

    Reply
  9. Cathi Russell - June 26, 2017 3:00 pm

    You did it again…see you tomorrow! ❤

    Reply
  10. Ree - June 26, 2017 3:21 pm

    I barely remember my dad’s parents; my dad passed when I was 11, little brother was 3! My mother’s mom lived in her 80s & was a character, had a car wreck at 82! Learned more from her sisters as I grew up except about cooking! Bebe could cook and sew, but wasn’t what I called a typical Granma! Her sisters were tho’. My mother told many story’s tho about summer in the country at Bebe’s parents’ house in LeGrand south of Montgomery! Other things we’d laugh about like cousins Mitt, Buddy & Glenn getting Toots(lil redhead) in a goat wagon, slapping the goat and it running under the house, almost taking her head off or locking her in rhe outhouse! At dinner, Granpa looked around an asked where Toots was! They looked at each other, knocked their chairs over getting out to release her omgoshins! Many more! They’d ride the train down there and feet off at the old country store! There is still an old country Presbyterian church called Providence that my Great Grandfather helped build there on the corner of the highway! Our Underwood family cemetery is a few miles down the road on 2 acres of the old acreage! I remember, as a child, looking down the hill from the old cemetery at the remnants of the old house! Wish I’d gone down and taken pictures of it, but alas, I didn’t! Memerories! Another family is buried there also, who couldn’t afford anywhere else! Bless you!

    Reply
  11. Judy Miller - June 26, 2017 3:22 pm

    Wish my kids could see that last sentence. They live close, but you know, they’re all so busy. They text each other and everyone near, but I don’t have a cell phone so I miss out on those texts. They forget to send me an e-mail. I’ve only heard from 1 of the 4 in the last month. 9 grandkids–guess they’re too busy too. That Beulah Land Motel looks better and better all the time. At least I’d have someone to talk with.

    Reply
  12. Sharon - June 26, 2017 3:56 pm

    This reminds me of the ad that Bell South did many years ago with Coach Bryant.
    Did you call your Momma, today? He asks. I sure wish I could.
    So do I,Coach. And Daddy, too.

    Reply
  13. Susan in Georgia - June 26, 2017 5:38 pm

    Gee, I just wish I COULD call my beloved Mama & Daddy every day…been over 3 decades since they went to heaven and I had that privilege. Sean, have I told you how much I love your stories? Every one strikes a heart-chord.

    Reply
  14. Susie Munz - June 26, 2017 5:43 pm

    I miss being able to call mine. So I “pester” all of the other relatives, instead. I learned long ago that people we love can be here one minute, and gone the next!

    Reply
  15. Wendy - June 26, 2017 8:02 pm

    I’m so happy that we got the SNAMU (situation normal all messed up) worked out. After my devotional each morning, I read your writings. What an absolutely wonderful way to start each day! Your writings always touch my heart, especially today’s as I’m missing the best mother & daddy on earth. My older brother reminded me that not a one of us knows if we’ll wake up tomorrow morning. While I’m so thankful when I do, I also know that an even happier day awaits!

    Reply
  16. Debbie Galladora - June 26, 2017 8:34 pm

    😪

    Reply
  17. Jack Quanstrum - June 26, 2017 10:33 pm

    Good advice. Amen! You treasure them even more after they are gone. You realize how blessed you where for God allowing them to teach you, correct you, provide for you and protect you from all harm. Praise God for Mom’s, Dad’s and Old Folks. Thank you Sean for the story you always help me to reflect on the good.

    Reply
  18. Debbie Smith - June 28, 2017 10:12 am

    Your words are powerful…..more moving than you realize. My father was killed in wreck one morning. I am so glad my last words to him the night before were, “I love ya.”

    Reply
  19. Jenny Young - June 29, 2017 12:23 am

    My mamma has been gone 11 years & my daddy 33 yrs. So I call (& write to) my aunt. It really helps me not miss my mom quite so much.

    Thankfully, my son calls me even though I’m not old yet! He calls & I ask what he needs….he always replies ‘I just called to talk to my mom’. He’s 24 so I think if he’s calling me often now he’ll call me when I’m old.

    Last night my husband showed me the texts between him & our son.

    Son: ‘You here?’
    Dad: ‘You need a cup of coffee?’

    or

    Dad: ‘I’m here. You need a cup of coffee?’
    Son: ‘Yep’

    Pretty much the same conversation every few days going back for months. They work at the same place. Our son works nights. My husband works in the office during the day but goes in at night some for his job. He always schedules night work so he can take a break with our son & get him a cup of coffee. They love talking to each other.

    Sometimes our son & daughter-in-law call on Friday evening & ask what we’re doing & if we want to play. 🙂 They come over & we play cards or board games. I guess if two 24 yr olds want to spend time with us while we’re in our 50’s maybe they still will when we’re in our 80’s or 90’s.

    I try to go the other way too…..some evenings I text my son & ask if he wants to eat breakfast with me. He gets off work at 5AM. I meet him at our little local diner & buy him breakfast then after we eat he buys something & takes it to his wife.

    The sweetness of life.

    Reply
  20. Joyce - July 2, 2017 5:21 am

    Yes my kids think I will live forever or when they get ready to call. It just might be to late but they are busy living. Good for them. Guess when I was younger I was to busy for them living and just trying to live and stay ahead of bill collector. Now we are all just trying to stay ahead of bill collector. I enjoy your stories from first one I read to last one I can relate to each one of them. Thank you again, again. !!

    Reply
  21. Dora Huelsbeck - July 8, 2017 10:40 am

    Miss my parents so much. Sometimes I go to the cemetery and have long talks with them. I know they aren’t there but somehow I feel they can hear every word I say. My 2 daughters live in other states, one in Dothan, AL and one in Barnesville, GA. We do not talk enough. It seems texting is easier. I do it but would much rather hear their voices. Oh well, it is what it is.

    Reply

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