Somewhere outside Smyrna, Tennessee—several elderly people in wheelchairs sit parked on the sidewalk at a restaurant. They’ve just deboarded a nursing-home bus.
A herd of nurses in purple scrubs wheel the small army into the restaurant in wagon-train fashion.
In the dining room, the old folks take up four tables. Their wheelchairs are positioned in a long row.
One of the battleworn nurses explains, “You think this is something, you shoulda seen us rolling around the damn zoo.”
When their food arrives, everyone holds hands. An old woman in a wheelchair asks a blessing in a loud voice.
She says the same five-word prayer every old timer uses at a supper table. An ancient prayer which younger generations quit using a long time ago.
“Lord, make us truly grateful.”
I catch myself smiling. If you’ve never seen an old woman pray, you should.
Everyone mumbles, “Amen.”
Seated on my other side is a young couple. She is pretty, with dreadlocks pulled backward.
The man with her is wearing a fire-medic uniform—radio attached to his shoulder.
The man touches the girl’s hand and I overhear him say, “I was thinking we could go to the lake when I get time off, and finally have our honeymoon.”
“OH REALLY?” she says. “I’d LOVE that.”
Not long into their meal, his radio makes a noise.
In the back of the restaurant, there is a group of men, also wearing radios. They receive the same transmission.
The man kisses his girl. He calls his friends from the back, they leave together.
Minutes later, I hear sirens in the distance.
An elderly couple walks through the restaurant doors, holding onto one another.
She’s small, and walks with a hunch. He is wearing jeans, suspenders, and has oiled hair.
If I ever make it to old age, God willing, I will wear jeans, suspenders, oil my hair, and utter five-word blessings at the supper table.
They sit. They open menus. The waitress has to shout when she talks to him.
This makes the waitress laugh. Which makes the old man laugh. Which makes his wife laugh.
Which makes me resolve to buy suspenders after lunch.
The old man places his skinny arm around the waitress’ waist and gives her a sideways hug.
“Sorry, sugar bee, I’m half deaf,” he says. “I was in a war that made a lotta men deaf.”
I pay my tab. My waitress—named Amanda—asks if I had a good meal. She is young, with a sweet face.
I tell her my meal was perfect. Then, I ask if she’s had a good day.
“Sorta,” she says. “I’m kinda tired, I’m in my final semester of nursing school, I was up all last night, studying. Can’t wait to be finished.”
I ask what made her choose nursing school.
“When I’s a kid,” she says. “My mother died in the hospital…
“The nurses made a real impact on me, they were all so kind to me. After that, all I ever wanted to do is be a nurse for some little girl going through losing her mother.”
Well. Would that the world had more Amandas.
And would that this world could see these old people pray.
Lord. Make me truly grateful.
Sherry - September 23, 2017 1:50 pm
Amen Sean. We all need to be more grateful! Great story!
Jan Cherry - September 23, 2017 1:55 pm
Thank you! Your writing reminds me of Louis Grizzard. I am sure you have heard that many times. You have filled a long standing void in me since his untimely death. May the Lord continue to bless you and your wonderful gift of writing, Sean.
Deb Phillips - September 24, 2017 3:32 pm
Wasn’t Lewis Grizzard wonderful? Saw him once in Jackson, Mississippi. I’ll bet he keeps Heavens’s angels in stitches!
And now, we have Sean Dietrich. What a blessing.
Teresa Stout - September 25, 2017 2:49 pm
Jan, I’ve often thought the same thing about Sean reminding me of Lewis Grizzard.
Jay Cee - September 23, 2017 2:10 pm
I really had my doubts as I started to read this story. Didn’t care for the nurse’s statement about the zoo, but as usual, by the end I was with it and I can truthfully say that we all need to daily say “Lord, make me truly grateful.”
muthahun - September 23, 2017 2:20 pm
Keep ’em coming, hon. Lord knows, the world can use a lot more of your awareness of the good in people right now.
Sue Cronkite - September 23, 2017 2:30 pm
I’m old. And grateful. Your column hit the spot for me this morning. God bless you. Enjoy the suspenders. They’ll hold up your pants when you get old enough for your butt to move to your front.
Linda - September 26, 2017 12:20 pm
She, I love your comment: never thought about that but so true: “suspenders will hold your pants up when your butt slides around to the front.”
Bobbie - September 23, 2017 2:30 pm
My Dad used to add, “Lord, remind us how truly blessed we are”!
Leia Lona - September 23, 2017 2:37 pm
Ken M. - September 23, 2017 2:54 pm
My neck of the woods… simply fantastic.
Connie Griggs - September 23, 2017 3:21 pm
You have such a gift! I truly could visualize all of your story. More importantly, you took what most of us would have considered “nothing” (taken for granted) and turned it into “something”. I thank you for reminding me of the importance of paying more attention to all around me.
Juanita Ruth One - September 23, 2017 3:43 pm
As a former weekly op-ed human-interest columnist for twelve years, I can truly appreciate and enjoy your writing talent and insight into our humanity. Your column is a true blessing to us all!
Sheila Clark - September 23, 2017 4:53 pm
Amen! Nurses have blessed my family many times over. My daughter was life flighted to Duke 26 years ago and put on life support. Her nurse loved on our baby and us and kept us together, even after we went home. Nurses are true angels. God Bless all the Amanda’s out there and all our sweet senior ladies saying grace.
Linda Akers - September 23, 2017 5:00 pm
I’m going to start paying more attention when I go out to eat. You are loved.
Pamela McEachern - September 23, 2017 5:08 pm
Lord. Make me truly grateful amen
Can’t think of any more important words than these. Thank you Sean, this makes me feel real good and sincerely grateful for all. Peace and Love from Birmingham
Jan - September 23, 2017 5:55 pm
Sandi in FL - September 23, 2017 7:34 pm
Sean, I thought of a word that describes you very well. It is PERSPICACIOUS.
This story is a great example of your keen observations, understanding and discernment.
PamPam - September 23, 2017 8:38 pm
Paul Click - September 23, 2017 9:02 pm
Jim Sirmans - September 23, 2017 9:28 pm
Your stories are all wonderful but this one is just a notch above normal…. thanks.
Jack Quanstrum - September 23, 2017 10:16 pm
Beautiful finish,Sean. Exciting story. Love the way you describe extraordinary people. Also love the older folks prayer. Keep those stories coming! Shalom!
Teresa Terry - September 24, 2017 1:13 am
Yes Sean, that we can all be truly grateful, even in the mess that is our lives.
pbhorton - September 24, 2017 3:17 am
I recently discovered your blog and writings…and I am truly thankful. I am a transplanted southerner that has been living up north for quite some time. I look forward to your email because I know that I will be blessed with a smile, or be touched deeply with tears in my eyes, or maybe even chuckle out loud. You bring my past back so clearly to my present. You are changing the way I look at my days and the people that God brings across my path. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Susan Hammett Poole - September 24, 2017 2:23 pm
Sugar bee. I love that. ? ? ? ? ?
Sean, you have a gift sent straight from heaven. You don’t race through life. You notice everything & everybody round you, then you share your observations in such a wonderful way with us. For you, Mr. Dietrich, I am truly grateful.
Leo Larkin - September 24, 2017 2:28 pm
You’re touching hearts!
Deb Phillips - September 24, 2017 3:23 pm
Lord, thank you for Sean Dietrich!
Marion Pitts - September 25, 2017 1:49 am
Lord, I loved this! Thank you so very much!
Mary Anne - September 25, 2017 2:27 pm
Sean, I am truly grateful for many things and people in my life. Chief among them are your stories which bless me every single day. God Bless You for sharing your stories with us.
Hank Holcomb - September 25, 2017 9:43 pm
Amen and amen!
Connie Cornelison - November 6, 2017 3:28 am
You are some story teller. Just recently got one of yours and went to your page and read a bunch. This is a favorite!