The old woman’s purse starts ringing. She digs through it. Soon, she is talking on a flip phone. She’s using a voice that’s sweet enough to spread on toast.

Cracker Barrel—I’m eating bacon and eggs. In the background: Ernest Tubb is singing about waltzing across Texas. I’ve been on an interstate all morning.

There is an old woman at a table near ours. She was here before my wife and I arrived. Her white hair is fixed up. She is wiry, wearing a nice zebra-striped Sunday blouse.

She smiles at me.

She is alone, sipping coffee. It doesn’t take long to strike up chit-chat.

She has lines on her face, and a husky voice. She is from the old world. She calls me “sweetheart” twice in the same sentence.

And even though I don’t know her, I know her type. I’ll bet she prepares chicken and dumplings that would make clergymen consider using the Lord’s name in vain.

She tells me that for most of her life she’s been a mother and a wife.

Her husband died many years ago. She has two kids. A son, a daughter. She hardly sees either.

“My daughter and I are supposed to be having lunch today,” she tells me, looking at her watch. “My grandbabies should be here any second. I can’t WAIT to kiss them all.”

Those lucky grandbabies.

From what I learn, the aforementioned daughter and grandchildren lead busy lives. The grandkids stay occupied with soccer, baseball, ballet, mission trips, and various special activities that require special T-shirts.

The dear woman tries to get together with them as often as she can. But schedules get in the way.

Last week, she decided to drive a few hours to attend her grandson’s soccer game. She packed her folding chair, her snacks, and arrived early.

She waited for one hour on the sidelines of an empty field. A maintenance man told her the game had been cancelled.

Nobody had told Granny.

The old woman’s purse starts ringing. She digs through it. Soon, she is talking on a flip phone. She’s using a voice that’s sweet enough to spread on toast.

“I’m already here, sweetheart,” she says into the phone. I’ve got us a table. Are you close by?”

She nods. She listens. Her smile fades. More head nodding.

“No, no, no,” she says. “Don’t apologize. We can reschedule, darling…”

She flips her phone closed, places it in her purse, and tells waitress she’s ready for her check.

“No food?” the waitress asks.

She gathers her purse and stands. “No, I’d better get moving today. I have errands.”

There is disappointment all over her. And even though I can tell she is strong enough to handle her share of disappointment, I wish she didn’t have to.

Before she leaves, she tells my wife and I to be safe on the road. She calls me “sweetheart” again.

I see her through the window, crawling into an older model car. The paint on her hood is chipping.

Her tail lights disappear.

It’s none of my business what sons and daughters do with their parents or grandparents. And so help me, I know what it means to be too busy.

But sometimes I wish I were fortunate enough to have my own granny alive.

I’d give anything to hear her call me “sweetheart.”


  1. Sandi in FL. - September 4, 2018 7:10 am

    Sad story but all too common and true. I recall reading it last year when you psoted it on September 22, 2017.

    • Elaine S Wilson - March 9, 2021 5:41 am

      Wow! I wish I had total recall like Sandi.

  2. Pamela McEachern - September 4, 2018 7:31 am

    Sean I love this, and we need to listen to this message before it’s too late to do something about it. Thank you and please keep your messages of humanity and love coming every day I count on it.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  3. Mr. Constadine (fake) - September 4, 2018 8:59 am

    I loved going to grandmaw and grandpaw’s house in the 60’s. Or I should say shack. It was an old run-down tar-paper covered shack with a bare bulb hanging down in the living room. No screens. No a/c. Not even a fan. Cooked on a woodstove. No running water. No inside bathroom. Just an outhouse which I absolutely hated. Chickens in the yard. I was born and raised in Mobile. They lived near Atmore. Two different worlds. My grandparents never bought me or my brothers and sisters anything. Not even a penny piece of candy. Nothing. Never called us. Never wished us Happy birthday or Merry Christmas. But we still loved them and loved to visit them. I remember they visited us once in Mobile. Just once. Many, many years later at a family get together I was riding through Atmore with a cousin and we were talking about the old times of youth. She pointed to the Rexall pharmacy and said grandmaw use to take her there all the time for ice cream. Pointed to another store and said grandmaw use to take her there and buy her toys and clothes. Then I realized it. My grandparents played favorites and me and my siblings weren’t even on the list. I was heart broken. I was in my 40’s at that time but it was all I could do to keep from crying. I was crushed. But I still count the times we visited them as some of my most favorite childhood memories. My grandparents played favorites. But we didn’t. We loved them so much. I’ll be using a fake name this time. Don’t want anyone to know my true identity this time.

    • theholtgirls - September 4, 2018 1:31 pm

      I’m so sorry. That isn’t nice. I know; I’m in your shoes with 3 aunts, and it hurts deep. It’s even worse watching them ignore my children. Please know that if God had a refrigerator, He would have your picture on it. <3

    • Pat - October 31, 2018 2:19 pm

      Oh, how I hate that your grandparents had “favorites”. It certainly wasn’t your fault. I am so sorry that you had to learn about it. You sound like a very loving person and worthy of so much love.

  4. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - September 4, 2018 9:40 am

    I wish I had been fortunate enough to have had my grandfather around for longer than I did. I hope some sons and daughters will read this and invite Granny to lunch (and even a ball game).

  5. Lyn - September 4, 2018 10:03 am

    Oh, what I wouldn’t give up to have lunch with my Mother who died in 2010. Or my Grandmother who died when I was 13. Nothing is so important that would require disappointing this precious Mother and Grandmother.

  6. Susan Guynes - September 4, 2018 11:00 am

    I agree. I would walk miles to have lunch my grandmothers and mother. Some people don’t know what they have until they lose it.

  7. Melinda Lee - September 4, 2018 11:27 am

    Unfortunately you have hit the nail square on the head in so many situations. There is no activity that can replace the love of a grandparent.

  8. Connie - September 4, 2018 11:39 am

    Some people just never figure things out til it’s too late…and sweetheart you rock my morning every day!?

  9. janiesjottings - September 4, 2018 11:57 am

    My cousin and I speak often of spending time with our grandparents when we were children, those memories are so dear to us. My Grandaddy Temples was a character who loved to aggravate us kids and Granny Temples helped form the woman I became. Being by her side and loving on her as she left this world was one of the sweetest blessings I’ve ever known. I wish every child had grandparents like mine. May every person who reads this story and has parents or grandparents go and spend some time with them. Thank’s for the reminder!

  10. Connie Havard Ryland - September 4, 2018 12:38 pm

    I understand that life gets in the way, but at some point we need to stop and consider our families. This sweet lady’s grandchildren are going to suffer in the long run from not knowing their grandma. This is heartbreaking to me.

  11. judemiller1 - September 4, 2018 12:45 pm

    You just posted a snippet of my life. I have 4 children and 9 grandchildren. I have not heard from any of them since June 2nd, at a grandsons’ wedding. They all text each other back and forth, but I don’t have a cell phone, and apparently it is too time consuming for them to call or even send an e-mail.
    I don’t understand why–they weren’t brought up this way.
    We visited my parents every week and my grandma every other week, with phone calls in between.
    I wish you were my grandson. I wouldn’t call you Sweetheart because that’s what I call my grand girls, but I’d call you Honey, if that would be all right.

  12. perry5360 - September 4, 2018 12:58 pm

    Sad that people dont appreciate what they have right before them till we are nothing but dust and taillights. T.

  13. Lydia - September 4, 2018 1:13 pm

    This one just breaks my heart.

  14. Mr. Constadine - September 4, 2018 1:29 pm

    Reading and rereading my previous letter has brought back some old memories I had almost completely forgotten. After visiting my grandparents on weekends I would go to school the following Monday and tell my friends how much fun we had at their house. I would tell them how poor they were but they sure did love us alot. I remember we went to Atmore one day and just happened to see my grandparents in the parking lot of the A&P grocery store getting ready to go in. I remember my grandpaw telling my mother that he wasn’t going in if us kids were going in because we would want everything in the store, which was probably true. We were very young normal kids. Found out later they went to buy the things they needed for homemade apple tarts…..for the other cousins. My grandmaw died in her early 60’s. When she died he moved in with my cousins family. Yes, those cousins. By that time they had moved to the West coast. Saw him once after that. He was very hard of hearing by then. The last thing he ever said to me was “WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! WHAT DID YOU SAY? WHAT DID HE SAY TO ME? I CAN’T HEAR HIM!” We were there for a week. Never spoke to him nor did he speak to me for the next six days we were there or ever. He died in his 90’s. I loved my grandpaw and grandmaw. Maybe, just maybe they loved me, too.

  15. Carol - September 4, 2018 1:38 pm

    I know they get too busy. !
    But I remember how every summer I would get on that trail or plane and leave Ga. for Massachusetts just to spend the summer.
    Their gone now and I still think of thoes day’s!
    My 3 are grown and 2 have children of their own and their all busy and I miss them, guess I’m to blame too,
    My health doesn’t let me get out in the heat and go very much , same with the cold days too
    So I leave them to their life, but I sure miss them!!
    Love ya!

  16. Minnie Tate Bourque - September 4, 2018 2:15 pm

    Breaks my heart. Wish I were near enough to have a cup of coffee with her. Would gladly do so.
    Thank you, Sean for reminding us! Hugs!

  17. Alan - September 4, 2018 2:23 pm

    My grandma passed in 1990. She called me “sweetie” all the time. As a young adult, I’d cringe when she called me sweetie in front of the guys. At 61, to hear her call me “sweetie” one more time, PRICELESS!! Great writing Sean, keep up the good work.

  18. Jack Quanstrum - September 4, 2018 2:31 pm


  19. Edna B. - September 4, 2018 2:49 pm

    When I was born, only one grandfather was still alive, and he died when I was very young. Had I been with you that in that diner, I’d have sat with this wonderful lady and bought her lunch while we chatted. I have tons of grandchildren and great grandchildren, but only a few of them keep in touch with me regularly. But that’s okay, I’m so very thankful for them. Sean, thank you for this story. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  20. Pat - September 4, 2018 3:33 pm

    The best way to keep in touch is to invite them for dinner and serve a good ole home cooked meal! Works almost every time!

  21. Brenda Pointer - September 4, 2018 5:00 pm

    Love the memories of my sweet grandma Johnson she lived in Cullman,Ala.

  22. Linda Chipman - September 4, 2018 9:33 pm

    Would love to be able to have a meal with my grandmothers and my mama and daddy. Thank goodness for the memories I have of them.

  23. Martha Tubb - September 4, 2018 10:57 pm

    Love it! Too often, too true !

  24. Jack Darnell - September 4, 2018 11:07 pm

    I’ve known only one man who seemed to enjoy or ‘not mind’. ‘hurting his mama’. Oh yes, for many years I remember mama and hope I did not disappoint her too many times, but I would love to have her back. If nothing else, to tell her I’m sorry if I did…..
    Good one my friend, good one.

  25. Shelton Armour - September 4, 2018 11:30 pm

    I miss my grandma a lot, too. I wish my daughter weren’t so busy so I could see my grandson more. I understand that grandma’s (and mother”s) pain and disappointment.

  26. Jody - September 5, 2018 12:20 am

    I have loving children and grandchildren. They are truly a blessing in my life. I have friends who make these same excuses for children and grandchildren who have busy important lives that do not include them, as a result I am hesitant about sharing events or information about my family. My heart hurts for them.

    • Carolyn Cantrell - September 5, 2018 4:46 am

      Jody, that is so very gracious of you to be “hesitant about sharing events or information about my family”, so as not to inflict further pain on your friends who are forced to make excuses for children and grandchildren whose busy, important live do not include them. What a kind and considerate friend you are!

  27. Jan Bruck - September 5, 2018 2:52 am

    Oh my! This hurts.

  28. Marty from Alabama - September 5, 2018 12:58 pm

    Not to sound cruel or mean about the daughter, but she will be old someday, Lord willing. She is busy and doesn’t see down the road. But one day she will look back and wish she had Momma to talk to.
    It happens many times everyday, somewhere.
    Please don’t stop writing.

  29. Phillip Saunders - September 5, 2018 2:15 pm

    Fine story, Sean. Those of us who are so blessed to have our kids and grandchildren to spend precious time with need to be ever thankful; moreover, we should be mindful of those around us who aren’t so fortunate and pay kind attention to them.

  30. Sandy Smith - September 5, 2018 11:19 pm

    That’s so sad. ??

  31. Florence Clemens - March 9, 2021 1:57 am

    My granddaughter is coming in from Auburn to spend the night Can’t wait to see her.

  32. marthajane cassidey - March 9, 2021 7:23 am

    My best memories are of my grandparents. They gave me the love that my parents did not. I don’t know how I would have survived without them. And the file gumbo my grandmother made! It was the best!

  33. Aunt Si or Martha Black - March 9, 2021 11:25 am

    Thank you. Sometimes things people will not say for themselves, must be said………

  34. Steve Sandlin - March 10, 2021 2:32 am

    One of the saddest part of my life is that my daughters never knew my mother, as she died when I was in college. My sweet Mother-In-law who always treated me as a son, died when our oldest daughter was barely over age two. Our stories and memories of her taught our girls the love that we felt. What is strange is that while not knowing their grandmothers, our daughters were able to know and love two great grandmothers.


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