When my father died, my mother took to saying “thank you” a lot more. Those two words were her favorites. If you would’ve asked me, I would’ve told you that she said them too much.

Freeport, Florida—Nick’s Seafood Restaurant sits right on the bay of my youth. This place is only a hop, skip, and a jump from my mother’s place. My family is here to eat supper tonight.

And I am feeling grateful.

The sun is getting low, and the clouds are making scattered formations across the Choctawhatchee Bay. There are a hundred muddy trucks in the dirt parking lot.

This is an old place. Old timers used to come to this same building to buy oysters by the bushel, before it was a seafood joint. Not so long ago, I used to fish these bay shores with buddies—before my voice dropped.

My mother is walking across the parking lot. She is wearing a beach dress and flip flops. Flip flops. As I live and breath.

This woman used to wear very different clothes. Hospital scrubs, service clothes, fast-food uniforms.

Once, when I was a young man, we went to Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving supper. The restaurant was about to close. I had just gotten off work, my mother still wore her work clothes, and my sister was playing the triangle-peg game.

That night, when our food arrived, my mother bowed her head and said in a soft voice, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…”

She followed it with an “amen.”

This woman believed the best way to start each day was with a “thank you.”

When I was a child, each morning before school my mother made me engage in a bizarre, semi-Pentecostal ritual. I would stand before my bed—half awake, wearing nothing but my skivvies—and my mother would make me touch my toes and say, “Thank you, Lord, for my feet!”

Then, she’d make me reach for the sky and say, “Thank you, Lord, for my hands!”

And so on.

Then, she would sing “I’m so Glad I’m a Part of the Family of God,” while she made breakfast.

When my father died, my mother took to saying “thank you” a lot more. Those two words were her favorites. If you would’ve asked me, I would’ve told you that she said them too much.

It’s one thing to say “thanks,” a few times each day. It’s another thing to send a thank-you card to the IRS along with your income taxes.

But then, she had a lot to be thankful about. We were a sad little family, and we owed thank-yous to a lot of people who were kind to us. My mother intended to see that those words got said.

People did a lot for us.

For example: in the years following my father’s death, my family received—this is just a guesstimate—eighteen million bajillion casserole dishes on our front porch.

So back to the seafood joint. We are sitting at a table. Every Dietrich in my clan is here.

There is a man playing guitar in the corner, people at the bar. The place is alive with smiles, and people eating dangerous amounts of cholesterol. My wife is beside me. My young niece is in my lap. My brother-in-law is on my left. My mother is across from me, looking happy.

And it’s been an interesting year for me.

Good things have happened. And sad things, too. This year, I visited Dixieland Stampede for the hundredth time. This year, I lost my thirteen-year-old dog. This year, I visited the grave of my father after several decades.

This year I’ve visited more states than I have ever visited in my life. Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and the states bordering the Rocky Mountains. I’ve told stories to audiences of people who, for some odd reason, want to hear them.

I’ve met beautiful people. I’ve shaken hands with a nine-year-old who had terminal cancer—who isn’t alive to read this now. I kissed the powdery cheeks of a ninety-nine-year-old who laid her hands on my head and said, “May the Lord make his face to shine upon you.”

And I’ve watched my mother learn to smile again. She’s even wearing flip flops. The older I get, the less I know.

The waitress brings our food. My mother asks me to say a few words.

So I do.

“Thank you, thank you.”

Thank you.

21 comments

  1. Pamela McEachern - July 11, 2018 5:56 am

    And thank you for our daily words of hope. Family is everything, every part of our being can be traced back to them. All of the good and not so good. Family..I am missing so many and grateful for those I still have.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  2. C.E. HARBIN - July 11, 2018 6:03 am

    Beautiful.
    Thank you, Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Gary smith - July 11, 2018 6:17 am

    Thank you, thank you and thank you Sean!

    Reply
  4. Gary D - July 11, 2018 6:26 am

    Thanks, Sean. Thank you very much.

    Reply
  5. Jeanne Butler - July 11, 2018 6:31 am

    Beautiful. Thank you, thank you, thank you always. Love you Sean

    Reply
  6. Beth Reed - July 11, 2018 6:35 am

    Thank you Sean for a story that reminds me of all my Blessings. A great big Thank You to our maker for allowing me to be Blessed with family and friends.
    Sean your family loves you and has given you the ability to use words as a way to express yourself. I want to say Thank you because you give so much hope to all of your readers. Your stories touch our inner souls. I hope you have a very wonderful day. I can’t wait until I read your next story. Thank You. Beth Reed

    Reply
  7. Jan - July 11, 2018 10:32 am

    Amen and amen!

    Reply
  8. Joel - July 11, 2018 10:39 am

    Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Terri Boykin - July 11, 2018 10:59 am

    Thank you Sean. I say thank you many times a day to God for the many blessings that I used to take for granted. Love you much, Terri

    Reply
  10. Judith A Mercer - July 11, 2018 11:15 am

    I have been enjoying your stories each day so much, Sean. Thank you for sharing them!

    Reply
  11. Edna B. - July 11, 2018 11:54 am

    Family is everything, and Thank You and I love you are very important words to say as often as we can. Enjoy your Mom and your family. Each day is a gift. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  12. Lylabeth King - July 11, 2018 12:02 pm

    And when I read your words each morning, Sean, I say “thank you, thank you”, because every time you stir something in the heart of this sad, lonely widow that gives me hope. Writing has been therapy for me and since discovering your writings, I’m encouraged to write more. Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Dianne - July 11, 2018 12:10 pm

    And, thank you, Sean for a good beginning to my day.

    Reply
  14. janiesjottings - July 11, 2018 12:36 pm

    Thank you Sean, for this and everything you share. I saw a sweet movie last night called Me Before You. One of the main characters was paralyzed and it just brought home to me once again how very blessed I am. Thank you!

    Reply
  15. Jack Darnell - July 11, 2018 12:47 pm

    Thank you, Thank you

    Reply
  16. Charlu Kent - July 11, 2018 1:57 pm

    No Thank You More💙🐭❤️😎

    Reply
  17. Karen Hazel - July 11, 2018 2:10 pm

    I remember Nicks. I lived in Choctaw Beach (in a trailer) and went to school in Freeport. My father was in the Air Force at Eglin. We moved from there to Opp, Alabama then to Montgomery. I live in Slapout, Alabama now. I enjoy your stories. My life was very different than yours. Enough said.

    Reply
  18. Judith Perye - July 11, 2018 2:15 pm

    I don’t mind being redundant. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful gifts that you share with the rest of us; your music, your visual art and your words.

    Reply
  19. Dolores S. Fort - July 11, 2018 6:47 pm

    Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  20. Hunter Goff - July 11, 2018 10:37 pm

    Hello, Sean. This is Hunter writing from somewhere south of Dublin, Ireland. On a mission trip with my church. but am from Cahaba Heights, Alabama.
    We are busy working with Irish children in Bible clubs and I am also leading music.
    However, I continue to enjoy your column.
    I also like Freeport, Florida.

    Reply
  21. Suzanne - July 12, 2018 12:12 pm

    Sean,The older I get the less I know~and it’s amazingly ok!❣️

    Reply

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