Before we married, the girl and I came here on vacation. A beach cottage. Her family made me one of their own. Her brother took me fishing. Her daddy cooked. The girl’s mother made me sleep upstairs in a locked bedroom. She made the girl sleep downstairs, fully clothed, wrapped in chains, King James Bible strapped around her heart.

The pines are flying past my truck window. Tall pines. Port Saint Joe pines. The sky above them is wide. And high.

They say Texas has nice skies. I’ve been to Texas. I got so lost in Texarkana I had to spend the night in a police station.

I prefer Port Saint Joe.

The woman in my passenger seat is sleeping. We’ve been together a long time. Long ago, on our first unofficial date we drove this highway, under this same Port Saint Joe sky.

That night, I hadn’t meant to drive so far, but we couldn’t stop talking long enough to figure out what else to do.

Before we married, the girl and I came here on vacation. A beach cottage. Her family made me one of their own. Her brother took me fishing. Her daddy cooked.

The girl’s mother made me sleep upstairs in a locked bedroom. She made the girl sleep downstairs, fully clothed, wrapped in chains, King James Bible strapped around her heart.

After suppers, we took beach walks. We held hands. Kids were catching hermit crabs with flashlights. The stars did their thing. We talked. And talked.

And talked.

We talked on this same beach after our wedding. On birthdays. Holidays.

After my back surgery, too. My backside bore an eight-inch scar and bandages which she changed every few hours.

We came here after her father died. She did more crying than talking.

And after I graduated college as an adult. We stayed in an economy room that smelled like expired Gorgonzola and cat poop.

We talked until sunup.

I wrote my first novel here. I wrote my second novel here, too. They aren’t good novels, but they’re mine.

I worked on them from morning until dark. I survived on Conecuh sausage, Bunny Bread, and Budweiser. I had the time of my life.

Me. A man who laid tile, hung sheetrock, threw sod, and played bar music. Who’d never went to high school. Writing novels.

She has that effect on me.

My wife was the first to read them. It took her a full day. When she finished reading, I found her crying.

“Was my book that bad?” I asked.

“I’m so proud of you,” she said.

This town is where we bought our coonhound—which seems like a lifetime ago. We named her Ellie Mae. She is our daughter. Today, she has white on her snout. She makes us a whole family.

I wrote my very first column here, four years ago. God. Has it been that long? My wife is the one who talked me into it. It was only a fleeting idea. And it changed my life.

So, I’m driving past the place where my wife and I started a conversation fourteen years ago. Or was it fifteen? I’ll have to ask her when she wakes. She knows everything.

Anyway, someone once asked me how I knew she was The One.

Well, I can’t answer that. Because the truth is, it was blind luck. I’m not smart enough to know things like that.

But I do know that this girl and I have always had good conversations. Really good ones. And that’s not something you find every day.

I’m grateful for that. For these pines.

And for the privilege of loving you, Jamie.

Happy anniversary, darling.

52 comments

  1. Frank - December 19, 2017 1:22 pm

    Happy Anniversary. Continue being Blessed!!!

    Reply
  2. Bette Cox - December 19, 2017 1:23 pm

    <3 🙂

    Reply
  3. CaroG87 - December 19, 2017 1:28 pm

    Blessings to you both!!! You are such an inspiration!

    Reply
  4. Marty from Alabama - December 19, 2017 1:28 pm

    Happy Anniversary to you and Jamie. May y’all have many, many more.
    Tomorrow is our daughter and son-in-love’s 25th. I tell him ever chance I get, that he is the answer to prayer; not by name but by the man that would complete her life. He has done that and praises to God for him.
    Please keep telling us these true stories. They help my life so much.

    Reply
  5. Sharon Hand - December 19, 2017 1:35 pm

    Sean, It wasn’t luck. Kinda like when people say”What a coincidence!”. Nope, more like a God thing. God knows us so well. You know. He did make us. He(God) even saw us in our mother’s womb.

    Reply
  6. Jo Ann - December 19, 2017 1:38 pm

    Happy Anniversary, Sean & Jamie

    Reply
  7. Connie - December 19, 2017 1:38 pm

    Happy Anniversary. Marriage is hard sometimes, and my ex didn’t have enough backbone to stick it out. You and your Jamie give me hope that Love is not lost in this world. I’m glad you found each other.

    Reply
  8. Carolyn - December 19, 2017 1:42 pm

    Happy Anniversary to Jamie and you.

    Reply
  9. Penn Wells - December 19, 2017 1:47 pm

    Sean Dietrich. A man who has the talent to find words that are like magnets to the heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply
  10. Cathi Russell - December 19, 2017 2:03 pm

    Sean, your words are a balm to my soul today. Thanks and happy anniversary to you & Jamie . Ellie Mae is one lucky coonhound!

    Reply
  11. Mimi - December 19, 2017 2:03 pm

    Once again, you have ruined my eye makeup with my tears. Thank you for writing. Happiest Anniversary!

    Reply
  12. Peggy Bilbro - December 19, 2017 2:04 pm

    Happy anniversary Sean and Jamie. Tell her that I am glad she made you start this column. As we used to say, “Ya done good, kiddo.”

    Reply
  13. John Lange - December 19, 2017 2:13 pm

    Sean, if you got that lost in Texarkana (no thanks for the diss to Texas) you need some serious help, son. And I don’t mean a roadmap.

    Reply
    • theholtgirls - December 19, 2017 4:05 pm

      😉 There is more than one way to lose one’s way. We shall all wonder exactly what he meant! 😀

      Reply
  14. Roger Woods - December 19, 2017 2:16 pm

    Happy anniversary, Sean. Please tell Jamie the same, for me. Give Ellie Mae a scratch behind the ear. She’ll know what it’s for.

    Reply
  15. Jack - December 19, 2017 2:24 pm

    Thank you, Jamie, for sharing Sean with us for the last 4 years. Happy Anniversary to you both!

    Reply
  16. Judy - December 19, 2017 2:37 pm

    Happy Anniversary! The Best is yet to come!

    I love…”she knows everything”. You are a brilliant man, Sean, as you recognize this. 😀

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - December 21, 2017 5:13 am

      Amen, Judy!!!

      Reply
  17. Trina - December 19, 2017 2:54 pm

    Happy anniversary!! Tell Jamie thanks for convincing you tell your stories for us. Oh, I’ve read your novels, and I loved them! Write another!

    Reply
  18. Patricia Schmaltz - December 19, 2017 3:02 pm

    As with every post, you touch my heart. This time, I was smiling more than crying! Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  19. Peggy Windham - December 19, 2017 3:14 pm

    Happy Anniversary Sean & Jamie!

    Reply
  20. sandysewwhatever - December 19, 2017 3:18 pm

    Happy Anniversary! Many more years of blessing ahead to you.

    Reply
  21. Dawn G. Todhunter - December 19, 2017 3:19 pm

    Reply
  22. Terri Cloyd - December 19, 2017 3:20 pm

    That fleeting idea, your writing, is changing my life, too. Thank you Jamie and Sean. Happy anniversary!

    Reply
  23. Linda Brown - December 19, 2017 3:25 pm

    Wow ours (52) was yesterday.

    Reply
  24. Charlotte - December 19, 2017 3:30 pm

    Happy Anniversary you two love birds!!

    Reply
  25. Marlene - December 19, 2017 3:36 pm

    Happy Anniversary! We celebrated our 34th on Sunday. I began praying for my future husband when I was 20, not knowing who he would be or if he would be. We met 5 years later, started talking and never stopped. My parents said, “Oh my, honey. He’s divorced, Catholic and a sailor.” 🙂 But they welcomed him unconditioinally into our family just like your wife’s did. He credits my father with showing him what a good father and true man of God looks like. My mother-in-love who lived with us for 21 years and passed in late September, wrote me before we ever met and said I was the answer to her prayers for her son. I loved her before I ever met her. I have tried to be that mother-in-love to the wonderful men who married my precious daughters. Lots of prayer was lifted for all these relationships. The road was occasionally bumpy, but God knows what we need. In the years that I prayed for my unknown husband, he lost his 3-year-old child to an illness and his marriage did not survive that tragedy. They were young. She turned to drugs but he turned to God. The Navy sent him thousands of miles from that situation to Norfolk where a former co-worker tried for years to get us together. I was living and working 90 miles away at the time. Coincidence that we met? Only God and prayer :-).

    Reply
    • Pat - December 19, 2017 3:54 pm

      Marlene, your post touched me and also reminded me of a comment from one of the ministers at my nephews wedding…the minister was the bride’s when she was growing up. She attended college in another town and met my nephew during those years, so the minister had never met my nephew. He said to my nephew during the ceremony “We prayed for you long before we met you”. Still makes me tear up!

      Reply
      • Marlene - December 20, 2017 1:40 am

        Bless you, Pat. During college I attended a women’s Bible Study led by a young Mennonite pastor and he was the one who suggested that we should pray for our future spouse. I have prayed for my daughters’ spouses since the girls were born, and now I am praying for the spouse of my first grandchild, a happy little boy who just turned 6 months old. A life mate is too important to leave to chance :-). Whether they know it or not, I believe someone was praying for Sean and Jamie, too :-). It seems they are a match made in Heaven.

        Reply
  26. Carey Amberger - December 19, 2017 3:36 pm

    LOVE.

    Reply
  27. Pat - December 19, 2017 3:48 pm

    Happy anniversary you two!!!

    Reply
  28. candyalso - December 19, 2017 4:09 pm

    and many, many more!!

    Reply
  29. Tammy Moody - December 19, 2017 4:16 pm

    Good job Jamie! I think you picked a good ‘un – although I prefer to think that God had a lot to do with it. Sean, I think it’s time to bind some of the four years of columns into a book – I’m sure I’ve missed some, and I’d like to remedy that, and have them in my hands to hold. Just an idea, and I’m sure I’m not the first to have it, and I imagine a few folks will echo the idea. By the way, I got me a passel of cousins in Port St Joe, and I’ve been there too. Along with a lot of the places you write about – makes me feel good. Well, that’s enough words strung together on my end. I said all that to mostly say Happy Anniversary Sean and Jamie ♥

    Reply
  30. theholtgirls - December 19, 2017 4:18 pm

    Sean and Jamie, Happy anniversary! You believe in each other, and you believe in Jesus. We who read are grateful, and we find much love in these stories. Thank you both for teaching us to look until we find the good around us. Whether it’s there to find or not, we can be the good today as an anniversary gift to y’all!

    Reply
  31. William Hubbard - December 19, 2017 4:32 pm

    My Shelby and I would have celebrated our 61st anniversary on December 30, 2017. Like you, we were so young we didn’t know we didn’t have everything. Knowing that you and I may be the only people in the world with December anniversaries must make us somewhat strange to dudes with summer ones.

    But, like you, we weathered the whole life, 2 kids, 4 grand kids,and now scads of great grands she never saw – but of which she would be SO proud. She put up with my travelling to make a living while she basically raised the kids. It was just great.

    We were married 56 years, 4 months and 9 days. And she is missed every day

    Reply
  32. Susan Hammett Poole - December 19, 2017 4:36 pm

    Sean, do you know that most ladies I know would give their eye teeth to hear the words you’ve written about your bride Jamie? True love, spoken from your heart, then shared with us who love you even tho’ we’re not personally acquainted. Happy♡Anniversary.

    Reply
  33. Deena - December 19, 2017 5:14 pm

    How blessed you both are to have found each other.. and that she will share you with all of us. 💖

    Reply
  34. Sherry Saunders - December 19, 2017 5:54 pm

    Happy Anniversary

    Reply
  35. Christopher Spencer - December 19, 2017 6:48 pm

    Happy Anniversary!! May God bless you with many more years of love and happiness together. I love your stories.

    Reply
  36. Dianne Correll - December 19, 2017 6:54 pm

    Thanks and Happy Anniversary!!!

    Reply
  37. Pamela McEachern - December 19, 2017 7:10 pm

    HAPPY TRAILS HAPPY YEARS TO YOU BOTH
    Peace amd Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  38. Linda Akers - December 19, 2017 7:23 pm

    Happy anniversary! You guys are so appreciated and so loved. Merry CHRISTmas
    PS I’m still hoping to get to see y’all at any kind of performance near enough I can get to. Also, Merry Christmas to Mother Mary and Ellie Mae.

    Reply
  39. Martha - December 19, 2017 8:33 pm

    Mr. Dietrich, I should know better than to read your posts at work. They almost always make me cry.

    Reply
  40. Gloria Wethington - December 19, 2017 9:06 pm

    So glad your wife talked you into it and that it changed your life! So glad for good conversations and love. You are truly blessed! And so are your readers! Merry Christmas, Sean and Jamie and Ellie Mae

    Reply
  41. Jim McGuire - December 19, 2017 10:39 pm

    I read this today while sitting in the kitchen waiting for my wife to get home. She works at a credit union. I’m a writer, a columnist. I write outdoor stuff, fishing and birds and such. Nature. Today I’ve been writing a piece about the days between Christmas and New Year. How they’re sort of an interregnum. It’s our anniversary. We’re going out to dinner this evening. Italian, because that’s what we always have on our anniversary supper. Amazing that I should read this about your anniversary on our anniversary. Or maybe not. I know you’ve said exactly what and how I feel about my wife, and how lucky I am that she’s willing to put up with a guy who scribbles away about grouse and smallmouth bass and the way the sky is sometimes loud and full of clouds on a cold December day when a big flight of Canada geese come winging down the river. I enjoy your pieces immensely, but this one was truly special.

    Reply
  42. elainenkarrh - December 19, 2017 11:27 pm

    Happy Anniversary from Scottsboro,Al.Wishing you and Jamie many more joyful years together…

    Reply
  43. Deborah Jones - December 20, 2017 12:07 am

    I am so thankful your precious Jamie convinced you to start writing columns. I love them so much. Happy anniversary and Merry Christmas from Springville, AL.

    Reply
  44. Susan - December 20, 2017 1:28 am

    Congratulations Jamie & Sean. I’m so happy you found each other

    Reply
  45. Sandi in FL - December 20, 2017 3:57 am

    Dear Sean and Jamie, it’s late in the evening and I just read your column for today, your anniversary. Hope it was a spectacular day and that God will bless y’all with many more happy years together. Best wishes for a special Christmas, too.

    Reply
  46. ponder304 - December 20, 2017 11:09 am

    you are both blessed!

    Reply
  47. Barbara Schweck - December 21, 2017 2:51 am

    Happy Anniversary!!!!!

    Reply
  48. unkle kenny - December 24, 2017 2:59 am

    I found port st joe , then cape San blass more than 30 years ago. net fished and camped at the cape for several years. met my cindy . we married. her son and daughter and me and my daughter became a family.about 2 years later we spent a weekend at the hotel in psj and on the cape all day long. the following week my new 9 year old daughter got sick. it got worse. Friday of that week she became an angel. a few weeks passed and the mom and i went back to the beach. if you dug deep enough you might find a alabama handycap plackard that was Becky’s. buried on that beach. storms have changed the shore line drastically over the lasr 30 years. gota get back down there and walk that beach again. might write a little story about it sometime. thanks for reminding me how special a little town can be. uk

    Reply

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