Things You Hear at Sunset

A brilliant sunset. I’m on the porch. My neighbors are on their porch. We can’t see each other. I am eavesdropping because I am a semi-professional eavesdropper.

The people are talking and sipping. I hear the sound of ice clinking in glasses, and I overhear average people making conversation.

And there is a baby cooing.

An older man’s voice says to the baby, “Wook at Gwanddaddy’s wittle gull. Hey! You’ve got Granddaddy’s nose!”

The voice that belongs to his wife answers, “Give back Granddaddy’s nose, pwecious wittle gull.”

“Who’s Granddaddy’s wittle baby gull?”

“Jenna! Come outside, quick! She’s got Granddaddy’s nose!”

Yes. There’s a lot to be excited about at the neighbor’s house tonight.

For me, one of the hardest things about the quarantine was the lack of conversation. I miss it. I think I could endure anything if I had enough chit-chat. But without it my mind starts to worry and I work myself into a frenzy.

In the past I’ve interviewed old men who spent their youth in World War II foxholes. Men who didn’t speak about the war until they were in their eighties.

Something they said was that during lulls between fighting, it was the gentle art of conversation that kept them sane.

One man told me that infantrymen would have conversations lasting six or seven hours sometimes. Maybe longer. Until their voices gave out. Until they couldn’t speak the next day.

They would talk about how they missed their hometowns, about their best girls, their kid brothers, their favorite dogs, their childhood sweethearts, their mother’s cooking.

They talked to keep from losing it. They laughed to keep from being afraid.

My neighbor’s voice: “Who’s Granddaddy’s wittle gull? Are you Paw Paw’s wittle baby gull?

I hear them laugh.

I lean my head backward and close my eyes. I could listen to their happy cadence all night. Nobody is talking about a virus, national death tolls, or current events. And suddenly I’m feeling myself worrying less.

“Uh-oh, George. I think your granddaughter’s going potty. She’s making a face.”

“She is? Well, we can’t have that. Let’s check my wittle gull’s big ole diaper…”

Gagging, followed by coughing.

“We’re gonna need a garden hose,” he says.

You know what else I miss? Walking around in public. It’s not the physical act of walking I miss, it’s the laid back feeling I used to have when in public. I didn’t have to worry about the stuff I do now.

I didn’t worry about bacteria-infected door handles. I wasn’t aware of contaminated air, or viral transmissions from unprotected handshakes. I wasn’t keeping my distance from others. I wasn’t disinfecting my UPS parcel with bleach.

I also miss going to the local gas station where I would always buy a paper, maybe have a conversation with the clerk, or buy a scratch-off lottery ticket.

But you can’t do those things today. Our clerks wear hazmat suits. And I don’t recommend buying scratch-off tickets because you have to use coins to do your scratching. And there is a national coin shortage.

Haven’t you heard? We have no coins. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says that the national coin shortage is due to the partial closure of the economy, because of the coronavirus, which has led to—

Wait a second. There I go again. Worrying about stuff. I’m as bad as anyone. Look at me. Here we are having a perfectly good time and I had to start talking about the U.S. Federal Reserve.

I’m sorry. Believe me. I am. I guess I’ve just been cooped up too long.

I hear more laughter. These people are laugh-aholics.

Then Granddaddy says, “Hot awmighty, I’ve never seen anything poop this much. Would you look at this?”

“Give her to me, George, you act like you’ve never seen a diaper before.”

“Diaper? I can’t see any diaper. It’s buried under a pile of—”

“George, please.”

Yesterday I saw an old friend in the drive-thru line at a fast-food joint. We were both picking up supper. I haven’t seen him in maybe 15 years. It was so bizarre, running into him like that.

He was wearing a mask, I was wearing a mask. We were both in our vehicles. It was awkward when we both jumped out of our cars in the middle of a drive-thru lane.

It was even more weird because we had to stand far apart. He has an elderly father at home. I have an elderly mother-in-law.

He said, “I really wish I could give you a hug, man.”

“Same here,” I said.

And that was it. We didn’t touch elbows. No fist bumps. We simply crawled back into our cars. A couple of guys navigating through a pandemic-ridden world.

If this would have happened a year ago, we might have shaken hands, embraced, told a few stories, laughed, and caught up.

But that didn’t happen. And sometimes it all starts to worry me. What happens from here? Where do we go after this? What comes—

Oh, Lord. I’m doing it again.

You know what? I’m going to close my eyes one more time and listen to my neighbors talk.

“Look at her! She’s got Granddaddy’s nose again! You have my nose, wittle gull!”

“Yay! Baby has Gwandaddy’s nose!”

“Hurry, where’s that camera?”

“She’s got Granddaddy’s nose in both hands!”

“Did you take the picture?”

The voices of cheerfulness fill the night for a brief moment. The sounds are like warm water on an iced-over windshield. It’s heaven I tell you. I was going to try to come up with a clever closing line tonight. But I don’t care about closing lines.

Not when Granddaddy’s wittle gull has his nose.


  1. Sandi. - August 31, 2020 7:48 am

    I wonder if “getting granddaddy’s nose” is a Southern game? When I was young, my Daddy would often fold his first finger over his thumb (same hand), touch my nose, then wiggle his thumb, saying, “I got your nose!” Then he’d touch my nose again, saying, “Ooops, I put it back on upside down!” Many moons later I taught my own three children this same little game, and now play it with my grandies, the youngest of whom is four years old. She loves to get Nana’s nose after I get hers!

  2. Shirley Lieberman - August 31, 2020 8:10 am

    Thank you.

    Read your blog every morning.

  3. Christopher Spencer - August 31, 2020 11:36 am

    It helps us all when we make time to forget the ills of the world today and just enjoy all of God’s blessings to us.

    There are no little or big blessings from God. They all are big enough to fill our hearts, minds and souls. And that is as big as anything else, even bigger.

    Have a blessed day,

  4. Jan - August 31, 2020 12:00 pm

    Most relaxed I’ve felt in days … I needed that. Thanks, Sean!

  5. George - August 31, 2020 12:40 pm

    The odds of getting covid from touching something, anything, are virtually non-existent. Why are you bleaching packages, pretty silly.

  6. Bill in Tennessee - August 31, 2020 2:10 pm

    CDC quietly revised its mortality numbers. Only 6% of the reported deaths were actually due to COVID-19 alone. In 94% of the deaths, the victims had 2.6 comorbidities. The 94% were very sick people to begin with. Except for the elderly or those who are very sick, CV-19 is a survivable illness. Just trying to encourage y’all.

    Table 3 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups. For data on comorbidities, .

  7. Chax Cone - August 31, 2020 2:43 pm

    Sean, I’ve been binge-watching a series on Netflix called “In the Dark”. Well written. There was a line in an episode I thought you’d like. Feel free to steal/use it. Here it is: “Worries are just prayers for things you don’t want”. I like it. Love you, man. Chaz

  8. Virginia Russell - August 31, 2020 3:53 pm


  9. Christina - August 31, 2020 4:28 pm

    Laugh-aholics! Can we have more of this goodness?!

  10. Becky Souders - August 31, 2020 4:29 pm

    So, Sean, here’s what you do the next time you see an old friend in the drive-thru lane: “Hey, friend. Long time since I’ve seen you. If you have time after your dinner, how about meeting me at the park/ church parking lot/ my front yard/ you name it. Bring your lawn chair and your mask, and maybe a beer. We can really talk then!”
    My quilt group, whose activities were curtailed (we are seniors and in that high-risk group) in March, started meeting in parking lots, then picnic grounds and, finally, regularly at the city park. There are usually 8 or 10 of us, and we sit distanced, but we don’t sew. We brag on families, and we show off our “homework sewing” and most of all, we talk, vis-a-vis, or mask-a-mask, and really talk and laugh. It’s so nice…. and it’s keeping me away from the edge.

    I continually hope for a future — and I’m 77 — that will include memories of a time when we had to plan our conversations with people; and I hope the conversations don’t disappear with the virus.

  11. johnnybracey - August 31, 2020 4:32 pm

    Heck, All I have been doing is trying to change my e mail address.. Do not need Word Press.. Please change it for me to and continue to send the mail blogs to me. Thank you

  12. Linda Moon - August 31, 2020 5:19 pm

    You are welcome to come to my front porch for conversations filled with laughter. You wouldn’t have to eavesdrop. Today is my baby girl’s birthday…….she has her daddy’s nose. Thank you, Sean, for reminding us of World War II veterans who survived the fear of foxholes through conversations. So, just imagine my comment and others’ too as talking and laughing you would hear if we were all on a porch together on my baby girl’s birthday!

  13. Melissa Williams - August 31, 2020 5:40 pm

    I know what you mean! What really frightens me is that folks around where I live won’t get vaccinated (even if a safe and foolproof vaccine is found) because they think Bill Gates is putting microchips in the vaccine. I am afraid I will have to wear a mask and live like a hermit for the rest of my life!! I am almost 69 and want to be able to visit and enjoy my grandchildren for heaven sake!!😭😳😭

  14. MAM - August 31, 2020 6:25 pm

    But, of course, you did nail the final line with aplomb! And yes, I miss extemporaneous chats. When I do have a chance to chat with someone, I can’t shut myself up! BAD! It’s all those pent up words inside me, so often I just write them down and feel better! Whew!

  15. Linda Broyles - August 31, 2020 8:22 pm

    “I think I could endure anything if I had enough chit-chat.” Well said! ❤

  16. elizabethroosje - September 1, 2020 12:32 am

    It IS really hard. Be sure you still get out and do something – take care of yourself! Love your writing and I TOTALLY get the worry.

  17. Martha Black - September 1, 2020 2:33 pm

    Someday when this is over, And dear Lord let it be soon……., we’ll all meet out in the streets with a full blown neck hugging, hand shaking celebration. We’ll clasp glad hands together and probably shed a few tears……. But Lord dont let us ever put this so far behind us that we forget, just how horrible it can get. Help us remember how we need each other and that “together” always trumps (no relationship or credit intended) “apart”. The wait is oh so weary, so long, so hard that I want to run up & down the street & yell in conversation & blown kisses across the yard.

    “Hello & Howdy neighbor, how I’ve missed seeing you! Hope you’re doing well & we’ll all be together, “close up” again real soon. Just wanted to extend as the day ends and the evening falls, just a short call, across the yard. Evening, neighbor, thinking of you, & lending an ear should you care to respond. Sending a blessing for rest, good night, God bless.” GOOD NIGHT SEAN,BOY…….

  18. Robert M Brenner - September 1, 2020 3:02 pm

    What a sweet precious picture you painted for your readers. Thanks Sean! ❤️👃

  19. Emjay - September 1, 2020 3:41 pm

    Those figures actually are misleading – it’s the excess deaths in a given period of time that matter, and they are up. BUT, there also are serious concerns with the shutdown and the masking and the disinfecting. Not allowing ourselves to be exposed to viruses and pathogens for months at a time is actually weakening our immune systems. We need to get back to normal living – and dying. We’re all sentient human beings who can protect ourselves from most illness by eating a healthy diet (sorry about those processed foods you like, Sean), take Vitamin D, 15-20mg of zinc and just be sensibly cautious. I hurt for the families who have suffered with serious illness and deaths loved ones. But we need to be free again.

  20. JustDanae - September 4, 2020 4:56 pm

    Was in the new Alabama Goods shop in Huntsville gift shopping for my Momma’s 79th B’day; had a lively chat with Cindy, aka CiCi as her grandchildren call her. It was delightful. I didn’t want to leave. We are social creatures. Thanks for reminding us that it is the everyday pleasures that make life worth living. Get out and chat!

  21. Josie Retan - October 4, 2020 3:17 pm

    I am a pretty social creature – so I love it when the mail lady comes, I greet her and chat, the UPS man, chat, the fedex gal, chat, the grocery deliverer, chat. Do a lot of text, FaceTime, phone, but there’s nothing like being close to a human!


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