He had a stutter. Whenever he opened his mouth, it took effort to get words out. Just one sentence would exhaust him.
As a boy, his sisters spoke for him. They’d been doing it since he was old enough to make noise. They were his guardians. They used fists when necessary.
On more than one occasion, they’d beat the stuffing out of local boys who called him names.
His oldest sister bought a mail-order book about curing speech impediments. For hours, she’d help him recite sentences, enunciating consonants, repeating exercises.
He tried. In fact, he concentrated so hard it made his brain ache. It didn’t work.
When he was nineteen, he attended a speech therapy class in Birmingham. It cost a small fortune. He’d saved his pennies and dimes for three years to pay tuition.
The school term lasted a few weeks, but did him no good. He returned home with a stutter even worse than before.
One of his sisters recalls: “It used to hurt us to watch him talk. He’d try so hard, but his mouth wouldn’t work with him.”
A July night, he was washing dishes in the service station in town—the kind that served hamburgers and Cokes. He was standing over a sink when he met her.
She introduced herself as the new waitress.
He couldn’t even get his name past his lips.
So, he shook her hand instead. She rolled her sleeves and washed dishes alongside him. She talked extra so he wouldn’t have to. Her accent was country, her eyes were blue.
He was smitten.
She was pretty, funny, talkative. She could jaw for eight minutes on end without even coming up for air.
Over the next days, he tried to talk to her, but his words kept coming out like bricks. But she didn’t seem put off by it. She didn’t even try to finish his sentences, like most folks did. She only smiled and listened.
One night after work, they went for a long walk. She took his arm—a girl had never done that to him before. She looked him in the eyes.
They strolled from one end of town to the other. When they reached the city limit, they turned around and walked back. They did this four or five times. They must’ve walked nearly five thousand miles.
He got home at five in the morning. His feet hurt. His heart felt light.
His sisters were curious. “Where WERE you?” they asked.
“I-I-I met a g-g-g…” he said.
He and the girl took more walks. She was just as good at listening to his choppy words as she was at talking.
And over the following years, they say his speech started coming easier. Sometimes, it didn’t even sound like he had a stutter.
They made a happy couple. Before she passed from breast cancer, she gave him five children, and her heart. He gave her forty-six years of his life.
He passed last year. You might not have known him, but you knew men like him.
His sisters were at the service. They cried hard. One of his sons gave the eulogy. He said:
“My aunts say Dad stuttered as a boy. That’s so weird to me, ‘cause all my life my dad was the most well-spoken man I’d ever known.
“It’s funny, I never heard him stutter, not even once.”
Several others had never heard him stutter during his adult years, either. It was a miracle of the truest kind. His sisters say they don’t know exactly how it happened.
I think I do.
And I think he’s with her right now.
Steve Welch - March 25, 2018 7:00 am
Damn you Sean, I just finished yesterdays’ piece, and wrote you a comment damning you for making me cry, when you posted again and made me cry even more. You have a gift. You write concise, short, sweet stories that affirm us as human beings. You give us hope. You are the eternal optimist with a sharp pen and an eye for detail. Your dead daddy is very proud of the man you have become. I hope your wife is proud of you and encourages you to take me up on my offer of free beer between June 15 and 22, 2018 when I am going to my cousins reunion in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Alabama.
Sleep well tonight. Your efforts have earned it. You make the world a better place by being in it. That is the greatest compliment I can give.
Sandi in FL - March 25, 2018 7:11 am
To borrow a quote from Roman poet, Virgil, “Love conquers all things.”
Nix LaVerdi - March 25, 2018 11:19 am
Beautiful, Sean. Love and acceptance pushed his words right to the surface, and his expression was able to swim. Thank you for your stories. –Nix
Sherry - March 25, 2018 11:22 am
She took his arm and all was well…and they are walking again.
Carol Houston Rothwell - March 25, 2018 11:28 am
I have no words, I’m speecless..
I only have tears!
Steven Porter - March 25, 2018 12:01 pm
LeAnne - March 25, 2018 12:32 pm
Thank you, Sean! (sniffle)
Connie - March 25, 2018 12:55 pm
True love is all. I may not have found it but I’ve seen it and I believe in it. Sweet story.
Susan Hammett Poole - March 25, 2018 1:23 pm
Love truly conquers all. The beauty and simplicity of your story brought tears.
Kristine - March 25, 2018 1:34 pm
Tears of joy Sean!! Thank you for your uplifting stories told with such human insight and love!!
Edna B. - March 25, 2018 1:36 pm
I have no words. What a beautiful story. Thank you.
Marty from Alabama - March 25, 2018 2:22 pm
Cannot add anything to the previous comments, except Amen.
One of your finest.
Jack Quanstrum - March 25, 2018 3:29 pm
Absolutely beautiful heat warming story Sean!
Susie - March 25, 2018 4:35 pm
Beautiful! Can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said about it. Would like to say, however, that I also very much enjoyed your article in the April edition of “Neighbors.”
Linda Chipman - March 25, 2018 5:19 pm
Chills on top of chills. Truly beautiful.
Betty - March 25, 2018 6:14 pm
I am so glad I found your article in the Alabama book the coop sends out. I got on your blog & have enjoyed everyone. Today I have tears running down my face. You are a terrific writer. Thank you.
Jack Darnell - March 25, 2018 9:15 pm
I bet if you had to wash all the hankies, you would change your tunes! But I hope not, I did not read, except for work or study until I was 56, I have now read thousands of books and written a few, BUT son you are good at this stuff. I think of all my favorites you are equal to Grisham, Higgins, and even Louis Lamoure. I enjoy each one and forward many to family. You write REAL my friend, in a way that holds the attention. THANKS!
Wendy Franks - March 26, 2018 12:58 am
Just when I think you’ve written the best one, you stun me with another. THIS was the absolute best of all, Sean.
Dianne Correll - March 26, 2018 3:53 am
Gay From Tx - March 26, 2018 8:25 pm
After reading this….tears are running and I have a smile on my face. I am a life-long stutterer and relate so much. Thx for your wonderful story! God bless!
Dianne - March 26, 2018 8:40 pm
That was a wonderful story/
ponder304 - March 26, 2018 9:42 pm
A Goog Woman and wonderful story!!!
Deena - March 27, 2018 1:12 am
I believe they are too. Love is an amazing and precious gift to give someone.
Lucretia - March 29, 2018 10:37 am
Beautiful, love makes the impossible, possible. Thank you, Sean, for this magnificent story. Dear to my heart it shall always be. Lucretia
Johnny - June 3, 2018 12:13 pm
Each day I think I have read your best work! Then tomorrow rolls around….
Felicia - June 4, 2018 3:45 am
You’re an amazing storyteller Sean! know I should have gotten the tissues when I began reading. Your stories always touch my heart. Thanks for blessing us with your gift.
Your stories give us hope and encourage us to love. May God bless you.