My wife and I ate Chinese take-out tonight. My meal came with a fortune cookie whose fortune read: “Relax, you have all you need.”
I’m not one to take life advice from a cookie that tastes like cardboard, but it can’t be all wrong.
My home is small. One-story. Simple. There is a mobile home beside it. Across the street, there are three empty trailers, old, and covered in grime.
I own two rusted boats. One works. I have a workshed, and one orphaned dirt bike that needs its gaskets resealed. It sits beneath the shade of an oak tree, broadcasting to the world that my neck is a little red.
We live on a dirt road—a point of pride in our family. A few years ago, they tried to pave our street, but they didn’t pave our particular section of the road because my wife was standing in it, shouting death threats to the bulldozer driver.
My truck sits parked beside my boats. It is a Ford, 2003. The tailgate is rusted. The paint is flaking off. There is a mountain of junk piled in the truck bed. I keep meaning to clean it out, but…
Maybe some other day.
Every night, my wife and I walk our dogs after supper. We eat early because we are getting middle-aged and we don’t sleep well if we eat late.
We walk the dirt road, then down the paved street toward Hewett Bayou, which is on the Choctawhatchee Bay. And though I can’t prove it, I believe ninety-nine percent of the frogs in the Southeastern United States are conceived in my backyard.
On our walks, we talk. Mainly, about what we would do if we ever had money. Then we laugh and realize that we will never have money because we are not money people.
You are either a money person or you aren’t. You can’t be both. You either love money, or you don’t care about it as much as you should.
I am the latter. I spend what little cash I have on stupid things like used books from flea markets, Atlanta Braves paraphernalia, and antique pocket knives. And my wife is really into essential oils—which come in little glass bottles and cost more than an average human kidney on the black market.
On our walks, we pass neighbors. The old lady who is sort of weird, whose boyfriend always wears tank tops that show his belly and have phrases printed on the fronts, like: “FBI: Federal Bikini Inspector.”
We also pass the man with the long beard who carries a backpack and a walking stick. He doesn’t live on our street. We think he camps in the woods nearby.
When the sun finally sets, we sit on our porch. We slap the mosquitoes. And the yellow files. And the horse flies, black flies, turkey gnats, buffalo gnats, noseeums, blow flies, bottle flies, deer flies, mud daubers, blood sucking leeches, anacondas, etc.
Then we go inside to scratch our bites. And we watch television. My wife likes “Downton Abbey” reruns, I like baseball.
Usually, we compromise. We watch an hour of baseball, and one hour of British melodrama which actually feels like six hours because the plots move about as fast as the Jurassic period.
Our bedtime gets earlier and earlier the older we get. One day, I am certain we will start crawling into bed right after “The Price is Right” is over.
It’s funny, I remember when we used to go to bed at 1:30 A.M. Now we wander into our bedroom around 9 P.M. and one of us starts snoring by 9:12 P.M. But I won’t tell you the name of this snoring person. Because my wife would kill me if I used her name.
And this is our life. It’s not glamorous. It’s not exciting. In fact, some might think it’s boring.
Maybe I screwed up somewhere. God knows, when I was a young man, I did almost everything wrong. I made a lot of mistakes that still embarrass me.
Sometimes I wish I would have attended high school. I wish I would have gotten a journalism degree, or found a job writing for a newspaper. Maybe then I could hold my head up at dinner parties.
Instead, I went to community college as an adult, and tried to please teachers who were a few years younger than me. I never did get to write for a newspaper, and I hate dinner parties.
But there is no going back now. And I wouldn’t want to. Because when I stop and think about it, if I am honest with myself, everything turned out great.
All I ever wanted was a little house, dogs, a rusty boat I could call my own, a broken dirt bike, and a woman who thought I was something, even though I am not.
Once, a hundred years ago, I remember when my father took me out for Chinese food. I was maybe five or six. We sat in a booth, and he read his fortune cookie aloud. I’ll never forget it. He smiled when he recited it:
“The man who knows when enough is enough, will always have enough.”
I’ve seen that same fortune a few more times in my life. And I believe it.
These cookies might taste like cardboard, but they aren’t all that bad.
Steve - September 9, 2019 9:06 am
You had me at “antique pocketknives” – we would get along great. But even that can be a hole to fall into. Too many, too expensive. I’ve fell in that, it took a lot of money to get there. And it took a change of priorities, a terminal illness to change that. Now I give them to my buddies. It brings me great joy. Giving, now that’s money.
Just nobody - September 9, 2019 10:08 am
If you have a good wife who will sit on the porch with you, you have a great life. Mine prefers to sit on her side of the couch with her nose and eyes buried in Facebook. I’m almost invisible to her😥
Elizabeth - September 9, 2019 10:31 am
Gratitude is a beautiful thing!
TonJa Wilder - September 9, 2019 10:59 am
I know I should be satisfied with the life God gave me, but your life sounds like Heaven.
Jan Michelle - September 9, 2019 11:08 am
So, I was going to begin my early morning with GRATITUDE, a whole biggg list. I reminded myself this AM that, you are your thoughts. I repeated it over and over again as if it would help me snap out of the not so positive thoughts that were swirling inside my head.
They were thoughts of attempting to not take things personally. Like family members saying they would call back but didn’t. Or family not calling to check to see how I weathered the storm. I could go on. I won’t…
Instead, I began my day by reading your column. I was actually THERE, walking down that road with you and your wife. I passed by that lady that you thought was weird. Just for the record, she’s not. She’s misunderstood. Not the conventional Aunt Bea Andy of M, neighbor, that’s all..
It felt good walking with you guys. It was easy, less complicated than the life I continue to choose.
Other than allll those flies, I could opt for the entire picture that you (verbally) painted.
Even the baseball. Not so much the D Abbey.
Thank you for sharing the heartfelt way that you do.
Ashley Sevick - September 9, 2019 11:20 am
You don’t need a Journalism degree to write like this. You have a gift and it’s a blessing you found it.
Carolyn - September 9, 2019 11:23 am
I love the statement….”The man who knows when enough is enough, will always have enough.”
Very thought provoking.
Steve - September 9, 2019 11:49 am
I know leaving two comments is probably two much, but I read the column twice. Cancer has taught me a lot about life. All the “stuff” I bought suddenly had no value. At least not to me. I wish I had learned earlier in life that “enough was good enough” when it comes to material things. Now I sit in a house full of expensive things that have no value to me. Only friends and family have value. Everything else is just “stuff”. I wish I read this column 30 years ago and learned the lesson of “enough”.
Linda Moon - September 10, 2019 12:03 am
Steve – 14 years of battling cancer and having friends who are also in this battle has taught me a lot about life, too!
Melanie - September 9, 2019 12:46 pm
@Steve I don’t believe anyone would fault you for leaving any number of comments. They are from the heart.
Marge - September 9, 2019 12:49 pm
“Enough said”, Sean. Your words ring true and my heart sings while reading them.
To the previous commenter, cancer easily helps us set priorities! My husband of 56 years is gone from it and I am left to survive from it for as much time as Jesus gives me.
Happy Monday, everyone! Thank you, Sean😊
Connie Havard Ryland - September 9, 2019 1:30 pm
You are blessed indeed. I am too. I will be working until I die probably because money doesn’t mean anything to me. I pay my bills so I have a roof over my head and power and water and a vehicle. I spend what’s left on books or whatever. I love my life and wouldn’t trade a minute of it, unless I could find a boat I could afford. I don’t have a husband but I’m not pining for one. But I have friends and kids who love me and that’s enough. You remind us all every day to count our blessings. Love and hugs to you and Jamie.
Bobbie - September 9, 2019 1:51 pm
Every time I say I’m not going to comment this time, I feel compelled to do so. Steve’s words were almost word for word that I wrote to a friend after reading this. I wish I had known sooner. God bless you Steve, that you have your family and friends, in the end they are the true treasures in life. It takes getting older, I’m 84 next month, to realize life’s blessings and the value of them. Sean, you are so blessed to realize this at such a young age, and to be able to share your life with others without apology or regret is just amazing. I’ve said before, you don’t realize how far your words go or the long lasting effects they may have on so many lives! I believe a ‘degree’ would’ve been a detriment to your natural, heartfelt writing.
Thank you for being you❤️
God bless you!
Ala Red Clay Girl - September 9, 2019 1:57 pm
“Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have.”
terry - September 9, 2019 3:08 pm
Just nobody – You Are Somebody! God bless you 🙏
Linda Moon - September 9, 2019 3:52 pm
There are two boats in my basement. One works. The other is rusted. Used books are essential. And so are oils for your wife. My parents wound-down each evening right after watching “The Price Is Right”. You are in good company with them, God Rest Their Souls. I don’t want you to go back. EVER. You’re not all that bad. YOU, Sean Dietrich, turned out great!!
Mary T. - September 9, 2019 4:48 pm
When I taught Sunday School I always told my students that if you have more food than you can eat at one meal, more clothes than you need, and a roof over your head, you are rich. But if you love and are loved you are blessed beyond measure.
Mark 3:26 - September 9, 2019 5:16 pm
“Good work, good life, good love, good-bye oppression”
Now that is a fortune cookie to tape on your kitchen stove!
Susie - September 9, 2019 5:22 pm
Thank You Mary T. Blessings to you❤
Jomi Murphy - September 9, 2019 5:37 pm
Thank you for making me pay more attention to what I have and not what I thought I wanted ! I have a house filled with love and a wonderful husband to share it with…life is better when you slow down and enjoy and appreciate what you do have! Thank you again Sean for putting things in perspective !!!
Shelton A. - September 9, 2019 7:22 pm
You do have everything you need. A wife and dogs who love you and a roof over your head. I’d say you were actually a rich man. Get used to it. You’ve earned it.
Howard Humphreys - September 9, 2019 8:06 pm
Nice story..I am in the investment business and I have yet to see a Brinks truck following a funeral hearse…Enjoy what you have and if there’s any left over you can be sure your kids will fight over it..The perfect financial plan is the check that is written to the funeral home will bounce…
Brenda - September 9, 2019 8:24 pm
This has nothing to do with today’s article, but everything to do with you. A dear friend from Ohio introduced me to your blog and I am very grateful. Just know that you are loved in Ohio AND in Georgia!
That's jack - September 10, 2019 3:47 am
Thanks for letting us tag along on your dog walk. I enjoyed the read. Take care and Next time let ’em pave the danged road…
Love from NC
Sherry & jack
Edna B. - September 10, 2019 3:57 pm
I agree with Mary T. I am so thankful for my many blessing. You are a very rich man Sean. You have a wonderful day hugs, Edna B.
Estelle - September 13, 2019 8:09 pm
You have the true blessing in life. You are content and so is your wife. Most important you and Jamie and you have each other. I wish the two of you will have a long life together. Blessings to cover you. Estelle
Barbara Kirker - October 3, 2019 12:33 pm
You are perfect as you are. We can relate to you and we love you for it. I’m so glad that a friend shared your column with me. I look for you every day!
vicki - October 3, 2019 1:44 pm
So good. Thanks so much for sharing. You have a real gift for writing and conveying emotion well. Blessings… And- I am a little envious of your simple life……. hehehe…..
Mary Ann Massey - October 3, 2019 4:48 pm
I love your posts….and pray that you TRULY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU ARE LOVED BY ALL YOUR LOYAL FANS……