I was a kid. The “Grand Ole Opry” had recently moved to Opryland. My old man was working in Spring Hill, Tennessee, building the GM plant. We were living nearby. It was a July evening and my father was young. Younger than I am now.
My father came home from work one evening, covered in soot and sweat. His red hair was a mess from wearing a welding helmet all day. He had raccoon eyes and the artificial sunburn that come from wearing goggles and holding an oxyacetylene torch.
He announced that we were going to the Opry. Just me and him. To see Ernest Tubb.
Mama dressed me in red Dennis-the-Menace overalls, a Willie Nelson T-shirt, and teeny Converse Chuck Taylors. Then she combed my hair with one of those black nylon hairbrushes that shredded your scalp and gave you a subdural hematoma.
We piled into my father’s truck. It was an F-100, forest green, with a welding-machine trailer attached to the back.
It was a 40-minute drive into Nashville proper. We entered the city. It was magnificent. The lights. The people wearing cowboy hats. The scent of French fries and pork fat in the air.
My father took me to get ice cream before the show. We sat outside on the curb and I spilled my vanilla on my Willie shirt. So he took my shirt off. I was bare chested beneath my little red overalls.
We pulled into the Opryland parking lot before showtime. We were walking into the building when a man approached my father. He had white hair. He was dressed in rags. He asked my father for money.
My old man never carried much money, for his own protection. Not protection against thieves, but protection against himself. “If I have money I’ll spend it,” he always said.
So he never carried much more than a few tens. He was a notorious tightwad. He was so tight, my mother said, that if you fed him King Arthur flour he would squirt No. 9 spaghetti out his backend.
My father gave the oldster a few bucks and apologized for not having more to give. Then he explained to the old man that he was taking his son to the Opry tonight, and that’s why he couldn’t give the rest of his cash.
The old man said he understood, and he started to walk away.
I could see the struggle on my father’s face. He told the man to wait. Then he opened his wallet and gave the man everything in it. I don’t remember how much it was, but I know that Opry tickets weren’t cheap. I know that during this era, roughly 2.5 million people visited the Opry annually and Opryland raked it in hand over spur.
I also know that on that particular night, as I say, Ernest Tubb was playing the Opry, and my father loved the Texas Troubadour something fierce.
The homeless man took the money and thanked my father. He swore to my father that he was going to use it to buy food. My father told him he didn’t care how he used it. He just wanted the man to know that he mattered.
The man walked away. My father and I walked into the opulent hotel like two beggars. We looked around, we oohed and ahhed.
There would be no show for us.
Daddy squatted on his bootheels and was about to explain to me why we couldn’t go see the performance. He was about to tell me that he was out of cash, and that we would not be seeing Keith Bilbrey, Jerry Clower, nor the Troubadour himself. No twin fiddles, no shouting “How-deeeee!” when Sarah Cannon took the stage in her price-tag hat.
So we just sat there in that hotel for a little while. A hick and his boy, admiring the velvet luxury and the gilded furniture.
We were about to leave when we passed a large group of finely dressed people in the lobby. We saw a man wearing a white hat and a blue Nudie suit with a red scarf.
When the entourage passed by, my father whisked me into his arms and nearly had a coronary event. He jogged right up to the man and shouted, “Sir, excuse me, sir!”
The man stopped.
My father said, “I just wanted to introduce you to my son. We love your music, sir.”
The man turned to look at us. He was tall. He had a large smile and crystalline eyes. The man said to me, in a baritone voice, “Nice to meet you, son.”
And he shook my little hand.
When the man left, I asked my father who that was.
My father said, “It doesn’t matter who that was. He’s no more important than the man in the parking lot. And don’t you ever forget it.”
I never did.
Debbie g - June 19, 2022 7:25 am
Why a wonderful Father’s Day lesson
Love you Sean and Jamie and love to Us All
Ann Thompson - June 19, 2022 7:29 am
🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - June 19, 2022 7:40 am
Just the thing my Father would have done. No person is above another, we bleed the same colour blood, we feel pain the same way. Let us love one another as Jesus loved. God bless al Dads today, living or shining from heaven. They taught us well.
Connie - June 19, 2022 8:17 am
You learned some valuable lessons at a young age. I know your dad had his demons but you have wonderful memories to hold onto. Some people don’t have good memories of their dad, so today is just another day. As always, sending love and hugs.
Evelyn - June 19, 2022 8:58 am
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Your father would be so proud of you Sean. Happy Uncles Day.
Anita Smith - June 19, 2022 9:35 am
As always you touch my heart. Thank you.
Leigh Amiot - June 19, 2022 9:51 am
Dale Edwards - June 19, 2022 10:47 am
What a wonderful legacy your father left you, Sean. A truly magnificent person. You were blessed to have been his son. How sad he couldn’t have stayed to see you grow older.
Ed (Bear) - June 19, 2022 10:50 am
Lucky you. You’re father, may he Rest In Peace, is a good man.
Christine - June 19, 2022 11:24 am
Your Daddy had a huge God loving heart and so do you❤️
Trudy - June 19, 2022 11:44 am
Wow. Just wow.
Priscilla Rodgers - June 19, 2022 11:50 am
My dad has been gone for 38 years and while I don’t miss him so much for me anymore, I so miss him for my kids and grandkids, they would so delight in each other. Thanks Sean
Tina Thompson - June 19, 2022 12:07 pm
Left me crying again…..
Kathy - June 19, 2022 12:36 pm
Sandi - June 19, 2022 12:51 pm
What a wonderful story and memory of a wonderful man!
Martha Williams - June 19, 2022 1:02 pm
It doesn’t matter what the recipient does with what he is given; that’s between him and God. Our responsibility is to offer help. Your daddy was a wise, good man.
Sarah Latham - June 19, 2022 1:27 pm
Sean, you had a good, good father. I’m so sorry that he left you too soon…I’m so sorry for the way he chose to leave & all the baggage he left behind…but you are who you are today because of him & these lessons he taught you….powerful, life changing principles of decency…
David Britnell - June 19, 2022 1:35 pm
You must have had an awesome dad!
KC - June 19, 2022 1:42 pm
Some people have their father’s for a life time and never learn the life lesson you learned in just one outing to the Opry with your Daddy. Thank you for sharing what a special man your father was on this Father’s Day. You are a blessing and treasure to us all, Sean Dietrich!
JAMES W NEAREN JR - June 19, 2022 1:52 pm
Very nice Sean.
Dale Parsons - June 19, 2022 3:01 pm
Thank you Sean.
janet - June 19, 2022 3:03 pm
Boy, isn’t that the truth.
Susan - June 19, 2022 3:12 pm
A lesson for the ages!
Steve McCaleb - June 19, 2022 3:23 pm
I’d love to think that there are a lot of men out there today that still share your late father’s humanity and perspective…..but I have recently resolved to stop lying to myself. But I can look back and dream.
Anne Trawick - June 19, 2022 4:11 pm
Carol Guthrie Brown - June 19, 2022 4:37 pm
Happy HAPPY Father’s Day, Sean! I am a big fan of yours! My friend Robin sent me one of your columns and I was hooked! I was a huge fan of Lewis Grizzard and I, too, cried when he died! I told Robin your style of writing reminded me of Mr Grizzard. She then sent me your column about him and I knew your style of writing was a tribute to him. Today’s column is especially heartwarming and so beautifully written I could almost be there with you and your daddy. I look forward to reading your column every day now. Thank you for your down to earth and very descriptive daily messages to your many fans. I am proud and happy to be one of them!
Judy - June 19, 2022 4:44 pm
This is a wonderful lesson today.
Christina - June 19, 2022 5:17 pm
I can see how you have inherited the best of your dad’s heart and kindness.
MAM - June 19, 2022 5:37 pm
That was beautiful! Made my eyes leak. I agree with Christina that you inherited the best of your father! (and the red hair!).
Ellen - June 19, 2022 5:55 pm
A profound lesson from a good man who had his human struggles. An awesome memory for his son, and a blessing to us today. Happy Father’s Day, Sean.
Linda - June 19, 2022 6:10 pm
That is a lesson that needs to be taught to a lot of people !!!!! Your Dad was a smart man !
Kathy - June 19, 2022 7:08 pm
What a wonderful lesson!
Maggie Priestaf - June 19, 2022 8:44 pm
Oh, wow! Your dad was a voice of the Lord…
Linda Moon - June 19, 2022 9:10 pm
My late father taught me some amazing stuff. Love of “Stalag17” was one. Daddy, I’ll come visit you at Oak Hill when I’m near the old home place again. So be on the lookout for your “Schnickelfritz”. I’m glad you met a “hero”; Sean, and heard those memorable words from your Father…the real hero for a boy!
Cynthia Russell - June 19, 2022 9:16 pm
GREAT LESSON FOR US ALL!! THANK YOU FOR YOUR FATHER.. STILL LEARNING!
Camille - June 19, 2022 10:12 pm
Wow, just wow! That was out of the park great!
Teresa Blankenship - June 19, 2022 10:41 pm
You are one special red head boy❤️
everlastings8 - June 19, 2022 11:36 pm
I would have liked your father.
Debra Cheney - June 20, 2022 12:12 am
You are your father’s son. You are the man he hoped you would be.
Chasity Davis Ritter. - June 20, 2022 3:15 pm
I know today was hard for you. I know you probably spent a lot of it wrapped up in precious memories. I know I did too. Your dad wasn’t around to teach you all the things but he taught you some important ones that have stuck with you. Maybe he was part of the reason you really see people the way you do. Maybe you share so much with us because he isn’t here for you to share it with. I’m sorry for that but I’ll take it too. I know you write your stories for all of us and maybe sometimes for yourself but most days I feel like they’re just for me only. Like you saw in my heart and wrote about what I needed to here. Just like on Sunday mornings when there are other people on the church but the message was made for my heart only I feel like. I know your heart was broken wide open so long ago and I thank the Lord too that HE sent Jamie your way to bind it back together in her arms. I’m thankful for so many things. Today I’m thankful for the memories I have of my Dad and for the ones you have of yours that you share with us so maybe. Just maybe we might learn a life lesson or two as well. Thanks Sean.
Pat Deas - June 20, 2022 7:19 pm
What a lifelong lesson!!!
joseybell - June 21, 2022 3:34 pm
My Dad and your Dad must have been cut from the same cloth. My Daddy always told me, “You’re no better than anyone else…and no one else is better than you.” We are all God’s children…equal in His eyes.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 26, 2022 10:48 pm