I crawl out of bed. I walk downstairs to see my mother at our dining table. The tabletop is scattered with paper envelopes and a calculator.

I am in bed. Mama is up late. The kettle on the stove is whistling. The sound wakes me. I look at the clock, it is two in the morning.

I walk downstairs to see my mother at our dining table. The tabletop is scattered with paper, envelopes, and a calculator.

She leans over a mess of bills that might as well be a tablecloth. She punches numbers on the calculator and makes a grimace. I know my mother. I know that look.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

She runs her fingers through her hair. “Oh, I’m just robbing Peter to pay Paul, go back to bed.”

“Who’s Paul?”

“Paul Newman, who else? Now go to bed.” She buries herself in her hands.

“Have you been crying, Mama?”

“I’m not crying, now go to sleep.”

“But, I can’t sleep.”

“Upstairs, now!”

“But…”

She points at me. “I don’t wanna hear about your ‘but.’ I want you to go to bed.”

“I’m not tired.”

“Well,” she says with a sigh. “Then just pretend to sleep, I don’t care what you do. Go upstairs and count your blessings.”

This is what all Baptists do. We do not count sheep, or listen to meditative sleep instructional CD’s by Deepak Chopra. That stuff is for Methodists.

“Blessings?” I say to my mother. “WHAT blessings? We’re probably gonna STARVE to death aren’t we?”

I don’t know what has come over me, talking like that. I storm upstairs, slide beneath the covers, I stare at the ceiling.

I can’t sleep because life has dealt my family nothing but lemons. And I’m worried. We have limited means, tall debts, no father, and a car that leaks oil. And now my mother is having to pay this Paul fella.

My mother comes into the bedroom. She sits beside me. She touches my hair and doesn’t say anything.

Finally, she speaks. “Your health. That’s number one.”

“Huh?”

“Your health. You can count that as your first blessing.”

“My health?”

“Sure. You can walk, talk, and do all the things boys do, you don’t have pain, and you’re not sick.”

“Big deal.”

“And you’ve got your music, your guitar, and your piano, and you can play them anytime you want and fill this whole house with beautiful songs. That’s a blessing, ain’t it?”

“And don’t forget about my accordion.”

“That’s right, we can always use that for firewood.”

I get no respect.

“And food, sweetie,” she goes on. “We have lots of food. Some people aren’t lucky like us, but downstairs in our fridge we got bacon, and eggs, and sausage…”

“And pancakes,” I point out. “We have ingredients for pancakes.”

“Yes. We can have flapjacks whenever we want. We’ve got flour, milk… Oh brother, we got pancakes, lemme tell you, we got plenty’a pancakes.”

“Can we have pancakes tomorrow?”

“I don’t see why not. We can have biscuits too, would you like biscuits?”

“Yes, please.”

“And we have a car that runs, and Ollie—don’t forget him, he’s a good dog. We have a place to live, and…”

“And Mama, I’ve got forty-two dollars in a box in my closet if you wanna pay that Paul guy.”

“Wow! And just look at you, what a blessing! You got forty-two bucks! But no, I don’t need it. We’re gonna be fine, we’ll just have to buckle down this month.”

“And TV,” I add. “We’ve got TV.”

“Yes! We can watch it every night.”

“And then you can watch Paul Newman?”

“That’s right, Mama can watch some Paul Newman.”

“What’s so great about Paul Newman?”

“Everything is great about Paul Newman.”

“And Mama, I was thinking, you know, we have each other, too.”

She bites her lip. She touches my face. “Always,” she says. “We always have each other. Forever and a day. And I’ll always love you.”

She wipes her face.

“See?” she says. “You have a lot to be thankful for, don’t ever forget that. You’re breathing, and that means you’re one of the luckiest people alive.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Now go to sleep, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Mama?”

“Yes?”

“Are you serious about the pancakes?”

“Of course, now go to bed.”

“Mama?”

“Yes?”

“I’ll always love you, too.”

33 comments

  1. Emily - January 27, 2019 6:45 am

    Thank you!!

    Reply
  2. Camille - January 27, 2019 10:06 am

    There is nothing sweeter than the love between a mother and her son~I am blessed with 2 of them.

    Reply
  3. Bill Henderson - January 27, 2019 10:15 am

    Thank you for penning this. Was worth every moment that it took to read it!

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Vance - January 27, 2019 11:21 am

    My mother’s sister told me of a time when my granddaddy came in, a dirt farmer with 11 kids, and at the porch, his shoulders were slumped because he didn’t know how he would buy shoes for all those kids. By the time the kids saw him, though, he had his signature smile back on his face. She asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘Don’t worry your head, Honey Girl, we’ll be fine.’ They were, too, sweetest family ever! Thanks for today’s article, Sean, brought back sweet memories.

    Reply
  5. Peggy Savage - January 27, 2019 11:31 am

    Counting blessings puts everything in perspective…good reminder…..

    Reply
  6. Leslie Britt - January 27, 2019 12:09 pm

    Forgive us Lord, but we forget sometimes how blessed we are!

    Reply
  7. Jan - January 27, 2019 12:38 pm

    A beautiful memory and sage advice all in one!

    Reply
  8. Jones - January 27, 2019 1:17 pm

    Again, your life’s experiences have shaped you into a remarkable writer…thanks for being a blessing to your readers and reminding us all of the simple, but important things in life!

    Reply
  9. Connie Havard Ryland - January 27, 2019 1:28 pm

    I have so many things to say about your column today that I can’t say anything. But thank you. You have a gift for words; one of my blessings is that you share that gift with us. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  10. Liz Watkins - January 27, 2019 1:46 pm

    Love this! Don’t tell GOD how BIG your PROBLEMS are, tell your PROBLEMS how BIG your GOD is!
    Have a great day Sean!
    Saints Super Bowl 2020🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛

    Reply
  11. Barbara Bray - January 27, 2019 2:07 pm

    Your sweet Mama raised a good boy….I know she’s proud .

    Reply
  12. Edna B. - January 27, 2019 2:31 pm

    I just loved this one, Sean. If you have family, friends, love, and you’re breathing, you are very rich indeed! You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  13. Karen - January 27, 2019 2:31 pm

    I love your Mama so much.

    Reply
  14. Jeri Blom - January 27, 2019 3:10 pm

    This is beautiful and makes me cry. And it is a good reminder to Count Our Blessings!

    Reply
  15. Carolyn from Georgia - January 27, 2019 3:11 pm

    All your wrirtings are blessings!!!

    Reply
  16. Celeste Sheppard - January 27, 2019 3:21 pm

    Now I’m crying. We need to be reminded of how blessed we are. Just opening our eyes in the morning. Being able to breathe and see when there are those who struggle for every breath and can’t see. Being alive is a blessing. Thank you. I love you Sean Dietrich!

    Reply
  17. Elizabeth C. May - January 27, 2019 3:22 pm

    Great message, not just good, but GREAT! Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
  18. Annak - January 27, 2019 3:35 pm

    This Methodist learned to count her blessings very early in life, and your writing has joined the list, way up toward the top. Thanks for the reminder not to take anything for granted.

    Reply
  19. Janie F. - January 27, 2019 3:49 pm

    I feel like I was there watching that night unfold. We all have a story Sean and you bless your readers by sharing yours. What a gift. Thank God you have such a wonderful mother. Everyone has a mother but not all of them have their children’s best interest at heart.

    Reply
  20. Carolyn Kelley - January 27, 2019 4:06 pm

    Blessings counted❤️🙏😊

    Reply
  21. Shelton A. - January 27, 2019 5:39 pm

    Beautiful stuff…we all have more to be thankful for than we can count. But it doesn’t hurt to try sometimes and we’ll see how much we have been blessed with in our lives. God is good.

    Reply
  22. Jack Darnell - January 27, 2019 6:21 pm

    Good stuff, I like that thankful thing. I try to do that all the time. You have one tough mama! You are blessed. I had one tough mama too! Mama’s are special…..

    Reply
  23. Kathy Grey - January 27, 2019 11:30 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  24. Gale Smith - January 27, 2019 11:55 pm

    I read an old Ann Landers column years ago. It said: “If you have love in your life, it will make up for many things you don’t have. If you do not have love in your life, no matter whatever else you have, it will never be enough.” True.

    Reply
  25. LeAnne - January 28, 2019 12:13 am

    So, so sweet. Thank you.

    Reply
  26. Alice Grimes - January 28, 2019 12:18 am

    You were and are blessed. And you bless us with your gifts!

    Reply
  27. Linda Allen - January 28, 2019 1:38 am

    Thank you for reminding us of what’s really important in life. And what we have to be thankful for! ❤️

    Reply
  28. Lori - January 28, 2019 1:54 am

    Being the child of a single mother, there were many moments like this one in my life. As I was reading this column, I could picture my mom at our kitchen table or living room chair, surrounded by piles of bills. My mom never let me forget our blessings either and always focused on the positive in our lives. The fact that you still have her in your life is a great blessing that is worth counting. God bless you and your sweet family.

    Reply
  29. Anne Trawick - January 28, 2019 2:27 am

    You are one of the blessings I count.

    Reply
  30. Fay Reid - January 28, 2019 7:03 pm

    Thank you for this and many more of your touching ramblings and sweet stories. This brings back sweet memories. My single Mom worked in a cotton mill, only had one arm (her left arm lost in an auto accident when I was 7)…we had no TV, telephone or car, but we had the basics with lots of love. My grandmother lived with us, we had an old piano which she played beautifully by ear, so we also had lots of music until she passed away when I was 9. I had pretty clothes that my Mom sewed with her one arm. She was amazing!! She taught me and thankfully, I inheirited her talent of sewing. I’ve never been able to master the same taste in biscuits, soft dumplings and homemade donuts as my Mom”s. You are truly a blessing to so many!

    Reply
  31. Kathy - January 29, 2019 3:19 am

    Thank you for such wonderful stories….they bring back Wonderful memories!

    Reply
  32. Gwen Monroe - January 29, 2019 2:28 pm

    Memories. As a bonifide Baptist, I was taught from a very young age to count my blessings. Never feel sorry for yourself. It’s a sin😁😂

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - February 6, 2019 10:28 pm

      This reminds me why you are such a sensitive soul…with a very exceptional Mother!! Another good one!

      Reply

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