Father’s Day

It is always good to chase a healthy salad with something like cheesecake.

A meat-and-three restaurant. I am sitting in a booth, eating fried catfish. George Strait is on the radio overhead, singing about Amarillo.

There is a man pushing a wheelchair into the restaurant. There is a boy in the chair. Thirteen, maybe fourteen.

The kid does not quit moving his body. He rocks back and forth.

The man parks the boy’s chair at a table. He opens a menu for the boy. The child grins so big he almost cracks a tooth.

“I WANT SALAD, DAD!” the boy says.

“Salad?” his father answers. “Don’t you want chicken, or steak?”

“SALAD, SALAD, SALAD!”

“You’ll get it all over yourself.”

“SALAD, SALAD!”

The waitress arrives and the man tells her he will have one fried catfish platter, and one Cobb salad.

“SALAD!” the boy says again.

Father and son have a conversation. The father speaks with an indoor voice, but the boy speaks loud enough to blow out the windows.

“I’M GETTING SALAD, DAD!”

“I know.”

“SALAD!”

His father shushes him, then asks, “How was therapy today?”

“IT WAS GREAT, DAD! I’M GETTING SALAD!”

“What kinda things did you work on today?”

“WE WORKED ON MUSCULAR FLEXIBILITY!”

“That’s great, how did you do?”

“I GOT THE GOLD STAR, DAD!”

“Another gold star? Let me see it.”

The boy works very hard to show the star to his father, but he has a difficult time moving his hands. Finally, the boy manages to touch his collar and display the bright sticker.

“SEE?” says the boy. “PRETTY GREAT, HUH?”

“It sure is,” says his father.

Their food arrives, and all of a sudden I realize I have been too busy watching to even eat my catfish. And I love catfish.

The boy is barely able to eat, it is exhausting to watch him struggle. But this doesn’t stop him from trying. The kid is determined.

I watch him hold his fork with an awkward grip. I see him spill salad onto himself. There is white dressing running down his shirt. Chunks of bacon on his lap.

“Do you want my help?” his father says.

“NO! I DON’T WANT HELP! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”

Things go from messy to messier. Soon, the kid is covered in food. When the meal comes to an end, the boy is wearing more salad than he ate.

The boy says, “DAD! NOW CAN WE GET DESSERT?”

“I don’t know,” says his father. “Depends.”

“ON WHAT?”

“On if you have a gold star.”

“IHAVEAGOLDSTARIHAVEAGOLDSTAR!”

“What kinda dessert you want?”

“CHHEEEEEEEESSSSEEEECAKE!”

It is always good to chase a healthy salad with something like cheesecake.

The waitress brings a giant slab of cake. The kid can only stare at it for a few moments. Cheesecake deserves reverence.

His father asks if he needs help.

“NO! I CAN DO IT!”

“Are you sure?”

“LOOK AT MY GOLD STAR, DAD!”

His father crosses his arms. He watches his son cut cake with a fork. The boy lifts the fork to his mouth without spilling a single crumb.

His body gyrates. His face contorts. Each bite looks overwhelming, but by God, the kid does it.

After ten minutes, he is almost done with the cake, and half the people in the restaurant are watching. The waitresses stand outside the kitchen. They’re watching, too. So am I.

When the kid finishes, the waitresses applaud, and so does the boy’s father. So do a few others in the joint.

Their meal is done. His father brushes off the boy’s shirt. He dips a napkin into a glass of water and wipes the kid’s face, then fixes the boy’s hair.

The man pays his bill, and I notice he leaves a healthy tip. Then, he rolls his son out of the restaurant.

They leave the building and I can see them through the window. They are in the parking lot. The man loads his boy into a minivan.

There are no wheelchair ramps, no hydraulic lifts. The man lifts his child using pure willpower. He slides the boy into the front seat, buckles the seatbelt, collapses the wheelchair, stores it.

He leans against the bumper to catch his breath.

I watch them drive away, and I realize that my catfish is cold. I flag my waitress. I tell her I’ll take a to-go box. And I ask about the boy.

“Oh him?” she says. “Yeah, he eats here every week, after physical therapy. He’s the nicest kid.”

She points to the vacant table. Lettuce litters the floor beneath the chairs. It looks like a salad explosion has just taken place.

She smiles at the mess. “Today was the first day he fed himself without help. Usually his daddy has to feed him every bite.”

And I will never look at salad the same way again. Or gold stars.

Or fathers.

Happy Father’s Day to you and yours.

30 comments

  1. Elizabeth - June 16, 2019 6:46 am

    Sean, I hate it when you make me cry. Thank you for writing and sharing. What a gift you are.

    Reply
  2. Meredith Smith - June 16, 2019 8:35 am

    Sean, you write like I’m in the room sitting next to you. Hope you enjoy your catfish.

    Reply
  3. Bobbie - June 16, 2019 10:02 am

    A real study in how to be a father. Thanks again for sharing your stories. And a happy Fathers Day to you Sean, and all the fathers and their families celebrating their special day. ❤️‼️

    Reply
  4. Janie F. - June 16, 2019 10:42 am

    This story right here is proof positive Sean that you were meant to write. As I read it I was in that restaurant with you watching that father/son moment. You allowed me to share in the son’s triumph and to see the dad’s heart. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Karen - June 16, 2019 11:02 am

    ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  6. Vanessa - June 16, 2019 11:37 am

    This is so beautiful! Sean, you’ve been starting my day off right for over a year now. Thank you for sharing your amazing gift!

    Reply
  7. Edna B. - June 16, 2019 12:16 pm

    Now that’s a real Daddy for you! I love this story, and I love how you make us feel like we’re sitting there at the table with you watching everything. You have a wonderful Fathers’ Day. I’ll bet your fur babies wouldn’t trade you for the world. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  8. Jess in Athens, GA - June 16, 2019 12:21 pm

    Happy Fathers Day to you, Sean. I hope you have the best day ever. Your stories are soooo good and I read ’em every day just to get my emotions working. God bless you and keep you always!

    Reply
  9. Donna - June 16, 2019 12:34 pm

    Happy Father’s Day. Good Daddy’s are a blessing.

    Reply
  10. MermaidGrammy - June 16, 2019 12:40 pm

    There’s a little child/baby or even children or babies waiting for you to come take them home. You’d be SUCH a good daddy.

    Reply
  11. Ginger - June 16, 2019 12:41 pm

    Dear Sean, If you ever skip a day posting a story or my electronics go catywampus or I am traveling in an exotic place and can’t get service….well, I would just go into a blue funk. I start my day with you. Your posting is almost part of my bible study/prayer time. Please forgive me, Lord. To be honest, I’m pretty mad with Jamie for finding you first. I love you to pieces, Sean. You most definitely, certainly, without-a-doubt enrich my life. Every. Single. Day. So…please give me advance notice if you are going to take a vacation from your posting. I’ll ask my doctor for medication. I am sure that I am not alone in this.
    Blessings to you!
    Ginger in South Carolina

    Reply
  12. terry - June 16, 2019 1:57 pm

    May our good Father bless you richly this day…

    Reply
  13. Tim House - June 16, 2019 2:15 pm

    Now THAT is a Father. With a capital F… 🙂

    Reply
  14. Roz Heiko - June 16, 2019 2:47 pm

    Our daughter is a grown woman now, full of juice & spice and quite capable. No one would believe she didn’t talk til almost 8, didn’t stand by herself til 4, couldn’t walk til 6. Some of us get extra determination, grit & will. Appreciation for touching my heart to encapsulate how one of the early Moments with her looked like, felt like. You rock.

    Reply
  15. Jean - June 16, 2019 2:59 pm

    That father is a gem. Such patience and restraint. I read your mail before I read anything else….and it starts my day off feeling blessed. Happy Father’s Day to you…..Yes, I know you don’t have 2 legged kids but you do have some 4 legged that love you too!

    Reply
  16. Joe Patterson - June 16, 2019 3:21 pm

    Beautiful story thanks

    Reply
  17. charliestsimons - June 16, 2019 3:59 pm

    Well done, Sean! By the way, I like my catfish cold!👍

    Reply
  18. Linda Moon - June 16, 2019 4:16 pm

    Indoor voices can be highly over-rated. Think of what the waitresses and others in the joint would’ve missed: AN AWARD-DESERVING PERFORMANCE, worthy of a standing ovation! What a Dad, to let his boy perform for all of you there in that meat-and-three audience. You got George Strait and The Boy – two for the price of one. I bet you’re glad neither The Boy or George Strait used an indoor voice.

    Reply
  19. Barbara Pope - June 16, 2019 4:36 pm

    What a man!

    Reply
  20. Betty Higdon - June 16, 2019 5:19 pm

    Nothing can bring tears (happy or sad) to my eyes like one of your blogs! May “all” your days be blessed!!

    Reply
  21. Kathy Coxwell - June 16, 2019 6:50 pm

    Beautiful story! To quote the Grinch, “I’m leaking!.”

    Reply
  22. Janet Mary Lee - June 16, 2019 8:06 pm

    Perfect for the Day! I had to laugh…Salad he spilled, but not the cheesecake!! A boy after my own heart!! There is a lesson in that !! And thank you for your daily posts..they are lessons and gifts too. Your Daddy is so proud! I know he smiles at you and who you have become!!! Have a grateful day!! (Hug!)

    Reply
  23. Anne P. - June 16, 2019 10:05 pm

    Just precious❤️

    Reply
  24. Brian P - June 16, 2019 10:12 pm

    Simply put. Very nice.

    Reply
  25. Lynda Fry - June 16, 2019 10:20 pm

    This is what you call “A great Dad.”

    Reply
  26. Shelton A. - June 16, 2019 11:28 pm

    Happy Father’s Day to you…the two dogs do count. The dad in the story, God bless him and his son.

    Reply
  27. Susan Hammett Poole - June 17, 2019 3:31 am

    💟💛💜💚💙❤👍😁

    Reply
  28. Jack Darnell - June 17, 2019 12:46 pm

    Many days I do not know how fortunate I am, but today?
    Good one dude! Catfish are good cold!
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  29. Ken Dunn - June 17, 2019 3:11 pm

    What a great dad and it’s hard for most of us to understand what he goes through 24/7. Makes our problems pale in comparison. I laughed about the cheesecake- regardless of our motor skills we will not let a single bite of cheesecake miss our mouth. What great determination from that young boy. I agree with some of the other posts- cold catfish is good.

    Reply
  30. Martha Norman - June 18, 2019 1:42 pm

    You literally help us to “walk a mile in that Father’s shoes”! He gets my gold star award!!

    Reply

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