I approach slow. And even though I claimed the exact place where he sits long before Lincoln was sworn in, I ask the boy if he minds letting me fishing next to him.

He is in my fishing spot. A kid. Blonde. Freckles. He is eating Doritos.

The kid fishes with frozen shrimp from a Ziplock bag. His cellphone is beside him, blasting modern country music.

I’ve been fishing this wooded grove since before the earth cooled. And I’ve always called this “my spot” even though it doesn’t belong to me.

The kid is sitting in a dry-rotted plastic lawn chair I placed here years ago. He is sort of smiling, cranking his reel.

The Choctawhatchee Bay has strange powers over boys.

I approach slow. And even though I claimed the exact place where he sits long before Lincoln was sworn in, I ask the boy if he minds letting me fishing next to him.

This is a custom among fishermen. You would never fish next to a fella without asking. Such barbaric behavior would be worse than taking your buddy’s mother to prom.

We shake hands. We introduce ourselves. We talk.

The kid says, “Did you hear they caught a GATOR in this bay?”

This is male conversation at its best. Murderous creatures with jaws big enough to crush average-sized Buicks. Men in boats, wielding heavy artillery.

“It was HUGE,” he adds. “Like sixteen feet, I think.”

“Wow,” I say.

Actually, the gator he is referring to was only twelve-foot long, but who’s counting? The thing was caught months ago, and it was a big deal because gators are not common here.

Though, in my youth I heard plenty of gator stories. I never put stock in any of them.

I once knew an old-timer, for instance, nicknamed “Snoopy,” who claimed he caught an eight-foot gator. I never believed him because Mister Snoopy also claimed he invented the first pay phone.

The kid asks, “You ever seen gators in this bay before?”

“Nope,” I say. “But upshore from here, about twenty years ago, my cousin and I saw an elderly couple skinny dipping in knee-deep water.”

“Really?” he says.

Really. And it gave me vivid nightmares for many years.

Anyway, the kid tells me he found this fishing spot by accident this morning. His house was full of girls because his baby sister had a sleepover last night. It was too much estrogen for one boy to handle.

Then we talk about his family. He’s eleven. He moved here from Atlanta with his mother and her boyfriend. His real dad lives in Houston.

He doesn’t say much about his old man, but I know the look on his young face. It’s the same face I have seen in my own mirror for the last hundred years. He misses his father.

Then, he shows me a photo of a man with several earrings, holding a fish.

“That’s my dad,” he says. “My dad and me caught this fish together in Georgia. I was five back then.”

It was the only time he ever went fishing with his father.

The kid hasn’t seen him in five years. He called his father last month on a whim. It went straight to voicemail. His father didn’t call back. So the kid kept trying and finally got him on the phone. And by a miracle from above, he convinced his father to come to town for a visit.

Thus, his father is going to be here in a few weeks and the kid is excited. It will be the first time in a long time.

The kid is letting his hopes soar. He is anticipating doing things that we fatherless kids dream of doing with our fathers.

Things like: backyard football, building wooden structures with hammers, hearing stories, and of course, fishing.

And while he speaks, I am hoping against hope. I’m hoping this kid’s father is man enough not to disappoint his boy. No. I am doing more than hoping. I am writing about it so that you might hope, too.

All of a sudden, the kid gets a bite. His rod bends. He reels. He tugs. It is only a pinfish, so the kid throws it back. But he’s overjoyed to be fishing here just the same.

“This fishing spot’s awesome!” the kid says. “Maybe I’ll bring my dad here and we’ll fish together, and it’ll kinda be our spot.”

Well. I hope with all my heart that you get your wish, buddy.

Say a few words for Mark today.


  1. Pamela McEachern - October 21, 2018 5:52 am

    I am praying Mark continues to blessed, his first was finding your spot, the second came when you showed up to fish too, and I’m seriously praying a third comes with a visit from his dad. Waiting for someone can really be hard. I hope they catch the really big one!

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    • Sandi in FL. - October 21, 2018 8:54 am

      Pamela, your well-chosen words echo my thoughts, hopes and prayers for Mark.

    • Trish Nehren - December 12, 2018 3:52 pm

      What you said … for Mark and my granddaughter.

  2. Steve Winfield - October 21, 2018 5:53 am

    ☺ I certainly hope so, too.

  3. Garnet Faulkner - October 21, 2018 7:47 am

    I miss my Daddy. Thanks for the story Sean.

  4. Ann - October 21, 2018 8:33 am

    God bless you Mark – my Dad was my hero – we all need a hero- I pray that your reunion is all you hope for. Much love and hope for your future. Ann

  5. Joseph - October 21, 2018 9:41 am

    I was lucky to have an amazing father, but a dead beat mother. Some of my fondest memories were my dad and I fishing in the family pond. I couldn’t tell you what or when we caught anything, but I can tell you how special I felt being there. You see my father was strict but fair, and liked to fish alone. He would let me come out of 3 boys, because I would be quiet and fish. My father passed away when I was deployed to Iraq, and my brother 5 months later. I miss them so much… I think I’m too young to have no family left, but then I’m so thankful I had one.

  6. janiesjottings - October 21, 2018 10:45 am

    A boy needs his daddy, that’s a truth as old as time. I hope the boy’s dad shows up and they form a bond that will be a blessing to them both. Praying for hearts to be touched in a mighty way.

  7. Connie Havard Ryland - October 21, 2018 12:11 pm

    Thoughts and prayers for Mark. All kids need a dad, whether biological or not. I hope if the “dad” doesn’t have it in him to step up, that the boyfriend will. You really don’t have to be related by blood to be family. My heart hurts for this kid. Love and hugs.

  8. Judy Kate - October 21, 2018 12:48 pm

    I am praying with all my heart this morning that Mark’s dad does not disappoint his young son. That he comes, not just once, but often enough that he buys two new chairs for your and Mark’s fishing spot, which becomes his too; that he calls his son often and always returns his calls promptly. I am praying fiercely that he becomes an active part of Mark’s life, for the rest of his life. Please Lord, don’t let him disappoint.

  9. Sue - October 21, 2018 1:00 pm

    I hope his dad shows up and lives up to Mark’s dream. Unfortunately my grandson is in a similar situation. His dad calls but it is usually a disappointment. I pray that one day these dads come to realize what is going on. I’m just afraid the damage is going to be too great by then. Maybe these sons will find the true Father and He will help fill that void.

  10. Chris Schnittka - October 21, 2018 1:58 pm

    My father only showed up once. I was 16. It was 1979. He took me to The Guitar Shop on College Street and bought me an Alvarez for $200, in cash. I thought he was so rich. Thing is, he never showed up again. My grown son has that Alvarez now. My grown son also has a loving father, which was the bigger gift. My heart aches for fatherless kids.

  11. Penn Wells - October 21, 2018 2:10 pm

    I have miraculous powers of visualization, which became finely tuned during my own fatherless youth. Working on it, Mark….?

  12. Peggy Savage - October 21, 2018 2:14 pm

    Lord, so many are praying for Mark. You know we all are praying that his father will be there for his son. But Lord you know we all have the freedom of choice . So no matter the outcome, we pray for your presence in his life, for your comfort and love and for more people like Sean to enter his life and show him love and compassion. Thank you Sean for being Marks angel on earth.

  13. Beth Walker - October 21, 2018 2:28 pm

    Consider positive thoughts sent that daddy’s way.

  14. Edna B. - October 21, 2018 2:53 pm

    I’m praying for Mark too. I surely do hope his Dad shows up. Our children are so precious. You have a wonderful dau Sean, hugs, Edna B.

  15. Linda Acres - October 21, 2018 2:58 pm

    Me too, me too, with all my heart


  16. Heidi - October 21, 2018 3:15 pm

    The next time you see him, I hope he has great stories about his dad adventures. My prayers are going up too.

  17. Sandra Smith - October 21, 2018 3:31 pm

    Sending “good dad” vibes out to Mark’s Dad right now.
    Daddy’s Girl’s miss their Dad too.
    I hope they make a lifetime FULL of “me-n-Daddy” memories. ?❤

  18. Kristine Wehrheim - October 21, 2018 3:58 pm

    Prayers for Mark! I hope he gets his wish!

  19. Bev deJ - October 21, 2018 4:30 pm

    Sean, you are a small spark that can ignite a fire of prayers and good wishes for the small and broken souls we do not know. You have a precious gift young man and I am so thankful to God that you are sharing your gift with such love and passion. Love and prayers to you!

  20. Alice Grimes - October 21, 2018 5:28 pm

    Praying for Mark and all the other boys who still wait and hope but especially for those have given up hope-may they realize the best Daddy in all eternity is always there waiting with open arms to enfold them and then never forsake

  21. Jack Darnell - October 21, 2018 6:26 pm

    OH, Yeah, that would be great if mark’s dad shows up and acts like a dad for a few days. Please Lord, let it be!

  22. Jenny Young - October 21, 2018 6:56 pm

    Praying for Mark & his dad.

    Really, boys especially but both boys & girls NEED their dads. From the time my son was very small I knew when I started having trouble with him, he hadn’t spent enough time with his dad. Working, playing….even eating a meal together….he just needed some dad time. Now my son is the dad. He brings his son to my house every morning for me to watch while he sleeps (he works at night) & my daughter-in-law works. But early morning is dad time. Sometimes they’re late. My son will say that his boy hadn’t been treating his mother well & needed some dad time so they went to the park, or Lowes or just wrestled a little longer in the living room floor.

    I only had pieces of dad time. My husband only had step-dad time. But thankfully we were able to pour into our son enough that he’s had a much better start than we did. So if you’re the dad….don’t let your past keep you from doing everything you can to be the dad to your children. You’ll get to see the results when he becomes a dad & it will be ok.

  23. Wendy Franks - October 21, 2018 7:12 pm

    Praying for Mark & also for his dad’s heart to be softened. It might be a generational thing, but the dad should know how it hurts or helps…depending on how his father treated him.
    Father God, please help Mark’s dreams come true!

  24. Barbara Schweck - October 21, 2018 7:43 pm

    Prayers that Dad shows up. I cannot tell you how many times my cousin’s son, who lived next door to us, sat outside with his suitcase at the end of driveway waiting for a dad who never showed up. I know it affects him to this day. Tragic and selfish on the dad/s part. If you are not coming don’t keep breaking the child’s heart!!!!!

  25. Allie - October 21, 2018 10:31 pm

    Peace be with you, Mark. And also with your father.

    My mother was mentally absent, but she taught me how to read before she checked out. My daddy and my stepmom, who IS my mom, did the job the best they could. I think they’re called step-parents because if you’re lucky, they step in and do the job. I was lucky.

    Peace be with you, Mom.

  26. Arthur Portas - October 22, 2018 2:36 pm

    Beautiful … Good Luck Mark.

  27. Shelton Armour - October 22, 2018 4:05 pm

    I cherish all the memories of my dad. He could have bailed, but he stuck it out and we grew closer as I grew up. I still miss his advice and wisdom. Fatherless kids hold a special place in my heart because I know how lucky I was to have mine.

  28. Katy - October 22, 2018 9:56 pm

    Sean, I am praying with all my heart the Mark’s daddy turns out to be the kind of daddy mine is. As a child in the 70s in Texas, my daddy had full custody of my two younger sisters and me. We’ve been blessed each and every day by him. It is my prayer that Mark’s daddy shows up and shows up big and continues to keep in contact with Mark. A boy needs his daddy (Honestly, girls do, too).

    Prayer is a very powerful thing and it is my hope Mark gets to experience that power. As another blessing, I hope Mark runs into you every so often fishing. I think you’d be a great “big brother” example.

    Blessing to you and Mark.

  29. Michelle Slaughter Booth - December 13, 2018 4:50 pm

    Prayin sooo hard for Mark…. And hopin that maybe he has a few more days of fishing with you as well, you are a good person Sean❤️


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