First Dates

There were no available tables in the swanky Italian restaurant. My date and I were waiting in a huge crowd of hungry wolves who all held those little buzzers that light up when your table is ready.

I was a mere boy.

I approached the hostess desk, I added our names to the waiting list. My voice squeaked like I’d just gone through the fourth stage of puberty. I was given a buzzer.

My new girlfriend and I were on one of our first dates. This was a girl I really liked. She had a great sense of humor and a thunderbolt mind.

It’s funny how certain you can be about somebody so early in your relationship. I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but I knew this gal was special.

I first realized this when, earlier that evening, a cop pulled us over for speeding and not only did this girl charm our way out of a ticket, but the patrolman practically invited us over for Thanksgiving.

My date and I sat together in the restaurant waiting area. We were still in that phase where you’re not sure how to act around each other.

Do you sit close together? Or is that pushy? Do you put an arm around her? Or is that creepy? Is she going to think you’re Fast Eddie if you hold her hand? Does she carry pepper spray?

So we sat with exactly nine inches between us, curtly smiling now and then. So polite.

Her hair was chocolate. Her skin was the smoothest I ever saw. She wore a powder blue blouse. Her perfume was called “Sweet Pea.”

In the foyer beside us was an old man, slumped in his wheelchair, attached to oxygen. He was dressed in an old suit, his feet were clad in ratty house slippers, and his tie looked like it had spent the last four months crinkled in a tight ball.

My date and I watched a middle-aged married couple tend to the old man’s needs. They were his caregivers.

The woman straightened the old man’s collar, and messed with his oxygen tank. The husband pushed the wheelchair, and provided comic relief for the group.

My date and I were hypnotized by watching them. They made it all look so easy.

Our society often views caregiving as grueling, dismal, thankless, self-sacrificial work. And that’s all true. Caregiving can definitely be those things. But it’s also fun sometimes. If you don’t believe me, think about it like this: being a parent is a form of caregiving.

Ask any new parent what it’s like caring for a helpless child. They will tell you, yes, absolutely, it is difficult and all-consuming work. However, nearly every parent will immediately add, “But it’s worth it.”

Caregiving.

The old man and the younger couple seemed so comfortable with their life situation. So relaxed. They were so—dare I say it?—happy.

“I have to pee,” shouted the old man, drawing ghastly stares from the elite.

“Ssshhh, Daddy,” said the younger guy.

“Right now, dangit!”

“Okay. Calm down, Daddy.”

“Hurry up! It’s coming! And I like this suit!”

This tickled the younger man. He quickly wheeled the old man through the restaurant. They disappeared and were gone for a long time. Out of pure curiosity I visited the men’s room.

When I walked through the restroom door I saw the dynamic duo parked before the mirror. They were both smiling. The middle-aged guy was tucking in the old man’s shirt. Then he combed the old man’s hair and glanced at his father’s reflection in the mirror. He said something like:

“You’re one sexy man, Daddy.”

They both laughed, then wheeled out.

It was the most wonderful thing I ever saw.

That night, my date and I sat at our fancy table and we couldn’t quit watching them. The highlight of the night was when the caregivers fed the old man. It was a team effort. The middle-aged guy cut the food; the woman administered it. Meantime, their own plates grew cold.

And throughout the whole meal the three of them were cackling and grinning, oblivious to the prying eyes around them.

Never once were any looks of pity exchanged. There were no moments of tension at their table. And although the old man was wearing most of his cheese ravioli on his bib, nobody was even remotely embarrassed. They were a regular family.

After the old man’s meal, the woman dipped a napkin in ice water and cleaned his entire face like you might clean a child’s. The old man beamed.

My date nodded toward their table.

“See that woman?” my date said. “Someday, when my mother’s an old lady, that will probably be me.”

I reached across the table and took the young woman’s soft hand into my own. Because deep in my heart I was certain she was flat wrong about that.

Someday that would be us.

67 comments

  1. Deborah Lockard - August 5, 2021 2:49 am

    Now that’s true love !

    Reply
  2. Julie - August 5, 2021 2:51 am

    May I have the love and good humor to make the caregiving in my future a beautiful thing, as the two of you have done.

    Reply
  3. Judy Broussard - August 5, 2021 2:51 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  4. Trilby - August 5, 2021 2:53 am

    Precious ❤️

    Reply
  5. Viann Augustine - August 5, 2021 2:58 am

    Your beautiful observation of caregiving at any age for any age can be an act of love with humor & grace. Your instincts for a beautiful woman was an equal act of faith and love also

    Reply
  6. Kathryn Arnold - August 5, 2021 2:59 am

    Got me all the way in the feels. God bless you all.

    Reply
  7. Patricia Schwindt - August 5, 2021 2:59 am

    Sean, I don’t see how you can do it, but you’ve done it again. First Dates – You hit that one not only out of the ballpark, it went clear into the next county! Beautiful. I envy you your talent.

    Reply
  8. Martha Black - August 5, 2021 3:02 am

    What a great thing happened to you the day you fell in love with your wife and her family in turn. It’s a graceful thing. Some would not accept that as a blessing or privilege, but it is.
    I know from experience what it is to not be joyfully accepted into your childs family but to be only tolerated and considered a burden. And to meet your maker unescorted is a lonely journey.

    Reply
    • Christine - August 5, 2021 10:17 am

      Martha, I pray you feel the love of Jesus and the Angel’s with you as you make the journey. God bless you.

      Reply
    • Leigh Amiot - August 5, 2021 11:48 am

      Love you, Martha.

      Reply
  9. Karen Snyder - August 5, 2021 3:05 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  10. Bill Harris - August 5, 2021 3:06 am

    Thank you Sean. Your stories fill my heart.

    Reply
  11. Samantha - August 5, 2021 3:09 am

    You betcha. Your bride is so fortunate to have your support. In my mind, there is no other way – you do for the elder loved one what they have done for you, but not everyone has this mindset or capacity. I wouldn’t trade one second of the gifts I was given – to be present for this final step on 4 separate occasions – some short, some long. Death comes on its own schedue. Our calling is to be present, patient and reassuring. All my best. Grace and peace to Mother Mary, to your wife and to you.

    Reply
  12. Lynn - August 5, 2021 3:10 am

    Sean, I look forward to each day’s addition to your Mary saga. Having been my mother’s caregiver, I understand exactly what you’re talking about. Now on the other side of hospice care, and all that entails, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity I had to care for my mother in her last few months. Some call it the circle of life. I call it love.

    Reply
  13. MAM - August 5, 2021 3:26 am

    That was such a sweet story, and somehow I knew from the beginning that you were talking about your Jamie. You, Jamie and Mother Mary are so fortunate to be together at this difficult time. God is with you!

    Reply
  14. Regina - August 5, 2021 3:32 am

    Gosh darn it you made me cry again. That old man reminded me of taking care of my Dad. God bless you and that date, she is an angel on earth. Sending love and hugs to all of you as you go through this journey. ❤️

    Reply
  15. Margaret E Odell - August 5, 2021 3:35 am

    It takes a team to bring someone into the world and also to help them leave. God bless you, Jamie and Mary!

    Reply
  16. Janie F. - August 5, 2021 3:35 am

    Caring for someone you love when they can’t see to their own needs is a precious thing. Praying for all of you, especially Mother Mary.

    Reply
  17. Cynthia Russell - August 5, 2021 3:43 am

    GOODNESS HOW I LOVE YOUR STORIES.. THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL GLIMMER OF HOPE & LOVE IN THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN!!
    Thank You!!

    Reply
  18. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 5, 2021 3:51 am

    Reply
  19. Chris Spencer - August 5, 2021 3:52 am

    Love y’all Sean, Jamie and Mother Mary. Continued prayers for you all.
    Chris

    Reply
  20. Cecilia Moorer - August 5, 2021 4:06 am

    Aww! That was the sweetest !

    Reply
  21. Betty Higdon - August 5, 2021 4:19 am

    ❤️❤️

    Reply
  22. Kathleen Jun Magyar - August 5, 2021 4:50 am

    What a lovely column. I say this as one of those people ministering to a disabled person, this one my husband of 40 years. I must inform you though that it is NOT as much fun as caring for a sweet little baby whom you can lift without pulling out your shoulder!

    Reply
  23. Anita Smith - August 5, 2021 6:16 am

    Such a beautiful story. What a blessing you found each other 💗

    Reply
  24. Christina - August 5, 2021 6:25 am

    You got the best date with the most loving heart!

    Reply
  25. Jaye - August 5, 2021 7:17 am

    5 Stars !

    Reply
  26. Barbara Zuleski - August 5, 2021 7:26 am

    Bless you all

    Reply
  27. Lander - August 5, 2021 8:10 am

    And so you have become that sweet and funny couple caring for someone without a care in the world for who is watching, even if it’s with a different gal from that awkward date where you sat 9” apart. And I have loved hearing about this pretty special time with Mother Mary. A good friend’s dad is dying. He’s been reading your columns out loud to his brothers over the phone, with tears in their eyes, as they take turns spending time with their dad. Blessings to you as you laugh tenderly and try to cry quietly and catch her opening one eye to spy what you’re up to. You can’t replace this time with her or with each other.

    Reply
  28. Debbie g - August 5, 2021 8:26 am

    I understand your readers leaving only heart symbols. There are no words
    Love ❤️

    Reply
  29. Joan Moore - August 5, 2021 9:02 am

    Yes ♥️

    Reply
  30. david grant - August 5, 2021 9:15 am

    dang Sean: That was awesome.

    Reply
    • Wendy Carr - August 5, 2021 3:18 pm

      Beautifully written, beautifully lived! I wonder, is it weird to find yourself praying for people you’ve never met? The three of you are in my prayers. ❤️❤️❤️

      Reply
  31. Camilla - August 5, 2021 9:30 am

    Lovely surprise at the end. Very special people, all around.

    Reply
  32. Dean - August 5, 2021 10:02 am

    ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  33. Deb - August 5, 2021 10:47 am

    No words, just ❤️

    Reply
  34. Andrea - August 5, 2021 11:07 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  35. Karen - August 5, 2021 11:28 am

    ❤️❤️ What a blessing.

    Reply
  36. Leigh Amiot - August 5, 2021 11:37 am

    Sean, I have a similar memory. My husband and I were seated at Crystal River Seafood (now closed) and two men came in, one quite old, the other growing old, presumably father and son because of strong resemblance. When their food arrived, the younger of the two old men first went to the opposite side of the booth, cut all the food, and placed a napkin carefully over his father’s chest, then returned to his seat. It remains one of the sweetest interactions between two humans I’ve ever seen.

    Reply
  37. Julia Love Driver - August 5, 2021 11:38 am

    Always enjoy your columns but especially these about Mother Mary. So many people put their elderly parents out to pasture so to speak. It gives hope that someone will care for us in our old age. It is admirable what you and Jamie have managed to do .

    Reply
  38. Charles V. - August 5, 2021 11:42 am

    Blessed are the care givers. ❤️

    Reply
  39. Bev - August 5, 2021 11:50 am

    ❤️❤️❤️💞❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  40. Gina - August 5, 2021 12:05 pm

    Sean, I love your column. Especially now. Caring for the elderly can be grueling and seemingly thankless – until you make them smile or laugh and their face lights up and you realize that you really do make a difference in their life. Jamie is one is a bajillion. So are you, sir.

    Book recommendation for you or anyone out there regarding end of life and care. ‘Being Mortal’ By Atul Gawande. I have recommended this book countless times for those either caring for, or soon to embark upon the path of caring for an elderly or terminal relative. It is one of the best books that I have ever read and it helped to make me understand that the care of the elderly, of my 91 year old mother, is so much more than what it appears to be at face value. It is not easy, but it is honorable. I hope that the karma that I generate by doing so will be enough for my own children to help me out when I get to a stage where I desperately need it.

    Best to you, Jamie and especially your sweet MM.

    Gina T – West of Asheville

    Reply
  41. Chasity Davis Ritter - August 5, 2021 12:25 pm

    Got me again. That’s all I can say. You two are angels.

    Reply
  42. Jill McKenzie - August 5, 2021 12:30 pm

    So sweet, Sean. Thank you. Rosalynn Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world:
    those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”

    Reply
  43. Molly - August 5, 2021 12:39 pm

    God is leading you three on a beautiful journey. Lean on Him. He has been with you even in that fancy restaurant. What a beautiful story of a life well lived! You make me cry and smile at the same time!! Thank you
    ❤️❤️

    Reply
  44. Kay - August 5, 2021 12:42 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  45. Tina M - August 5, 2021 12:52 pm

    I need to quit reading your columns at work, because they always make me cry. And don’t you mind that guy from the other day who says you write too much about Mother Mary. You keep writing about that lovely lady and about your perfect wife. And I hope the Lord heaps blessings upon Mother Mary and your family.

    Reply
  46. Len - August 5, 2021 1:32 pm

    Sean,

    Every day, you make me laugh out you make me cry! Good stuff.

    Reply
  47. Dee Jordan - August 5, 2021 1:39 pm

    And it’s come full circle–great writing!

    Reply
  48. Bob E - August 5, 2021 1:41 pm

    Caregivers rock!
    Sean picked a great one.

    Reply
  49. elizabethroosje - August 5, 2021 1:48 pm

    I love this so much Sean. I am praying for you 3 daily more than once/day ❤

    Reply
  50. Shelton A. - August 5, 2021 1:57 pm

    Wonderful story…and it is you two. God bless Ms. Mary, Jamie, and you. May He give you all comfort and peace. Hope the pups are doing well, too.

    Reply
  51. Thames Robinson - August 5, 2021 2:11 pm

    Sean,
    I love you more with every article I read. Thank you and keep it up.
    Your devoted new follower,
    Thames Robinson

    Reply
  52. Susan - August 5, 2021 2:21 pm

    Beautiful…

    Reply
  53. Linda Moon - August 5, 2021 4:36 pm

    I like that girl you described with her humor and thunderbolt mind….and I’m thinking while reading that must have been Jamie Martin. How serendipitous that on your first date you saw caregivers, and now you two are giving care to Jamie’s mother, Mary. I don’t believe in coincidences, Sean and Jamie. You two make a good “us” for each other and for Jamie’s mother.

    Reply
  54. Shirley - August 5, 2021 4:56 pm

    How do you do it? Evoke so much emotion in such a short time. I laughed, immediately followed by tears. I’d love to be able to write like you!

    Reply
  55. AlaRedClayGirl - August 5, 2021 5:04 pm

    Beautiful words…once again!

    Reply
  56. Suellen - August 5, 2021 5:24 pm

    Y’all put me to shame. For the last 45 years I’ve been taking care of my handicapped daughter and then 2 1/2 years ago my husband had a stroke. I’ve been disabled for 13 years and always thought he would be the one taking care of me one day. I drag myself around every day taking care of what seems like a million and one things that need to be done. The house, the yard, the car, cooking, cleaning….it’s all on me and most days I am SO tired and resentful that things had to turn out this way. Your writing is helping me to find the beauty in what I had previously thought of as only a burden.

    Reply
    • Lynn - August 5, 2021 8:11 pm

      Suellen, Many or most caregivers have felt the way you do at one time or another. Give yourself some grace and some credit for your dependable care. Isn’t it wonderful we have Sean and his wife to give us a new perspective? I’m praying for you and your family.

      Reply
  57. californiarefugee - August 5, 2021 6:22 pm

    Made me cry. Again. God bless you and your dear wife.

    Reply
  58. Patricia Gibson - August 5, 2021 9:10 pm

    What a wonderful story?

    Reply
  59. Ann - August 6, 2021 1:45 am

    You both are so blessed and a blessing

    Reply
  60. Matilda Wille - August 6, 2021 3:38 am

    A long time ago I wrote a post about my mama. In it I wrote that caring for your elderly parent is the last act of love you can give to them on this earth. She’s been gone almost 5 years now. I miss her every single day. Wish I could play manicurist with her one more time. She would place her hands on her bed tray in the nursing home and I would paint her nails like we were in a fancy salon. I always brought several shades of polish for her to pick from, knowing that she would always pick pink, and always have something to say about why I would bring that “slut red” color with me. Lol! We laughed a lot….

    Reply
  61. Bo Bergloff - August 6, 2021 3:13 pm

    Why do I keep trying to read these at work?? People are going to start talking if they keep seeing me tearing up at my computer!

    Reply
  62. Wendy Boston - August 9, 2021 8:09 pm

    Another one to add to my favorites, thank you Sean, you are awesome at putting the very best of life into words!

    Reply
  63. Elizabeth McPherson - August 19, 2021 11:45 pm

    And it was…

    Reply

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