Quiet Night

I had a burger and a beer for supper, outside Frisco City. I rode past water towers, cattle, and rusty mobile homes. I pulled into an overgrown hay patch and looked at the stars.

It’s late in Grove Hill, Alabama. There are dirt rows stretching from here to the tree line. The sky is starry.

I miss my father. No. I miss having a father. At this age, I can hardly remember what it was like.

When I was a boy, my friends and I once climbed a water tower. It was midnight. We were colossal fools. We could’ve fallen and ended up as teenage pancakes.

We leaned over the railing, looking at the farmland. Our boyish conversation drifted toward fathers.

“Daddy took me hunting last weekend,” said one boy.

“Oh yeah,” said another. “My daddy’s teaching me to throw a fastball.”

Daddy this, Daddy that. Give me a break.

We rode home on bikes. My friends snuck back into their own beds. Picture-perfect homes, with two parents sleeping in master bedrooms.

That night, I sat on a bicycle seat, looking at the sky. I asked how Daddy was doing up there. I needed something. A voice. A bright light. A gust of wind.

No response.

So I answered myself.

“Oh, I’m doing fine, son,” I said to myself. “How about you?”

A colossal fool.

Anyway, I grew up trying to father myself. I’ve been doing that for a long time. Truth be told, it’s not very hard. You learn how to take yourself fishing, how to carve a Thanksgiving turkey, how to give yourself advice.

On my wedding day, I talked to my reflection in the bathroom mirror.

“You’re a good kid,” I told myself. “You make me so, so, so proud, son.”

Ridiculous.

The day I finally graduated college, I sat in my truck for nearly an hour feeling like I should celebrate. I needed someone. Anyone.

So, I drove. I rode upward through three counties. I stopped at a joint where cars were parked. I sat at the bar. A little girl sat beside me on a stool, eating a hamburger the size of a football.

“I graduated today,” I told her.

With a mouthful, she said, “My brother can eat a whole bottle of ketchup.”

You win, kid.

Later that night, I talked to the sky. “I graduated,” I told the stars.

There was no response. So I answered myself, “Way to go, son.”

And I cried.

Anyway, tonight is different. I’m out of town. I’m older. Wiser. I wouldn’t climb a water tower on a six-figure bet.

I had a burger and a beer for supper, outside Frisco City. I rode past water towers, cattle, and rusty mobile homes. I pulled into an overgrown hay patch and looked at the stars.

I talked to Daddy like I often do. I told him about my life. Work. Family. When I finished speaking, I let him know I didn’t need him to answer tonight. He never talks, anyway.

Well.

Maybe stiff breezes on calm nights are only coincidences. Maybe wind blows ball caps off people’s heads in Grove Hill all the time. Maybe it’s all just a big fluke.

Maybe.

Either way, tonight I didn’t have to talk to myself.

27 comments

  1. Dave Helms - May 18, 2017 1:35 pm

    I don’t compare my situation to yours but I also think about fathers a lot. I know now what it’s like to not have a father, mine died in 2003. He was an excellent father. That said, dealing with your dad and what he did or didn’t do, whether he’s present or not, is one of the biggest dude tricks there is. If they aren’t there, they say nothing. If they are there, sometimes they accidentally say something awful that you carry for years. It’s like golf, a game I mostly hate because you can never get it right. It can’t be played perfectly. You play from where the ball lands.

    Reply
    • Bruce Miles - May 18, 2017 7:01 pm

      Good words right there, Dave. Spot on.

      Reply
    • Tammy Luccioni - May 18, 2017 7:42 pm

      Nice to hear a dude’s perspective about his father…

      Reply
  2. Jan - May 18, 2017 1:42 pm

    Awesome, as always! You are a good guy, Sean Dietrich!

    Reply
  3. Arlene - May 18, 2017 1:44 pm

    Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I….but when the trees bow down their heads, your Daddy’s passing by…..

    Reply
  4. Summer - May 18, 2017 2:50 pm

    Your Heavenly Father always hears and cares. We are never truly alone.

    Reply
    • Sharon - May 18, 2017 5:51 pm

      Amen and Amen.

      Reply
  5. DEBRA GAMBLE - May 18, 2017 3:10 pm

    Beautiful, as always. Excited to hear you are coming to St. Mary’s in Amdalusia!

    Reply
  6. Ruth Ledyard - May 18, 2017 3:49 pm

    You touch so many people with your writing. I cannot stop crying from reading this. I know people are not in their right mind when they do this so we have to forgive them, but oh the hurt.
    I taught school for a long time and experienced how children were hurt from divorce, fighting deaths and suicides in their families. Our society is reeling from this today. You are taking your hurt and creating something beautiful to share each and every day. Thank you. Ruth

    Reply
  7. Barbara - May 18, 2017 3:52 pm

    My response: Misty-eyed with goosebumps.

    Reply
  8. Janet Mary Lee - May 18, 2017 3:59 pm

    Your Daddy must be pretty proud of you! When we speak without words, well… that’s the best!

    Reply
  9. Carolyn Kent - May 18, 2017 3:59 pm

    Love your heart warming stories!!! Do you ever come to Georgia towns? You should come to Matthews in Tucker! Great southern family run place since 1955. It was featured on Food Network’s Diners Drive Ins & Dives!!!

    Reply
  10. Kay Keel - May 18, 2017 4:29 pm

    My mother’s favorite color was yellow and her favorite flowers were yellow roses and Gerber or Gerbera Daisies in any color, but particularly yellow ones. I lost her in 2005 to cancer, but the yellow roses and the daisies…they never fail to make me smile!

    Reply
    • Susan Pruitt - May 18, 2017 5:04 pm

      My daddy’s favorite rose was a yellow one. Tulips were actually his favorite flower but yellow roses were special. When my baby brother was born he sent my mother a dozen long stemmed American Beauty’s in red with one special yellow one. I guess I rarely see yellow roses without thinking of him. He is in Heaven now. Daddy was a steel worker and a mountain of a man but he loved babies, old people and yellow roses.

      Reply
  11. Laura Kennedy Braswell - May 18, 2017 4:30 pm

    I suspect many people talk to their fathers the same way. I am from Mobile, but my Daddy’s people are from up the road-many of the places you write about each day. It is comforting to know another person knows about these places, packed deeply in the crevasse of my aging memory. Seeing them in print/ reading about them, makes me feel close to my Daddy. Thanks.

    Reply
  12. Susie Munz - May 18, 2017 5:09 pm

    You are right, Sean, you made him proud!!! We all love you!

    Reply
  13. leanne - May 18, 2017 5:21 pm

    absolutely love your stories and look forward to them everyday!

    Reply
  14. Susan - May 18, 2017 7:05 pm

    Whoa! What can I say but you just touched my heart with your story. Thank you for being gut-level real, showing your vulnerable side to your readers. Just ….thank you.

    Reply
  15. Sandi - May 18, 2017 7:43 pm

    What an excellent, interesting, poignant essay by a man who obviously grew up without a father, yearning for that deep relationship that connects a boy to his dad. It is so apropos since Father’s Day is in a month. Just this morning I was thinking about my own wonderful Daddy, who died 31 years ago. He would’ve been 100 years old this coming September. We never cease missing such an important family member.

    Reply
  16. Kathy Lane - May 18, 2017 8:29 pm

    This was so beautiful. Father’s get a bum rap- they seem to disappear in comparison to the contributions that our sweet Mother’s make- but they matter so much. My sweet brother is dying of cancer and I see what his precious children face (one 12 the other 14) . It breaks my heart because I know how much they mean to him. How he truly came alive when he became a father. He loves it and he loves his family and is fighting hard to stay as long as possible. I hope afterwards, they will “talk” to him too, no matter how long it has been.

    Reply
  17. Rich Simpson - May 18, 2017 9:26 pm

    Sean,
    A friend sent one of your stories. It was about talking to your Dad.

    Excellent!!

    Rich Simpson

    Reply
  18. Sam Hunneman - May 18, 2017 10:06 pm

    {Sean}Long distance hug from Maine to wherever you are.

    My father’s father committed suicide. Hung himself in the cellar on Christmas Eve. Tried to take my grandmother and aunt with him. I’m not sure how they all escaped because no one talked much about it. My brother didn’t even know about the suicide until Pop had a heart attack in his early 40’s and read the intake forms.

    I took a class once called The Y.E.S. Class. It stood for Your Eternal Success. Hokey, sure, but some really good stuff. Ivan talked about “processing”… how you have to process through your emotions in order to get behind them. The stages were: Mad, Sad, Scared, Glad. A lot of forgiveness in the middle there, too, I think, and counting of blessings. You’re one of mine, and I’m so thankful for the food for thought you bring, and the feelings you stir up. It’s very good stuff.

    Reply
  19. Michael Hawke - May 19, 2017 3:01 am

    Thank you. I am reading The Blessing, a book about needing our parent’s approval. Good book.

    Reply
  20. Barry Haggerty - May 19, 2017 3:46 am

    Thanks for your stories I look forward to seeing them everyday. I can relate to them so much. Even though I had a father I understand what you went through as I had a friend like you. I am from the 60’s and 70’s so I relate to every thing that you talk about. Keep writing your a treasure to read and I guess would be also someone to spend time with. Again thank you. B.H.

    Reply
  21. Sandra Lee Van Dam - May 20, 2017 4:33 pm

    Wow, Sean. Wow. I have a dad story. My dad was not always easy to live with. He yelled sometimes. Mom blamed his troubled upbringing. Grampa was a mean drunk. Abused his family. I always felt closer to dad though than mom. We got along much better after i grew up and had a family. When he was in the hospital with pneumonia for the 3rd time in 2 months i went to see him. He had also fallen getting out of bed at the hospital and broken his leg. I stayed for a week. Had to get home for my son’s band concert and then our annual family vacation. Other sisters came to stay. He developed a staph infection. They put him in the ICU. Couldn’t save him. Time to unplug the machines and let him go. I couldn’t be there for the end. The vacation, you know. I told my brother to call me once dad was gone. That morning we all went down to the lake to fish. There was a light breeze from the north. After a while the wind shifted, and came from the southwest, a bit stronger. It drove me to go back to the cabin. Soon after i got there my cell phone rang. It was my brother. Dad was gone. I already knew. You see, we live in Colorado. Dad and mom were in Arizona. That sw wind was him, coming by to say goodbye. I’m sure of it.

    Reply
  22. Mendy - May 22, 2017 2:45 am

    My husband committed suicide last year. He was a kind, gentle, selfless, godly man and very successful. Until his mind stopped working properly. Taking his own life was so incredibly out of character. Something was wrong and nothing or no one could helped. They tried. He tried. Nothing worked. He always said he just wanted the pain to go away. Yet, he never asked for a pain pill. I never understood what that meant. Still don’t. He left behind an 11-year old boy and a 13-year old girl. To see into the future and think they won’t even remember what it feels like to have a father…such a heart breaking reality. My son understands your pain. I read your soul talk and it gives me insight into what he will think and feel as he gets older. If you have any advice on how a mom can help a little boy without a father, I’ll keep reading. And always praying.

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - May 23, 2017 1:40 am

      Dear Mendy, I am sorry for your loss. I think that you are wise to read Sean’s column, and what is more important, you have the heart to understand it. I think your children will be just fine with your love and insight. I am sure you will find strength in his column in the future. I am sorry your children will feel that loss, and I know as a mother how hard that will be. Always share good memories and do not be afraid to talk about him. Sometimes a sensitive soul can just lose sight of all except pain for just a moment. It is our job to try to understand that, until the pain has changed. It never means love was not there. Keep reading. Keep praying, sweetheart… Sean, keep writing, keep gifting…

      Reply

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