Dear Sean

But stories are important. They can keep us going when life sucks.

DEAR SEAN:

Will you come to one of my games? I have no dad anymore but I read your stories because you are like him is what my mom and I say. You like baseball and I just started to learn it. I should be playing center filled if you come to it next summer when we are playing. I am a redhead like you are. Thank you.

NINE-YEAR-OLD-IN-NEBRASKA

DEAR NEBRASKA:

Nebraska is a long way from me. Seven states away, actually. That’s practically another world. If I drove the whole way, it would probably take me—factoring in the slow speed I travel; the number of pit stops I take due to my teacup-sized bladder; and all the roadside cafes I will have to visit to meet my daily quota of bacon—ten years to reach Nebraska.

So to answer your question: Yes. I will try to come.

Firstly, because I believe in baseball. Also, because I am flattered that you read my writing. You could read anything you want, but you choose to read my few hundred words. Which raises the question: Are you nuts?

But then, maybe it has something to do with the color of our hair. We redheads are a dying breed you know.

Experts claim that long ago, during caveman times, redheads ruled the earth. In those days, the mythical ginger was often an important leader of a powerful tribe. Sometimes we were even worshiped.

Historians also tell us that redheads were mankind’s first poets, philosophers, and discovered many important medical breakthroughs such as tinctures, compounds, tonics, and out-of-pocket copay deductibles.

But somewhere along the way, the number of redheads decreased. We dwindled to two percent of the world’s population—which is a true statistic.

It was hard growing up as a two-percenter. In my childhood, people didn’t see us as tribal leaders, and they certainly didn’t worship us. They sort of saw us as weirdos.

It’s hard feeling like you don’t fit in. Which is how I felt after my father died. I was a baseball player like you, as I’m sure you already know from reading. I was not a good athlete, but I had fun.

Still, if I’m being honest, my favorite part about baseball was the camping trips. We would hike, build campfires, and sing songs like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” at the tops of our lungs to attract hungry bears.

Though I was never worried about bears because, statistically speaking, bears only eat people with dark hair, so I was good.

The other team-dads contributed their talents, too. Some would cook supper over the campfire—beans and hotdogs. Others would use nylon parachute cord to hoist our food bag four feet off the ground to keep it safe from very short bears. Also, to serve as a warning to bigger bears that they had better stay away if they knew what was good for them because we were armed with nylon parachute cord.

At some point we would all huddle around the fire and my father would tell stories. That was his role. He told stories. I don’t know how someone inherits this skill, but some people are put on this planet to tell stories.

This job might seem sort of unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Especially if you are at a family dinner, sitting beside your brother-in-law, who is a medical malpractice attorney with two summer homes in Costa Rica. But stories are important. They can keep us going when life sucks.

When my father died, there were no more stories, and no more howling laughter.

I’ll never forget the first team camping trip after my father’s funeral. There was an empty seat at the campfire where my father used to sit. It was horrible.

All the boys were quiet. They were probably all thinking the same thing. Where are the stories? Who’s going to tell the one about the ghost on the mountain? Who’s going to make us laugh?

Someone had to step in and save the day because Mister Harold was just sitting there, cooking pork and beans.

So I took a deep breath and I told one. It was a story my father always told. It was a funny one. One I won’t repeat here because it has some parts I don’t think your mother would appreciate. Mothers don’t always approve of things boys say around campfires.

When I told the story, I discovered something. I knew the whole thing. Start to finish. Even my father’s inserted jokes. The boys all laughed at the punchlines. It was only courtesy laughter, but it felt good to know that people cared enough to try.

Which is sort of why I’m telling you this. You don’t have a father right now. And even though you didn’t say it in your message, I suspect you sometimes feel the way I did. You might wonder where you fit in.

Well, wonder no more. I will tell you. You were put here to play, laugh, run hard, stare at the moon, stay up too late, kiss loved ones, hit baseballs, and tell stories. Your stories. Stories about life. Maybe not now. But the time will come. And you will remember this letter I have written.

If I can get up to Nebraska next summer, I would be thrilled to watch you play “center filled” and cheer for you. I can’t make any guarantees you understand. But I promise I will try.

Because we redheads have to stick together.

43 comments

  1. Sandi. - October 5, 2019 5:46 am

    Sean, I hope you fo make it to Nebraska next summer to see one of this young boy’s baseball games. For him it would be the thrill of a lifetime. Why not fit in a few storytelling talks while out there? Surely the boy’s mother can help arrange to have you talk at a church, or library, or a public auditorium. I hope you do go!

    Reply
  2. Sandi. - October 5, 2019 5:47 am

    * do, not fo (Excuse my typo!)

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  3. Karen - October 5, 2019 6:49 am

    Sean, if you could give us a P.O. Box address, or a PayPal address, we could send money for you to fly to Nebraska next summer. If all of your readers chipped in a small amount, it would happen. I sure would like to have a way to help you visit this young man.

    Reply
  4. Sharon Lawson - October 5, 2019 7:17 am

    Thank you for reaching out to a kid in need. It shows the quality of man you are.

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  5. Brad Haase - October 5, 2019 9:17 am

    Sean, I sure hope you make up there to see that boy play ball. I’d love to read about that.

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  6. Meredith Smith - October 5, 2019 10:17 am

    Sean, you have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known or not really known. God bless you. Really.

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  7. Elizabeth - October 5, 2019 11:10 am

    What a blessing you are!

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  8. Allyson - October 5, 2019 11:53 am

    Thanks Sean. A lovely and well written story. Your dad would be proud.

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  9. Nan - October 5, 2019 12:04 pm

    Sean, I’m very new to reading your column. So far, this is my favorite. You must have a good/pure old soul. Thanks for being you.

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  10. Jane - October 5, 2019 12:38 pm

    And, when an Angel taps you on your shoulders and requests that you take a car ride… well, you just do it! That little boy is who you were not so very long ago. Go ahead and make his day. Hugs

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  11. Gary Woods - October 5, 2019 12:46 pm

    As a boy growing up without a father, loved baseball but tow-headed, I too know that feeling of being the only one without a dad. Were it not for some in our neighborhood and Andy on Mayberry I don’t know how I would have made it. I’ll be 65 in few days and it’s still a hole in my life. I’d contribute to getting you Nebraska.

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  12. Trilby Devine - October 5, 2019 1:09 pm

    This one is perfect💜

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  13. Linnea Miles - October 5, 2019 1:18 pm

    Sean- I grew up without a mother. She died at 24 of diabetic complications and I was almost 3. I’m very blessed to have my own memories of her, and one of my girls is named for her. I’m 62; I’ll never live long enough to get over losing her. I’m so glad you reached out to this red- headed boy’s heart. Your words will help ease the pain. My hero and yours, LG, is proud of you. Come see us in the Asheville area.
    Linnea Miles, Black Mountain, NC

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  14. Joe Patterson - October 5, 2019 1:23 pm

    Thanks again make it if you can

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  15. Margaret Angell - October 5, 2019 1:36 pm

    Sean, you just made that little boy’s day! I will look forward next year to reading all about your trip to Nebraska to watch a little boy play “center filled”!! God bless you, Sean…

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  16. Mark Adamson - October 5, 2019 1:39 pm

    If you come to Nebraska I want to meet you, too. Bring the dogs

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  17. Susan Self - October 5, 2019 1:39 pm

    Redhead you made me cry again. My son’s dad died when he was eight. This brought back so many memories of me trying to be “daddy” to him. Thank you Sean, for sharing yourself.

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  18. Marge - October 5, 2019 2:12 pm

    You are so special! We are so blessed to have met you through these daily stories. I’d also be super happy to contribute to your trip to Nebraska! You would, indeed, make this little boy’s day!

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  19. susanogden624Ssuan - October 5, 2019 2:25 pm

    Sweetest EVER. I think you will make it there…

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  20. Glbarlow - October 5, 2019 2:45 pm

    Being left-handed I feel your pain. We lefties (dominant hand, not politics) comfort our selves knowing as a general rule we’re smarter than the other handed people. Mostly because since birth we’ve had to figure out how to exist in a world where every thing, this includes pencils, was designed for those other handed people.

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  21. Melinda Jones - October 5, 2019 3:23 pm

    Ok, so are we all going to Nebraska at the same time?

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  22. Mac - October 5, 2019 3:43 pm

    If you never do anything else…go see that kid play baseball!

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  23. Linda Moon - October 5, 2019 3:45 pm

    Yes. I knew you would try to go to the redhead’s game, because you are kind. Maybe all of us who read and love your writing are somewhat nuts. I’m also nuts for other storytellers: McCourt, Bragg, Grizzard, and Kathryn Tucker Windham. You, however, are at the top of my list. You were put on this planet to tell stories. I have several gingerheads in my family. One is a grandson who does not listen to my advice about co-pay deductibles, but he can play a mean piano! Music, laughter, and stories are never lacking in this large Moon Family!!

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  24. ktm - October 5, 2019 5:34 pm

    Oh, you precious soul! 💖

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  25. Shelton A. - October 5, 2019 6:01 pm

    I’m not surprised you knew your father’s story…writers and story-tellers have a way of remembering words. Especially words of a father. Hope you can make it to Nebraska.

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  26. H J Patterson - October 5, 2019 6:10 pm

    Put me down for $50. Gotta make this happen and we’ve got 10+/- months to do it.

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  27. Susan Kennedy - October 5, 2019 7:11 pm

    I can’t wait to hear about this Nebraska trip to see this young man play baseball! 💕

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  28. Susan Gleadow - October 5, 2019 8:59 pm

    My husband and daughter are a proud part of that 2%!

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  29. Gloria - October 5, 2019 9:05 pm

    Sean, you are the answer to everyone’s question, “Does God have angels here on earth?” Yes, He does and not just for little red headed baseball players but for all of us who need someone to care.

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  30. Cathy Moss - October 5, 2019 10:13 pm

    Sean, if you start a fund for your trip to Nebraska, let your readers know, pls. I would love to see that littles redhead’s dream come true. I am dead serious. Can you just see his face? His letter to you tugs at my heartstrings. I heard Roseann Cash sing a beautiful song recently. One of her dad’s best. I Still Miss Someone. I cried like a baby bc although my Dad has been gone 50 years, I still miss someone💜. You are simply wonderful. Love from B’ham

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  31. Judy Wilson - October 5, 2019 11:47 pm

    You have filled a young man’s heart with joy and hope. You hit a home run!

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  32. Donna Gulliver - October 6, 2019 12:26 am

    Sean, I hope you can go help fulfill that young baseball player’s dream of you attending his game! And on the way, you can stop next door in Iowa and see the”Field of Dreams” movie baseball field. I wrote to you recently about it and it is a great place to visit. Read and enjoy your columns every day!

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  33. Gary Farmer - October 6, 2019 2:29 am

    I hope and pray that you go to Nebraska. That boy needs you.

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  34. Barbara Knight - October 6, 2019 3:32 am

    ❤️🙏❤️ Nebraska sounds like a road trip worth making.

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  35. PJ Brown - October 6, 2019 10:04 am

    It’s really pretty easy to get to Nebraska. Just be sure to use your gps. Some fool put a lot of interstates with similar numbers very close together. I took the wrong one. It was a long drive to Nebraska.

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  36. Susan McCall - October 6, 2019 1:09 pm

    I hope you can fill that young man’s wish! As a teacher, I see far too many young boys and girls struggling with things they should never have to….thanks for sharing your gift with all of us.

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  37. Carol - October 6, 2019 3:34 pm

    If I know anything about you , I know you will do everything you can to be at that young man’s ball game!!
    Please let us know all about it.
    Love ya!

    Reply
  38. Mark Adamson - October 7, 2019 2:10 am

    Sean…my wife Julie has been teaching kindergarten for 20 years. If you come to Nebraska…she’d be honored if you read to her kiddos.

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  39. Jeff Walker - October 7, 2019 4:29 pm

    Sean, as a resident of Nebraska who has been involved in baseball as a player, umpire, coach and dad for a long, long time, please let me know if there is anything I can do both for this boy and for you when you are able to make the journey. I doubt you remember me, but I’m good friends with Donna Campbell and you autographed a book for me and she sent it to me last year. She recorded your doing so and even sent me the Instagram video. She has my contact info. Again, if there’s anything I can do let me know. My oldest played baseball before becoming a Marine and then settling into adult life (whatever that is) and my 16 year old is a left-handed pitcher like his father was. Even my daughter plays softball. We’d be glad to play some catch and talk baseball with this boy until you are able to arrive. Just please let me know. – Jeff in Nebraska (maybe that’ll ring a bell with you in your conversation with Donna) 🙂

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  40. Doug Stokes - October 7, 2019 8:11 pm

    He’s nine. He’ll never remember. lol

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  41. Doug Stokes - October 7, 2019 8:14 pm

    That nine-year-old really teed this one up for you Sean. 😉

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  42. Purplenannyo@yahoo.com - November 1, 2019 4:39 am

    I think we should all go to Nebraska to cheer for this kid & YOU, dear sweet Sean

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  43. Debora L Bettis - November 3, 2019 12:29 am

    We have a lot in common, Sean. I am a redhead (well I used to be…now I am someone with a snowy head). Lost my dad when I was barely two. And though I cannot remember him clearly, I have missed him for over 62 years, now. I love telling stories, too. But I do not have your flair. It is nice to remember those days of my youth. Being a redhead is a unique experience. And by the way, I read somewhere that some Bible scholars believe that King David was a redhead, too. One of my very favorite writers, who was a ginger. Awesome. You are also one of my favorites. I hope you get to visit our fellow redhead. Keep writng these great stories.

    Reply

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