DEAR SEAN: A friend of mine introduced me to your writing. I’ve only read a little, but as a retired copy editor, and author of two books, I think you could use some work.
You write about life. Well, I was married twenty-four years… My husband had an affair with a much younger woman. I know a little about the pain of life.
I’ve never lived on my own before, I’m in my late-fifties, I’ve raised two kids, and I’m all alone this year.
Your brand of goody-goody writing represents what’s wrong with this country. I’m sorry to be so blunt, your intentions are probably pure, but you’re still too ostensibly young to know how hard life is, honey. People don’t need more lovey-dovey ignorance crap. Sometimes it’s healthy to embrace anger.
Sincerely, JUST BEING REAL
DEAR REAL: I’ve always wanted to do the Dear Abby thing, so thanks for signing your letter that way. Also: I won’t lie, I had to look up “ostensibly” in the dictionary.
I appreciate your honesty. Allow me to return the favor.
You’re right about me. I don’t know how hard life is. My father shot himself with a rifle the day he got out of jail. My mother locked herself in her room and cried for years. My family eroded. I was twelve.
I don’t want to talk much about it. It’s ostensibly difficult.
I hope I used that word right.
What I can tell you is that we lived on a farm. The day Daddy passed, adult-chores fell to adolescent-me. So did the laundry. I was angry. Not just with my father, but with my peers, for having easy lives.
Eventually, we lost the farm. We lost lots of things—that’s what happens to poor folks.
Mama cleaned condos, I swung hammers. We delivered newspapers, laid sod, painted houses. We got good at hocking things. Once, I even took a job digging a drainage ditch with a Venezuelan man named Salvador. I slept in his van for three days.
It was actually a nice van—with a kitchenette.
The things you’ll do for rent.
So you’re right. I don’t know what it’s like to have a husband walk out. In fact, I don’t know half the things you do. I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest hammer in the bag.
Here’s what I know:
I know life comes bundled in ugly wrapping paper. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is, ma’am. We can either get angry—God knows we deserve that much. Or we can tear open the hideous package and see the gift inside.
I guess what I really mean to say is: I’m sorry he hurt you. In fact, it breaks my damn heart, darling.
karen - January 5, 2017 3:11 pm
Well done my bearded baptist friend. Imaginary but hey. I do talk to you while reading everyday!
Christy - January 5, 2017 3:12 pm
I look forward to reading your stories everyday. I love that they are about things we can all relate to, in one way or another. Real people, real life. Thank you so much! Activate your hater shield and carry on. ?
Calista - January 5, 2017 3:13 pm
I smile when I see my notification that I have an email from you. I love how you write about real people dealing with good things, bad things, happy things and sad things. I personally think you keep it real. The stories I can relate to make me think I have made a connection with someone I may never meet or perhaps will meet one day or maybe have already met. I love how you tell other people stories that otherwise might not get told . You bright my day by keeping it real. You remind me to to rejoice with those rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping.
Thanks for you stories and thanks for keeping it real.
Debora Colvin - January 5, 2017 3:20 pm
Make haste and carry on! You stories remind us that we are not alone in this thing called life.
Renea - January 5, 2017 3:56 pm
As a follower of your blog, I must share that I recently received quite a bit of hate and negativity for my (positive) writing about common folk displaced by the Gatlinburg Fire. Initially I was hurt, because I know my heart. So I took to The Good Book and in 30 seconds I had an answer, Nehemiah 6:9 “For they were trying to intimidate us saying, they will become discouraged in the work and it will never be finished, But I prayed, O God strengthen my hands.” Today I realize why people react negatively to my blog posts, they are being convicted by the Holy Spirit and instead of pondering and reflecting, they lash out. Thank you for writing this post. Just last night I thought about writing something similarly on my own blog to the woman who left 4 comments in one hour. God, strengthen Sean’s hands (and mine) and give us the words we ALL need to read.
Wendy Boston - January 5, 2017 4:00 pm
Sean, for the millions of us that have lived through many of the same situations you did and came out of it with the same attitude and better for it, I have to say thank you for giving us a voice. I was alone in my thoughts about my dad. I read one story and knew out there somewhere was someone who understood. God bless and carry on!
Lynnette Rich - January 5, 2017 4:55 pm
Thank you for all of your writing; you touch so many hearts and in a good way. Until we share our stories, we will never know one another. Since I found you, I feel like I have a new friend. Lynn
Kay Keel - January 5, 2017 4:58 pm
Sean, thank you so much for you beautiful writing! Your stories have made me laugh and cry, but they ALWAYS make me think. Sometimes life’s circumstances kick us squarely in the teeth, but your attitude often determines what happens after you get that kick in the teeth. One of my favorite quotes is this, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” (Carlos Castaneda)
Chenise - January 5, 2017 5:18 pm
I’ve just discovered your writing and, frankly, I don’t know how I’ve lived this long without it. The email notification I receive absolutely makes my day. Don’t change a thing and THANK YOU for making us smile.
Shannon - January 5, 2017 6:24 pm
As a thrice-married mother & grandmother who lost one husband to suicide (and that’s just the tip of my iceberg of stories I could tell), danced with the devil (to put it delicately), and lived a far from perfect life; I’m here to say thank you (again) for putting a voice to a lot of my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for giving me my words back.
If the grammar isn’t always perfect or someone doesn’t like the writing style – so be it. (Tell them it’s literary license and call it a day. ?) Even editors aren’t perfect.. as a quick glimpse of any news story will show. None if us are.
Maureen - January 5, 2017 8:10 pm
Great response – feel so sorry for that ignorant woman. Love your writing, and none of us get through life without some pain. I am sorry for yours.
Elaine - January 5, 2017 9:01 pm
I just want to say that I admire the compassion you showed the unknown author. Most of the time, I expect that her anger drives people away so quickly that she doesn’t get much in the way of companionship or support in living her new life. Sad.
What’s *really* wrong with this country is that not enough people are reading Sean of the South and maybe seeing the world through some new eyes. You and Anne Lamott are my heroes (well, along with Barack Obama, John Lewis, Jimmy Carter–you know, people who try to live their beliefs.)
Keep on keeping on.
Jan - January 5, 2017 9:47 pm
I can’t articulate my feelings. I will simply say, you move me. Thank you.
Maggie Perez - January 5, 2017 9:57 pm
Bravo! You touch so many lives. I agree with the other comments, the world needs to be reading Sean of the South!
sherry k. - January 5, 2017 10:01 pm
I am just going to keep this in mind when I comment.
ostensibly your (now) humble reader,
Carol in Northern Indiana - January 5, 2017 11:17 pm
Your writing is exactly what this world needs right now. A breath of fresh air in a social media world dripping with hate and fear of what the future holds. I had a rough childhood too, maybe not as bad as yours, maybe just as bad in other ways. When you come from those beginnings and are able to find your place in this world there aren’t many hateful opinions that mean anythng to you. I feel sorry for this lady if her only hard time came when her marriage went bad. I hope she will come to know in her elder age what we learned when we were young. However, sometimes, you can’t teach an old dog.
Best wishes. Waiting to see what you have to say tomorrow.
Maria Laughlin - January 6, 2017 2:05 am
Yaaaaayyyy for you Sean!! Some people just need to wallow in their own pity, not even thinking their “loss” was probably the best thing to happen to them. I loved your response and I hope it might have opened her eyes so she can move forward and conquer! She probably should have kicked the creep to the curb a long time ago. Love, love, love your posts!!
DebySu - January 6, 2017 4:59 am
You always make my heart…feel.
Robert M. Steiger - January 6, 2017 1:11 pm
I like your reply. Keep on writing the way you do. Don’t change.
Jerenell Gorbutt - January 6, 2017 7:56 pm
Dear Sean (thank you for never being an Abby) You are so kind to relate to and respond to this lady in such a gracious manner. She is hurting just as we all have or are currently hurting. Son, you are helping a whole bunch of us (I am as old as your granny and you are helping me) ~so you just keep right on telling your stories and every other person’s story that will let you. Talk about hurt and feelings and what is inside that ugly package and how to let the hurt out and the good stuff sneak inside of the broken hearts. Love is what this world needs young man and so far… You have never, not one time, ended a story without showing someone that there is love still alive and well in this old world.
Sending you the very best for this new year… May the Good Lord Bless You and Your Beautiful Wife…
Mary Ellen Hall - January 7, 2017 1:32 am
Charaleen Wright - March 20, 2019 5:26 am