Dear Sean


I am trying so hard to find happiness in my life, but I can’t. I’ve just gone through a divorce. Do you know how to find true happiness?



Here’s the short answer. No.

Now here’s the long answer. Heck no.

My mother always said happiness was like catching a lightning bug. Once you catch it, now what? You have two options. You can either (a) put the bug in a jar and kill it, or you can (b) let it go. Either way, the bug will die a grisly, arduous death.

My mother was always so uplifting.

My uncle once told me happiness was like homemade ice cream. It always melts, it’s always a soupy mess, and it’s always a pain in the everlasting aspirations to make. Even so, it’s great while it lasts.

Have you ever tasted homemade ice cream? Whenever someone homemakes ice cream, it’s a pretty good day on planet earth. Especially if this ice cream is vanilla.

Vanilla homemade ice cream, among the old-timers and church people I come from, is a narcotic. It causes people to do strange things to acquire it. I know people, for example, who would drive upwards of 12,000 miles to get a bowl of homemade ice cream. I am one of these people.

Here’s a true story. My uncle had a friend who got out of prison when he was 65 years old.

His friend, who I’ll call Sweet Pea, was covered in crude tattoos. He was wiry and lean. He walked with a bent posture because of all the broken bones earned in prison fights.

Sweet Pea was a gentle, quiet guy. And his face was messed up from a prison accident. When he got out of prison, the one thing he’d been looking forward to, among other pleasures, was homemade vanilla ice cream.

He used to dream about it while he was incarcerated.

Enter my uncle.

Only one week after Sweet Pea’s release, my uncle approached my mother. There was clearly something on my uncle’s mind, but he didn’t know how to go about asking it.

So my uncle talked around the subject, which he was good at doing. Especially when my uncle wanted to, for example, borrow money. Which he often did. Usually after visiting Biloxi.

That day, he struck up a casual conversation with my fundamentalist, Bible-thumping mother. “I was watching the Discovery Channel yesterday,” he began.

“What do you want?” said my mother, flatly.

So my uncle asked her a favor, point blank. He asked if she would make homemade ice cream for Sweet Pea.

My mother said yes she would, but only on one condition. My uncle had to start attending prayer meetings, quit going to Biloxi, and never touch beer for the rest of his life.

My uncle agreed.

I was with my uncle when he dropped off the ice cream at Sweet Pea’s apartment. The ice cream was packaged in a small plastic bucket, packed with ice. But here’s the thing about homemade ice cream. Anyone will tell you this. No matter how diligently you try to keep it cold, it never lasts.

Homemade ice cream starts out semi-solid. But in about five seconds it turns into vanilla soup.

By the time my uncle placed a bowl before Sweet Pea, it was a bowl of cold milk.

Sweet Pea just looked at the melted cream and pushed it away. He told my uncle he didn’t want it. My uncle was shocked.

“You don’t want ice cream?” my uncle said. “Why not?”

“Because when I was in prison, sometimes late at night I’d think about how wonderful ice cream was. I’d lick my lips, and I’d dream about ice cream all night long.

“Thinking about homemade ice cream made me so happy. I’d remember the way my mama used to make ice cream on our back porch, how the family would be all be together…

“And I’d think about how much my mother loved me when she made that ice cream, and how much we all loved each other. I’d cry happy tears until I fell asleep, thinking about all that love I felt as a child.”

Sweet Pea stared at the bowl of melted cream. He was smiling mournfully.

He said, “This ice cream could never taste as good as the memories I have.”

To the man in Nebraska. I don’t believe in pure, uncut happiness. I don’t believe the Hollywood definition of happiness exists. I believe in love. Love is all I believe in. I believe it is all there is worth believing in. Happiness disappears. Real love never melts.

So in case nobody has told you recently. I love you.


  1. stephenpe - May 8, 2023 11:45 am

    The perfect metaphor for love. Homemade ice cream was wonderful when you were a kid. Along with so many other things in childhood. Ignorance was TRULY bliss. Bringing happiness to people that need it is pure love. Keep up the great work.

  2. Cathy M - May 8, 2023 10:45 pm

    Sweet words and I agree . Happy is allusive . Love is deep and wide. Dionne Warwick sang the song, what the world needs now is live sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. Truer words have never been sung. Blue Bell is now my go to vanilla. It can’t be beat. Double dog dare you to beat it❤️


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