It’s my birthday. I’m at a gas pump at a Walmart. It’s a fancy pump, with a digital television screen mounted in it. Please Lord, bring back the days before gas pumps had flatscreen TV’s.
There is a brief commercial on the screen, then a news advertisement. Then, an ad for birth control. Birth control. On a gas pump.
Then: the Word of the Day. Elevator music plays. A word appears on the screen.
The word is: “loquacious.”
As I live and breathe. You might not know this, but that is my word. A long time ago, my father gave it to me. I’m not sure if Webster’s Dictionary has been made aware of this yet. But they’re working on it.
I remember the night I was given that word.
A man got home from work late. He called his nine-year-old into the garage. The man laid beneath a Ford, changing engine oil. His denim shirt hung on a workbench.
“Go reach into my shirt pocket,” the man called from beneath the car.
In the denim pocket was a piece of paper with several words in sloppy handwriting.
“Read’em,” said the work-a-holic.
“What’re these big words?” the boy asked.
The boy crawled beneath the vehicle with his father to read them. The boy could see the man’s face in the glow of his hanging shop light. The man’s cheeks were covered in oil smudges. His auburn hair was a mess.
The kid rubbed motor oil on his own cheeks and messed up his own red hair because he wanted to look like the man.
“A fella NEEDS a big vocabulary if he’s gon’ do something with his life.”
Said the man who once wanted to go to college but took up steelwork instead. The man who didn’t WANT to climb on skyscrapers, but did it anyway.
“Go on, now,” he said. “Read me them words.”
The first word was “loquacious.”
“I know, it’s a hard one,” said the man. “Never heard it before myself. It means: to go around talking your head off.”
The boy read the other words. They were hundred-letter words which sounded foreign and strange. Big words. Long, fancy words.
Words like: munificent, prosaic, and ostentatious.
The man told the boy that he’d spent his entire lunch break making that list—complete with definitions.
The boy asked why he’d done such a thing.
And while a stream of black oil drained from the Ford belly-pan, the man said:
“It’s your birthday. And I want you to do something SMART with your life. Because I never did.”
Smarts. The man could disassemble ‘79 Fords and put them back together with nothing more than a ratchet set and a ham sandwich.
“I want you to make something of yourself.”
He crawled from beneath the car. His face was young, lean. I worry I’ll forget that face sometimes.
He said, “I want you to learn’em words. One day, maybe you’ll use’em, maybe even be a writer or something.”
Or maybe one day, the kid will be at a gas pump in Montgomery. Maybe it’s his birthday. Maybe, only a few hours earlier, while driving, he got to thinking to himself: wouldn’t it be nice to know a few things.
To know that those who died too young, are still watching us on our birthday. Wouldn’t it be nice.
First time I’ve ever used that word.
Nela - December 30, 2017 2:44 pm
Happy Birthday, Sean! Your writings enrich this southern girl’s life. Thank you
jennifersekella - December 30, 2017 2:50 pm
Happy Natal Day.
Brenda - December 30, 2017 2:54 pm
Happy birthday! Hope you have many more! Love your writing. Your daddy would be proud of you.
Tammy Griffin - December 30, 2017 2:56 pm
Happy Birthday Sean! See you in Union Springs on Jan 19!!!
Connie - December 30, 2017 2:56 pm
I believe in angels, and yours sent you a little gift on your birthday to remind you he is there! What a blessing!
Sheila - December 30, 2017 3:09 pm
Serendipitous! Loquatious is your word! A prophetic word. You do go around talking your head off, on paper. On flat screens. I believe you are doing big things. You touch the hearts of many and THAT is a BIG thing. Keep talking. I’m listening.
Lois - December 30, 2017 3:11 pm
Happy Birthday, Sean! Hope you have a great day!
George - December 30, 2017 3:12 pm
Happy Birthday, Sean!
Jack Darnell - December 30, 2017 3:13 pm
Son, you are fortunate, I know, I know,’BUT you don’t know’. No I will never know what your life was like. My daddy never thought words above his 3rd grade learning were that important. To daddy mayonnaise (my spell check says I still cannot spell it) , was a big word. He couldn’t spell it either. I was a HS drop out myself. I told stories professionally. YOu can fake bad English when you tell stories to cover up, but when I started writing, I learned just how dumb I am. YEP I had to look up “loquacious.” Just ain’t one of my words, wish it were. Stay warm!
Dru - December 30, 2017 3:21 pm
Happy birthday, Sean. My dad learned five new words every day on his lunch break. He worked and went to college 13 years to earn a four-year degree. Right after moving home to Alabama from the frozen north, he was accepted into an evening law school. Within a month he died as a result of a workplace accident. I was ten. He was thirty-seven. My dad would like your work if he were here. He used to make me read to him so that he could correct my pronunciation. I think your father is proud of your loquacity, don’t you? Have a blessed year.
Gordon - December 30, 2017 3:21 pm
Happy, Happy Birthday Sean. I so enjoy your daily writing. Keep giving me and others complete joy and pleasure along with a sense of hope for the future.
Bob Hubbard - December 30, 2017 3:30 pm
Looks like your daddy was right…..as usual…
AND happy birthday…
Catherine - December 30, 2017 3:31 pm
Your Dad’s gift to you was munificient. His love for you always comes through in your remembered times. Happy birthday Sean. I love the Liberty Bowl story of your birth. Please continue to share these stories with the world. Catherine
Anita Timothy - December 30, 2017 3:46 pm
Happy Birthday to a fellow December Birthday Celebrant…was Santa Claus good to you and yours? Hope you don’t mind, but…I’ve sent your column to friends in New York (transplanted Tallahasseans) and Washington (State!!) to remind them of how the world really is…
Gloria - December 30, 2017 3:53 pm
Sean, our family owned a seafood market in Tallahassee. Back in the 60’s a professor from one of the local universities came in to buy some fish. He must have been using some “big words” and showing his “education” because as he left, one of the men who worked behind the counter remarked: “I knows some big words too..elephant, hippopotamus”. Ever since then, when someone uses a “big word”, we laugh and say, just under our breath, “elephant, hippopotamus”.?? Hope you are having a wonderful birthday ?.
Pamela McEachern - December 30, 2017 3:55 pm
Happy Birthday Sean, it’s your day and I hope it is a great one. Every time you think of your Daddy I believe he is with you, it’s only his spirtual self but it is what drives your character to be the man you are today. So many follow your important words to us everyday, seems like your Daddy got his wish for you. God Bless and have a Happy New Year spreading your important words for us all.
Peace and Love from Birimgham
muthahun - December 30, 2017 4:33 pm
I see Sheila already beat me to “serendipitous”, so I’ll wander on to “competencies”… or strengths y’might say. Or fortitude, which anyone walking steel would need in buckets. And love, let’s not forget that big word ’cause hey, the alpha and the omega right there. Happy birthday, Sean. We are so blessed to have you writing whatever sized words you care to share with us. My pearl for today was, “… with a ratchet set and a ham sandwich.” Makes me smile.
Judith - December 30, 2017 4:38 pm
Happy, happy birthday to you. Your words stop me in my tracks and make me look back at life. Thank you.
Doris Wismer - December 30, 2017 4:39 pm
Dag gone you’re good!
ruth858 - December 30, 2017 4:52 pm
Happy Birthday! What a wonderful gift from your dad.
Sharon and Kelley Carter - December 30, 2017 4:57 pm
Kathy Wolfe - December 30, 2017 5:01 pm
Patsy Richey - December 30, 2017 5:07 pm
Happy Birthday!!!…and thank you for the joy, humor and warm thoughts you share with so many of us each day!
Kathy Daum - December 30, 2017 5:38 pm
You are not loquacious. But it’s a good word. Mine is superfluous. Happy Birthday.
Thomas Walls - December 30, 2017 5:49 pm
Happy Birthday Sean! I’m also enjoying a Birthday today. Planning on selling a few cows then taking my lovely wife out for a nice steak dinner.
Janet Mary Lee - December 30, 2017 5:50 pm
Worthy piece of writing! From a worthy storyteller, who had an amazing Daddy who still puts his two cents in! It is pretty grand when you can get affirmation even from a flatscreen on a gas pump! God uses everything for good! Have a very Happy rest of Birthday– and a joyous and safe New Year to you and family! Kiss Ellie!!
Jenny Young - December 30, 2017 5:52 pm
Why do we make people feel they don’t amount to much if they ‘only’ work with their hands or never go to college? Some of the best, most accomplished people I know work with their hands & never went to college…..even young people who choose to go straight to work out of high school. Some of the most wasted lives come from college graduates. There is something wrong with this world’s measuring stick.
I hope your dad realizes now just how accomplished his short life was. Look how much he taught you in such a short time! Wishing you the best, happiest birthday ever.
Margarita - December 30, 2017 6:02 pm
Blessings to you this day Sean! From reading your words each day, it’s obvious you’ve come a long way. Some of the roads weren’t paved. You are never alone! Happiest of birthdays to you. Happy New Year
Teresa - December 30, 2017 6:03 pm
I had to laugh! Your Daddy sent you loquacious on the dang aggravating tv at the gas station, for your birthday!! Now, that’s a birthday present.
Happy Birthday, Sean! Eat some cake.
Barbara Assell - December 30, 2017 6:28 pm
Your dad is smiling from heaven. Every day that you write, he is shining through you. Happy Birthday!
Sandra Smith - December 30, 2017 6:42 pm
DANG, Sean…that one filled my eyes !!!
Homer D still sends me messages too !
I cherish everyone of’em ! ❤❤❤
Sandra Smith - December 30, 2017 6:43 pm
PS- HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!
Katherine Morgenstern - December 30, 2017 6:56 pm
Another incredible story by one of my favorite writers. May all your birthday wishes come true!
John - December 30, 2017 7:05 pm
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sean!
Candace Cartee Bradford - December 30, 2017 7:40 pm
David Latham - December 30, 2017 8:20 pm
If Dec 30 is your birthday, we have more in common than my cousin Steve Latham. That’s my birthday too. Hope you have a wonderful day every day.
Martha - December 30, 2017 8:25 pm
Happy Birthday, Sean. I also have a December birthday, the 21st! I look forward to your articles every day since I discovered them last month. Everyone should read them.I have lived in Central Alabama since 1962, and can relate to many of your descriptions of people and places! Keep up the good work! Happy New Year to you and your family!
sandysewwhatever - December 30, 2017 8:27 pm
Happy Birthday from across the pond. and Many Happy Returns…which I only figured out what that means a little while ago. That the well wisher wants the recipient to have many happy returns of birthdays. Probably I am the last to know.
But, I guess we are still learning words and meanings.
Thank you for your website/ blog with the writing that is so thoughtful. I look forward to reading it.
Sandy in the UK
Noah Funderburg - December 30, 2017 8:39 pm
Today is my wife’s birthday too. She was born a redhead, but in recent years her hair turned a lovely silver white. Most folks thought she was blonde. This year chemo has taken most of her hair. We hope it comes back red! She is pretty with or without hair, but I partial to redheads. Thanks for another good story.
Smitty - December 30, 2017 10:17 pm
A very happy birthday to you, Sean. Your daddy would be proud.
Ellen Walters - December 30, 2017 10:35 pm
Happy Birthday Sean. I am 72 years old and was raised on a farm in Illinois. I am so grateful for your short stories. They remind me of a time when things were special and not so complicated. You have given me the opportunity to remember the closing of the screen door, our back porch and full service gas stations among other thiings. Thanks so much.
Judy Ennis - December 30, 2017 11:09 pm
Happy,Happy Birthday to you. Hope you have a special day!?????
Kathy Stribling - December 30, 2017 11:48 pm
Happy birthday, Sean of the South….from Kathy, lifelong Southerner. I love your ‘down to earth’ stuff! My Dad is from Geneva County, a little place called Black, Alabama. I often take him to visit what’s left of his family in that area. I love it when you write about being in that part of ‘God’s Country’.?
Deborah Jones - December 31, 2017 12:17 am
I love all of your writings, and many make me tear up, as this one did. How proud your daddy must be as he is watching over you. I lost my dad when I was 19. With only a high school education, he was one of the smartest men I have ever known. How wonderful that your daddy laid the foundation for your life’s work even way back then. Happy birthday, Sean.
CaroG87 - December 31, 2017 12:29 am
Tears as always!!!!
Cathy Callender - December 31, 2017 12:35 am
Happy Birthday Sean! I know that you don’t know how I look forward to your insights and observations! You, my friend, are a man of great words, words of wisdom! You are a treasure!
Marilyn Laxson - December 31, 2017 12:46 am
Happy Birthday Sean! May God bless you with many more.
Pat - December 31, 2017 12:53 am
Twas a God thang Sean…your papa wished you a Happy Birthday! Happy birthday from me also…
Debbie - December 31, 2017 1:13 am
There is no such thing as a coincidence. That was God letting you know that your Daddy was thinking of you and would see you again one day.
Dale Ann - December 31, 2017 1:33 am
Wow – That story really touched my heart. Thank you and Happy Birthday!
Steve Norman - December 31, 2017 1:58 am
Happy Birthday Sir, I so look forward to your return to Butler county in the spring. Happy New year as well!
Mary Ellen Hall - December 31, 2017 4:05 am
Wishing you a VERY, VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR SEAN!!” ? I SO HOPE your day is as WONDERFUL & SPECIAL as you make other’s feel!!! ❤
walnutrun - December 31, 2017 4:58 am
Sean, you and I have the same birthday. I’m grateful to the friend who shared your blog with me. I always look forward to your stories in my email. Happy birthday. I’m older than you, but probably no wiser.
Marcia MacLean - December 31, 2017 2:40 pm
Happy belated birthday Sean. Thank you for sharing this God nod. That post is a perfect way to end 2017….or begin 2018.
From your number 1 fan and cheerleader,
Sandra - December 31, 2017 5:31 pm
Happy belated birthday, I am a new follower. I love your writing style. my word is not loquacious but I am that word, my son says i have a black belt in conversation which seems to fit your word.. thanks
Marion Pitts - December 31, 2017 7:02 pm
Happy Birthday,Sean! Have a fantabulously glorious celebration!
Deb Bettis - December 31, 2017 8:43 pm
Happy birthday, Sean. And thank you…you bring music, light and laughter into my life. So I think you have done even more than your Dad hoped for, for you. Countless people, like me, need a positive spin on life. You are great at doing that!
Linda Acees - January 3, 2018 4:44 pm
Yes, wouldn’t it be lovely to know that?!
Keep on keeping on; you’re corny sometimes, but your writing is always magnificent and touches a place nothing else can.
Thank you x
amsween - January 4, 2018 10:19 pm
Happy Belated Birthday Sean! Life is messy…thank you for guiding us through it 🙂 I stockpile your writings and binge read them when I need to center myself. Thank you for being that beacon of truth and clarity in a world that seems to be skidding off the rails at times. Your daddy would be SO proud!!! Happy New Year!!
Nancy Rogers - March 23, 2018 11:31 pm
My grown adult son with autism shares a birthday with you. He also lost his father way too soon but he lost his when he was nine years old due to a bitter divorce. Not the same as a death but a loss nonetheless. I am glad that you appear to have some very good memories of your dad to cherish. I wish my son had more.
Beverly - March 24, 2018 2:22 am
Sean, please go see I Can Only Imagine! Your story is so similar to his. I wonder if you ever read these comments? Why don’t you answer sometime? Just so we will know. 🙂 We love your stories!