All That Was Missing Was Flo

I had a dream about him last night. It has been nearly three decades since he died, but there he was. Alive. We met in some kind of diner. A breakfast joint. Maybe this was heaven?

He was running late, I was already sitting in a booth, sipping coffee. When he arrived, his first words were: “Did you miss me?”

“No,” I said.

He studied my face to see if I was joking. He could tell I wasn’t.

I couldn’t quit staring at him. My God, it really was my father. He looked good, too. Slender, red hair, tucked-in shirt, slacks. I’d gone so long without seeing him that I’d forgotten what he looked like.

But it only takes a moment to bring it all back. I could even smell his trademarked hair oil. The day after he died I confiscated his pillow and it was covered in this same scent. I slept on that pillow for five years.

“You really didn’t miss me?” he said. There was that easy smile of his. He wasn’t offended.

“No, I really didn’t miss you.”

He ordered a Coke. And I suddenly remembered that he always drank Coca-Cola. He never was a coffee drinker. Hated the stuff. Just one of the many things I’d forgotten.

Then I started thinking about the differences between us. There were hundreds of them.

For example: he was always well-dressed, whereas I always looked like I crawled from beneath a Chevy. He was a hard worker; I sleep in on weekdays. Everyone called him “handsome”; nobody has ever ascribed that word to me. He was a planner; there is nothing I love more than cancelled plans.

When he was alive, he expected great things from me, but I failed to deliver. From a young age I knew within my kid brain that I would never accomplish the things he hoped for me.

I’m not saying I disappointed him, but I don’t think I ever made him so proud that he wanted to shout publicly, “That’s my boy! That’s my boy!”

The waitress approached our table. She removed her notepad and said to him, “You want the usual, John?”

I couldn’t believe it. They knew him by name in this heavenly place. They even knew what he ate. He had lived a whole lifetime without me.

After we ordered we didn’t speak much. He was in a good mood, but I felt myself clamming up. Maybe I was mad.

Throughout breakfast I kept remembering the day after his suicide, when I was a boy. Back then I had this horrible notion that he wasn’t really dead. I don’t know why. It was some kind of denial thing. It used to keep me up at night.

To put my mind at ease, my mother finally called the sheriff’s department and asked the deputy to assure me that he was indeed dead. The deputy—God bless him—sighed and gave it to me straight.

He said, “We used dental records to identify the body. Your dad’s teeth were about all that was left of him. So yeah, he’s definitely dead.”

My insides turned to water. I hung up the phone and cried. But in the back of my mind I always wondered, what if he’d kept on living? What kinds of things would he be doing? Would he have new hobbies? New friends? Would he still read novels? Would he still go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings?

Maybe that’s what this place was. Maybe this was his perpetual Saturday morning.

He finished his breakfast and said, “I got something I wanna show you.” He was already sliding out of our booth. “C’mon, it’s in the parking lot.”

Parked outside the cafe was a huge flatbed trailer attached to a truck. On the trailer was a disassembled 1957 Cessna 172 Skyhawk airplane. The wings were removed, the fuselage was strapped to the trailer, the propeller was red.

“I’m gonna restore it,” he said, slapping the wing. “Gonna take flying lessons.” He looked like a little kid.

He always wanted to learn to fly. Flying was his frustrated dream. But the dream never materialized. When he died, his garage workshop was plastered with posters of jets, biplanes, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and A-10 Warthogs.

He kicked the landing gears of his new prize. “So do you like the plane?”

I refused to show approval because no matter how old I get, there is still a little piece of me that wants to punish him for what he did. What did he want me to do? Throw a party? Congratulate him? He ruined my life and now he’s playing Charles Lindenberg?

He obviously noticed my hardened face.

After a few moments, he said, “You know I don’t blame you for not liking me anymore. I get it. But, gosh, it’s so nice seeing you again.”

I said nothing.

At first I was struck by the tenor of his words. Because, oddly, they contained no sadness, no apologetic undertones. Then I realized that here in this holy place there was no sadness or guilt.

Here, he was free. Here, a man was unencumbered by the weight of his crimes. Even the worry lines on his face had disappeared. This truly was heaven. I was sorry I ever hated this beautiful man.

He took one step toward me. He didn’t ask permission, he simply enfolded me in his two skinny arms, just like when I was a child. My tear stained face was soon buried in my father’s shoulder. There was that smell again.

“I was lying,” I said into his shirt. “I do miss you.”

“That’s my boy,” he said.


  1. Verna Montgomery - February 24, 2021 6:29 am

    I miss mine too…..

  2. Christina - February 24, 2021 6:54 am

    Always on your heart. Forever his beloved boy.

  3. Deb Lockard - February 24, 2021 7:11 am

    So so good. Thank you.

  4. Marilyn Ward Vance - February 24, 2021 9:57 am

    Today would have been my dad’s birthday and I miss him like fury, too! I don’t guess we ever stop missing our parents.

  5. Leigh Amiot - February 24, 2021 10:47 am

    This does indeed sound like a dream straight from heaven. Sometimes our dreams are just a mashup of thoughts and feelings and images, but when one is so crisply and relevantly detailed as this one, I do believe there is a message in it. I’m glad you wrote it down. It seems a lot of healing has been sent your way. Having also lost a father at a very young age, I don’t believe that hole in the heart ever completely heals, one just learns to live with it, but again, I believe the contents of this dream will help you live better with it.

  6. Amanda - February 24, 2021 10:54 am

    I think I can go back to sleep now.

  7. Linnea Miles - February 24, 2021 11:06 am

    Just heard a Willie Nelson song last night that was new to me: You Get Through It. But you don’t get over it. Same for me in 2 ways- my mama’s death on February 9, 1960, just before I turned 3 and, much more recently, the love of my life turned away. Her death was the most focal point of my life. I’ll never live long enough to get over it and all the repercussions. My son wrote a beautiful song about her and my dad, their love story. I’m blessed with my own memories of her, but a dream is totally rare. You’re very blessed to have such a sharp one. And your dad was very blessed to have you.

  8. joan moore - February 24, 2021 11:19 am

    That was a gift from God.And to me.

  9. Suzanne Cahill - February 24, 2021 11:31 am

    Forgiveness is a gift. It is as much of a gift to the forgiver, as it is for the forgiven. Thank you for the reminder.

  10. Te Burt - February 24, 2021 11:37 am

    No matter how old you get, no matter how many times you forgive your dad, there’s a part of you that never forgets that he didn’t live up to his end of the bargain. Mine was a charming Southern gentleman with a degree in chemistry who really made something of himself by working for NASA and inventing Styrofoam. No kidding. Yet he could never leave behind the demons that made him insecure, afraid of dogs, and violent. He was not a nurturing father. Too concerned about what the neighbors thought while knocking around his old lady behind closed doors. Took learning about reincarnation that saved me. But I have vowed not to reincarnate with him until he grows up, soul-age wise. He is a baby soul, and they are extremely trying to live with when you’re an older soul. And you dont forget your disappointment. I still have to forgive him and myself often. Like every time I think of him. So don’t beat yourself up over it. Karma is a bitch with a mean sense of humor.

  11. leslie - February 24, 2021 11:45 am

    “If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we are apart…I’ll always be with you” A.A, Milne (aka Winnie the Pooh). I believe them to be true.

  12. Susan - February 24, 2021 11:50 am

    Thank you Sean

  13. JVP - February 24, 2021 12:09 pm

    Best you’ve ever written, again.

    • Susan - February 24, 2021 4:17 pm

      Agreed, it is right up there!

  14. Jill McKenzie - February 24, 2021 12:19 pm

    Sean, You are wrong on two accounts: plenty of people, including me, have called you handsome.

    Your readers expect great things from you every day and you always deliver.

  15. Gin - February 24, 2021 12:35 pm

    Beautiful. This helped me with my own father’s passing. Thank you.

  16. GG - February 24, 2021 12:37 pm

    Sean you are wrong…you’re a hotie

  17. Sonya Tuttle - February 24, 2021 12:38 pm

    A true blessing!!

  18. Heidi - February 24, 2021 12:38 pm

    I bet you woke up relaxed and feeling warm inside. Comforted. It’s always a miracle when my deceased parents come to me. I wish it was more often.
    He will always love you Sean. ❤️

  19. Jennifer John - February 24, 2021 12:48 pm

    Wonderful story.❤️

  20. Barb - February 24, 2021 1:29 pm

    Love this so much.

  21. Jan - February 24, 2021 1:32 pm

    Oh, so beautiful … the place we can get to where there is only love. That has to be heaven! Thank you for sharing, Sean.

  22. Marianne Bryan - February 24, 2021 1:37 pm

    Good for you. Do you feel different now?

  23. Eleanor - February 24, 2021 1:42 pm

    Wow. BTW, I’ve seen you in person and you are very handsome, and you were well dressed, and very nice.

  24. Lori Klein - February 24, 2021 1:43 pm

    Heavens Sean, that was hard. I really wish I didn’t carry that kernel of hurt and anger. It’s just hard not too. I’m going to share this carefully with my mom, then we may talk about her daddy a little bit. Wish us luck.

  25. Lori Klein - February 24, 2021 1:46 pm

    PS: Losses like these can Kiss My Grits!

  26. Liz Watkins - February 24, 2021 2:00 pm

    I hear your Dad yelling from the Heavens!!!
    “That’s My Boy!”

    • Lori - March 1, 2021 12:05 am

      Exactly right Liz Watkins!

  27. Amy - February 24, 2021 2:09 pm

    Sean it blesses my heart to read your column every morning. I think this is one of your best ones yet. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with the world. God bless.
    P.S.— you are wrong about one thing, plenty of people including myself think you are handsome.

  28. Sharon Brock - February 24, 2021 2:16 pm

    It has been almost 8 years and I don’t miss my Dad. Thank you Sean for making me think it is possible.

  29. Ann Groesch - February 24, 2021 2:46 pm

    Wow this hit me hard. Maybe because it’s Lent? Because I am a recent “empty nest” mom?
    “Then I realized that here in this holy place there was no sadness or guilt.”
    What is my ” Cesna”? That I have held myself back from in order to be the scheduled and orderly person I think I need to be?
    And what a freedom to think of my parents, both passed in the last 5 years, without sadness or guilt..

    Truly heaven indeed. God’s peace

    Thank you ❣️

  30. Bar - February 24, 2021 3:06 pm

    Sometimes dreams restore to our souls the acceptance and peace we long for.

    • Liz Watkins - February 24, 2021 3:49 pm

      I love this❤️❤️

  31. JACKIE LEON DARNELL - February 24, 2021 3:12 pm

    Sweet Dreams! (mama always said that). 😉

  32. Joan Hinton - February 24, 2021 3:17 pm

    I believe that this is your best one yet, Sean.

  33. Bernadette Wyckoff - February 24, 2021 3:42 pm

    My husband went to heaven 8 years ago. Every night I sleep holding a palm cross he hand made for me. I wait for him to come to me with that warm hug…hasn’t happened yet but Sean you have given me hope that it will. He and my Dad were friends so maybe they will come together. Two hugs from the the two most amazing men in my life and chance to say I miss you and love you would be Heaven to me. God blessed you with a beautiful new memory of your Dad. Thanks for sharing. Love and peace always.

  34. willybearden - February 24, 2021 3:45 pm

    Thank you, Sean. I needed to hear that today. I’ll tell you about it sometime.
    I really enjoyed your interview and music with the guy from Recording King guitars.
    Willy Bearden

  35. Tim Peace - February 24, 2021 3:49 pm

    My dad died in 1985. I was just 23 then…and now I’ve outlived him by a year. I still have dreams about him….but I never see him, talk to him, etc. He’s there…but it’s like he’s always in the next room or something. That haunts me to a degree. Then, just this past week, for the very first time, I dreamed about my precious Grandma and Uncle Jack who joined Dad in heaven several years after he arrived. Know what? I couldn’t see them either…but I was in the same house with them in my dream. I could sense their presence near me…but there was no communication.

    Just once…I’d like to talk to…touch…smell of my dad again…even if only in my dreams. Thankfully…I know I’ll see him again one day. (John 3:16)

  36. Susan - February 24, 2021 4:15 pm

    Oh my gosh Sean, this is so beautiful!

  37. Phil (Brown Marlin) - February 24, 2021 4:17 pm

    A taste of Heaven in Flo’s Yellow Rose.

  38. Helen De Prima - February 24, 2021 4:26 pm

    I wish I could bare my soul as you do. Instead, I put it all in my novels.

  39. Helen Taylor Andrews - February 24, 2021 4:35 pm

    Dearest Sean….this is the best one yet..what a beautiful dream/story….Your friend from Ozark, Helen

  40. Linda Moon - February 24, 2021 5:18 pm

    I knew your dream would be about your father before I saw the words “my father”. My father didn’t take his life, but he self-inflicted in another destructive way that took away some quality of life for him and our family. I still miss him and those skinny legs of his. You had a beautiful dream, Sean, with or without Flo. In my dreams, Daddy would say, “That’s my Schnickelfritz”, his favorite word for me!

  41. Martha - February 24, 2021 5:40 pm

    Sometimes we get to have a moment of desperately needed forgiveness & reconciliation, even from the beyond. The Lord knows that need……….. There is more beyond what we “know”………… & you were given your much needed rest & release………. you got a peak beyond………

  42. Bob Brenner - February 24, 2021 6:20 pm

    Sean, what a beautiful and touching column! Thanks for sharing this part of your life. ❤️

  43. AlaRedClayGirl - February 24, 2021 6:39 pm

    This was beautiful; it reminds me of my dad.

  44. Terri Turner - February 24, 2021 6:50 pm

    I wrote this yesterday and posted to Facebook. Someone gave me the ultimate compliment that it sounded a lot like your writing. Today you come out with this beautiful story. I choose to take it as a sign to keep writing. Well, I would have kept writing regardless, but thanks for the sign.

    18 years since you left us – I wonder what you would think of this world if you were still here. Your love of gadgets would have been in overdrive with cell phones and instapots and Alexa. I can hear you now, “Alexa, bring me a beer!” Mom’s hair is white now; I know you’d think it’s as beautiful as I do. She’s still afraid of thunderstorms. Remember how we used to tease her? Don’t tell her that I was usually just as scared as she was. I’ve gotten to know her all over again. She’s my best friend. She moved to Alabama to be close to us. Alabama! Can you believe it? Would you have moved down here? There’s still plenty of room for your tinkering and building and fixing – I don’t think this world will ever run out of those things. We’ve lost Uncle, Darlene, and Frank though I’m guessing you greeted them when they left this world. We’ve lost Don’s parents; have you met them? I think you would love them. I wish you could have met Don; I blame him for the grey hairs I’m getting. They say you marry your father – whoever “they” might be right. He worries me and frustrates me and makes me laugh and I love him. You would have too. He added one more to our family; his son is fantastic – smart, hardworking, and just plain good. Mom taught him how to make pizza. He’s got a girlfriend who’s as sweet as she can be. I’m confident you would love them all. Where has the time gone? I’m a middle-aged woman (no matter how many times Don says I’ve passed into “old”) about to be 45. I quit drinking. It was taking my life, so I took it back. I’ve got a great job, and I’ve found writing again. I must tell you we are pissed that you left us too soon, and if Uncle is close, you can give him a punch in the arm. You’ve missed so much, and we’ve needed you. Every so often though, I get a whiff of sawdust, and I know you’re there in your flannel shirt, your Lucky Strikes in the pocket of your t-shirt. If I listen closely, I hear you say, “I love you. I’m proud of you. You are ok.”

    • Liz Watkins - February 24, 2021 7:28 pm

      This is beautiful! I saw everything you wrote about!
      Great job! Stay sober! HPD loves you

      • Liz Watkins - February 24, 2021 7:28 pm

        Should say GOD LOVES YOU

  45. MAM - February 24, 2021 7:49 pm

    Wonderful story! I often dream about my Mom who was much more recently in my life. I miss my Daddy terribly, but he doesn’t show up in my dreams. He was a very quiet man, and yes, I married my father. I lost Daddy to cancer 50 years ago this year. He was such a wise man, and I could have used his advice over the years. Thanks, Sean, for this great story!

  46. Susie Shultz - February 24, 2021 8:12 pm

    I lost my dad back in 1995. I had a hard time with the loss; looking back, I think I kinda had a nervous breakdown, of sorts, did some weird things. Anyway, about a year or two after losing him, I was up at the old farmhouse where my husband and I used to spend a lot of time with him and my mom. I was in the kitchen, the back door was open nearby, it was warm weather, and I could have sworn I heard my dad’s voice in the backyard. I stopped whatever I was doing and went out onto the back porch, and looked out into the yard and our dog, Tucker, was standing there in the middle of the yard. That’s it. No one was there and my husband was no where around, cuz I called out to him. It was weird, but I loved it. After that, I don’t know how much later, months, maybe, I had a dream about dad one night. ( In the dream, dad had already died. ). In the dream, I was in the farmhouse kitchen, once again, near the back door, it was open, it was warm outside and all of a sudden I thought I heard my dad’s voice outside, talking to the dog. I went out the back door, onto the porch and there in the back right corner of the yard was my dad standing there, just talking to the dog. He loved dogs. He looked up, saw me and smiled and in the dream, I walked out to him and we embraced and stood there for the longest time, just simply holding each other. No dialogue. It was the most wonderful dream I’ve ever had. I’ve hoped to have, someday, one as uplifting, of my mom. I miss them both, terribly, but I’m ok.

  47. Tammy S. - February 24, 2021 8:38 pm

    Oh wow…just Wow, and how wonderfully beautiful! 😭❤️

  48. Julie - February 24, 2021 9:04 pm

    Healing Dreams are Gifts, Sean…and you hit the mother lode with this one! How wonderful that you no longer hate your Dad. He initiated the hug, and you responded, letting tears wash over the hurt. Your Dad needed to hear “I do miss you”, and you needed to hear “That’s my boy.” When you two meet for real, one fine day in Heaven, promise me you’ll pick up where you left off…in that loving embrace💞 Deal?

  49. Rebecca Souders - February 24, 2021 9:16 pm

    What a wonderful dream. I pray that it truly was a dream that you had…. what a fine dream!

  50. Nora Klunk - February 24, 2021 9:57 pm

    You made my eyes leak. What a beautiful dream !!!!!

  51. NAOMI STOREY - February 24, 2021 11:13 pm

    I would give anything to be in my father’s arms again. He died over 50 years ago, and I still miss him. Maybe one day.

  52. Linda - February 25, 2021 1:03 am

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I feel there was forgiveness in your dream. There is no way to understand his actions, or anyone else’s. Unforgiving only hurts us. I am sorry for the burden of your pain, all these years. Bless you.

  53. Paul - February 25, 2021 3:37 pm

    Wish I could dream so realistic Sean. My dreams are always distorted. Not quite right. Like the diner would have been in someone’s garage. The waitress would have been an old grade school teacher. You know stuff like that. And I wish my deceased son would visit me in my dreams as much as your Dad comes to you. Still a good story. Thanks Sean

  54. Robert Chiles - February 25, 2021 6:45 pm

    It’s called a consolation- a gift from God. So glad you were able to recall it. Wisdom from beyond.

  55. elizabethroosje - February 25, 2021 9:11 pm

    God bless you, that was beautiful Sean.

  56. Beth Anne - February 26, 2021 4:44 am

    God Bless you, Sean, God Bless you!
    May your dreams continue, and (hopefully) offer you Comfort. And May your dear father Rest in Eternal Peace.

  57. Willie37 - February 26, 2021 7:03 pm

    Lost my Dad 54 years ago when I was 30 and yes I still miss him. Talked to him a lot while I was closing out his very successful business for the best benefit of my Mother. I still meet him every now-and-then in dreams.

  58. johnallenberry - February 27, 2021 6:59 am

    March will be two years since I lost my Dad. Heart attack for him, like all the men in my family so it would seem.Yesterday I learned I have high blood pressure, and I’m withing 2 pounds of the heaviest I ever was.I’m gonna try and step back. I miss him all the time. He forgot more things than I’ll ever know.

    I lost my best friend quite suddenly and shockingly in 2006. I still tell her story. I’ve come to believe that you tell stories about people and things for as long as you need to get a tourniquet on it, Keep telling your story, keep being the man you are, that could be the best tribute you can make to him.

    For what it’s worth, I’m proud to know you.

  59. Mary Hicks - February 28, 2021 8:07 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for sharing your heartfelt memories. You have a God given talent and I enjoy them every day! I can just imagine how proud you Dad is of you. God bless you and Jamie!💖💖🙏🏼🙏🏼


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