She was standing before a bunch of children, pointing at a chalkboard, teaching them about Noah’s Ark. I slipped in to the room and sat in the back row.

We hug before she leaves to go grocery shopping. I pat her on the back when we embrace.

I always do this—the love-patting, I mean. I cannot give her a hug without gently patting her shoulders.

Long ago, during church services, I used to watch married men sit beside their wives. During the sermon, they would all do the same thing. They would place an arm around their spouse and give her a little “love-pat” on the shoulder.

And I remember the first time I ever got my chance to give a pat like this. I sat beside her in church, she was wearing a magnificent perfume. It was grapefruit, or tangerine. Her hair was shoulder-length, she had so much personality it leaked out of her smile—she has always had a slightly devious grin.

So there I was, listening to the sermon. I feigned a yawn. I put my arm around her.

Then, the preacher locked eyes with me. I choked. I chickened out. I withdrew my arm and aborted the mission.

The next Sunday, the pastor was preaching about sin. He always preached on the subject of sin. Even when he was preaching to the elderly women’s missionary society.

That service, most folks within the congregation were wearing looks of remorse on their faces. Some were saying, “amen brother.” Others were nodding in agreement.

But not me. I was wearing the same look Muhammed Ali’s opponents wear after they sustain serious head trauma. I was so nervous beside this girl. My heart was pounding, my throat closed, I forgot my own Social Security number.

After service, I asked the girl: “You wanna go to lunch?”

“Sure,” she said.

“With me, I mean.”

“That’s what I thought you meant.”

I took her to a place where they served greasy sandwiches, wrapped in tin foil. We sat on a bench overlooking the bay. Afterward, she rested her head on my shoulder. I placed my arm around her.

This was my big chance. I sincerely wanted to love-pat her shoulder, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Love-patting, you see, is serious stuff. You don’t want a girl thinking you’re the kind of a man who pats too soon. Strike two.

A few Sundays later, I got to church early. I happened to be walking past the Sunday school classrooms. I heard kids hollering, laughing. I peeked through the skinny window on a classroom door. And I saw her.

She was standing before a bunch of children, pointing at a chalkboard, teaching them about Noah’s Ark. I slipped in to the room and sat in the back row.

“This is Mister Sean,” she announced to the class.

“IS HE YOUR BOYFRIEND?” some freckled kid asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I guess he is my boyfriend.”

And my cup runneth over. In fact, it started to spilleth all over the place. When a girl calls you this in public, it really means something.

“Now boys and girls,” she said to the class. “Let’s all show Mister Sean how we greet special visitors.”

Fourteen children pressed their palms to their lips and made fart noises. And I fell in love.

That same Sunday, the preacher gave a stirring sermon on—I know this might be hard to believe—sin. And in the middle of his hollering and heavy breathing, I decided it was now or never.

I put my arm around her. And I lost myself. So I went in for the kill.

I love-patted her shoulder.

To my surprise, she reached over and love-patted my hand in return. It was a faint, barely feelable tap. But I certainly felt it. And it was that little tap that changed my life.

I’m not kidding. Because this tiny gesture of affection says a lot more than you might think it does. It says: “Hey, I really like you.”

It says: “You know what? I think I might even love you.”

It says: “Hey, if you’re not busy, you wanna spend the rest of your life getting old with me?”

And in a single moment, I felt things. I understood things. Big things. I felt like perhaps, millions of years ago, before this chunk of rock called Earth was ever formed;. before the moon and stars found their places in the heavens; before the first man ever walked upon this florid sod; before a little girl was born in Escambia County, with a slightly mischievous smile; before the beginning of history itself, God came up with this great idea.

He decided that the names “Sean” and “Jamie” would forevermore be said together, and never apart.

You can tell a lot from a little pat on the shoulder.


  1. Marlene Passarelli - October 26, 2018 6:01 am

    My 16-month-old grandson has already mastered the love-pat :-). It’s the finishing touch on his melt-my-heart hugs. I don’t get the love-pat all the time, but when I do…bliss. Happy Birthday, Jamie!

  2. Karen Greatrix - October 26, 2018 6:41 am

    What a lovely birthday gift.

  3. Kathy Daum - October 26, 2018 6:47 am

    Thank you. I didn’t understand the pats.

  4. Pamela McEachern - October 26, 2018 6:59 am

    Sweet Simply Sweet
    Happy Birthday Jamie, mine was yesterday. It really makes a difference when people let you know they are sending you love on your special day. I am humbled.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    • Barb Lemieux - October 26, 2018 10:18 am

      Pamela McEachern, Happy Birthday! I wanted to let you know I always enjoy your comments about Sean’s stories.

      Jamie Dietrich, wishing you wonderful Birthday Blessings. I love how Sean loves and adores you. You and he are very special.

      • Pamela McEachern - October 26, 2018 5:24 pm

        Thank you! Pmc

  5. Nancy Rogers - October 26, 2018 9:06 am

    Happy Birthday Jamie! Having met both of you, so glad you found each other with your “love pat.”

  6. Reneezydaizy - October 26, 2018 9:11 am

    Sean, this is so beautiful! I think it is one of my favorite stories you’ve written. Happy Birthday, Jamie! You are one lucky woman!

  7. Pat Patton - October 26, 2018 9:15 am

    This was one of the sweetest birthday gifts ever! ?

  8. Steven P Bailey - October 26, 2018 9:41 am


  9. Nancy - October 26, 2018 9:47 am

    Happy Birthday Jamie. So thankful God put the two of you together! What an amazing birthday gift.

  10. Marilyn Vance - October 26, 2018 9:53 am

    Happy Birthday, Jamie! So glad that God decided ‘Sean and Jamie’ was a perfect ‘go-together’. Hope your day ROCKS!

  11. jones - October 26, 2018 10:32 am

    Wonderful….simply wonderful!

  12. Terri Donovan - October 26, 2018 10:37 am

    Oh my gosh that was beautiful. So beautiful.

  13. Susie - October 26, 2018 10:50 am

    Awe, such a special love story. Happy Birthday Jamie?and many more??

  14. Linda Parker - October 26, 2018 10:53 am

    HAPPPPEEEEEE birthday Jamie! And how very thankful we are that Sean is blessed with you in his life….I suspect we would not be able to enjoy his perspective on life had there not been you!! Ya’ll are a blessing to so many…so thankful you were born, thankful you and Sean are in love and a part of all of us!!!!!

  15. Gerald - October 26, 2018 11:03 am

    That was absolutely beautiful!

  16. LeAnne Martin - October 26, 2018 11:26 am

    Aww! I love this. She sounds like a special and fun person. Happy birthday, Jamie! Your husband is crazy in love with you! And he always says the most wonderful things about you. Have a beautiful day!

  17. Melanie - October 26, 2018 11:29 am

    Happy Birthday Jamie. ❤️ and about that husband of yours…he’s a good man.

  18. Leia Lona - October 26, 2018 11:34 am

    Happy Birthday Jamie, what a beautiful gift.

  19. Glenda - October 26, 2018 11:34 am

    Well, you gave me goose bumps with this one! Thank you and give Jamie a warm “Happy Birthday” from Okeechobee.

  20. Linda Faust - October 26, 2018 11:38 am

    Happy birthday, Jamie…..I share your birthday, although I was born many years before you. However, although I now live in NC, I, too, was born in Escambia County. At Pensacola, in the old Sacred Heart Hospital, to be exact. (My parents went there from Destin for the event). I enjoy all of your stories, Sean, but especially the ones from the FL panhandle.

  21. Grace - October 26, 2018 11:39 am


  22. Becca - Columbiana, AL - October 26, 2018 11:42 am

    Happy Birthday, Jamie! You and Sean are perfect for each other as God intended. I wish more men would give love pats, treat their wives with love and respect and be as romantic as your Sean. God bless!

  23. Beth Ann - October 26, 2018 12:05 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jamie! You two are perfect together!

  24. Annak - October 26, 2018 12:09 pm

    This is one of the most beautiful love letters that I have ever read. Happy Birthday, Jamie!

  25. Jan - October 26, 2018 12:12 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jamie! What a beautiful couple!

  26. Marla Patterson - October 26, 2018 12:23 pm

    Happy Birthday Jaime! What a lucky gal you are. I divorced 25 years ago. I’ve been a church goer all my life. I’ve watch men give the love pat since I was a little girl. After the divorce one of the hardest things for me was to go to church and watch a man put his arm around his love and and give her a pat. Oh how I missed that! Always brought tears. I’m sure you don’t but please don’t take that for granted, either one of you! It’s so much more than just a pat. I love reading Mr Sean everyday. Y’all celebrate that bday❤️

  27. Jean - October 26, 2018 12:28 pm

    Happy Birthday Jamie….mine was day before yesterday.. You are a very lucky girl !

  28. Michele Toni Marshall - October 26, 2018 12:29 pm

    I read your column every day! You have made me smile, laugh and cry…You are a wonderful southern writer, a kind and thoughtful soul and a good human being. You and Jamie are lucky to have found one another and your mother has raised a a son that does her proud every single moment of every day… I hope to meet you some day Sean…Toni

  29. Rhonda the Time Keeper - October 26, 2018 12:31 pm

    Happy Day Sweet Jamie,
    And of them all the greatest gift is love. And a man who feels the little things is the rarest gift of all. hugs and a pat! R

  30. Connie Havard Ryland - October 26, 2018 12:33 pm

    Happy birthday Jamie. My heart fills up and my eyes run over when I read about the love y’all have. May God grant you a lifetime of joy.

  31. Leslie in NC - October 26, 2018 12:38 pm

    Happiest of birthdays, Jamie! You gotcha a real good man there! ?❤️?

  32. Nita Stacey - October 26, 2018 12:40 pm

    You got me again, Sean. Crying in my first cup of coffee. Happy Birthday Jamie. You’re a blessed woman.

  33. Deborah - October 26, 2018 12:42 pm

    Florid sod? Really Sean? don’t leave us behind. And, oh, tell Jamie a VERY HAPPY birthday.

  34. Jo Ann - October 26, 2018 12:45 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jamie!! I hope your special day is wonderful

  35. Terri C Boykin - October 26, 2018 12:51 pm

    Birthday blessings Jamie!

  36. Janice Hammett Smith - October 26, 2018 12:58 pm

    Happy Birthday!

  37. Magoo Hamilton - October 26, 2018 1:06 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jamie!!

  38. steve - October 26, 2018 1:08 pm

    Sean, I read your “Jamie.” Boy did that hit home. I dated my girlfriend for 15 years and to date we have been married for 53! We continue to love tap! No doubt everything you said is true. A silent “love tap” says it all. In a movie theater, on a walk, in church, or in bed, the ol’ love tap is the same in every language in the world.

  39. Peggy Savage - October 26, 2018 1:13 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jamie. ….have a wonderful dsy.

  40. W. Gary Smith - October 26, 2018 1:13 pm

    Good story! Happy Birthday Jamie!

  41. Laine Thayer - October 26, 2018 1:14 pm

    Happy Birthday Jamie! Best wishes and blessings on this day that celebrates you!

  42. Alice Grimes - October 26, 2018 1:19 pm

    Happy birthday, Jamie! You done good, Mr. Sean. Money could not buy a gift as precious as this one you have prepared for her.

  43. Melanie - October 26, 2018 1:26 pm

    OMG….those pats. Still the recipient of those….and as far as the perfect birthday present for your wife goes, you just knocked it out of the park….?in fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve got it covered for the next few years.❤

  44. Karen Irby - October 26, 2018 1:51 pm

    Happiest of birthdays, Jamie! The love y’all share is a gift from God, and becomes a gift to all of us who get to hear about it. May many blessings come your way this day and always!

  45. Brenda - October 26, 2018 2:04 pm

    Happy birthday Jamie! Hope you have a blessed day.

  46. Clark - October 26, 2018 2:05 pm

    Happy Birthday to Jamie!!

  47. Debbie - October 26, 2018 2:11 pm

    Happy birthday to your lucky wife! Great post!

  48. Courtney Roberts - October 26, 2018 2:18 pm

    What an amazing way to describe your wife, the other part of your life. And to write about love so simply when it is anything but…. i live in Las Vegas and grew up in the panhandle. Your writings bring me home everyday. Thank you. And to Jamie i say Happy! Happy! Enjoy your adventures in your upcoming swing around the sun….

  49. Pat - October 26, 2018 2:22 pm

    Sweet! Happy birthday Jamie!

  50. Rev. Gary A. Daniel - October 26, 2018 2:30 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jamie! ???

  51. Lindy Lou - October 26, 2018 2:33 pm

    Happy, happy birthday to Jamie! You are both so blessed to have each other! My husband and I pat three times, which means, “I love you”. It always brings that warm, fuzzy feeling and we have been married 54 years! Enjoy your day together!

  52. Marlene T - October 26, 2018 2:40 pm

    Sean my favorite Chip Monk, I think you are blessed with the perfect spouse. I love even more that you’re not afraid or embarrassed to admit it to her and the whole world. After meeting her at the Gardendale show I totally understand how you feel. She’s precious. AND I totally understand her falling in love with you. God has blessed you both. Please keep doing what you do. We need more love in this world.

    • Marlene T - October 27, 2018 1:00 am

      And Happy Happy Birthday Jamie.

  53. Jane Wood - October 26, 2018 2:57 pm

    “Happy Birthday”, Jamie. May God send you his choicest blessings today.

  54. Dalton S. In Tuscumbia, Ala. - October 26, 2018 2:57 pm

    I just read this to my wife. I cried. She said the names Dalton and Marilyn go pretty well together as well .

    Happy birthday Jamie!

  55. Sandra Smith - October 26, 2018 3:17 pm


  56. Jack Quanstrum - October 26, 2018 3:21 pm

    Great story! It put a smile on my face. Happy Birthday Jamie.

  57. Mary Williams - October 26, 2018 3:27 pm

    Happy birthday to your soulmate!

  58. Bridget - October 26, 2018 3:34 pm

    This is absolutely THE BEST EVER, mijo! Love y’all! FLY, Sean, FLY …. and Jamie will always be with you and be the best mother your dogs will ever have! Please wish her Happy Birthday from me. So blessed to have you in my life! ?

  59. Jakki - October 26, 2018 3:37 pm

    The most beautiful birthday gift ever!

  60. Jon Jones - October 26, 2018 3:45 pm

    Happy Birthday Jamie from east Auburn.

  61. Cheryl H - October 26, 2018 3:56 pm

    Happy birthday, Jamie!
    I love pat my sons 3 times with each hug for “I love you” and they pat me too. Best feeling ever!

  62. Marcia MacLean - October 26, 2018 4:12 pm

    Happy birthday to your sweet Jamie. I saw that slightly devious grin this past week when Jamie volunteered and spent the day helping a hurricane victim in Panama City. It’s easy to see why you love her so much.

  63. C.E. HARBIN - October 26, 2018 4:14 pm

    This is a love story and a beautiful one. Happy Birthday, Jamie.

  64. Jo Brooks - October 26, 2018 4:16 pm

    Wow – that was great! Happy Birthday Jamie and happy forever Jamie and Sean.

  65. Loretta in Alabama - October 26, 2018 4:22 pm

    Today’s column maketh goosebumps runneth up and down my arms. I still get shoulder love pats every Sunday morning from my husband of 45 years. Yes, the preacher looketh at this as he preaches on sin, but with a smile upon his face.

    Happy Birthday, Jamie!

  66. Edna B. - October 26, 2018 5:24 pm

    I have to agree with one of your readers, this is one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve heard. Your wife is precious. Happy Birthday to you Jamie. God bless both of you. You have a wonderful day now, hugs, Edna B.

  67. Sheila - October 26, 2018 5:57 pm

    This might be the seeetest thing I’ve ever read that didn’t come from my amazing husband. God bless you both and Happy Birthday Jamie!

  68. Linda Chipman - October 26, 2018 6:06 pm

    What a wonderful gift you gave your wife with these words. Happy Birthday Jamie.

  69. Jack Darnell - October 26, 2018 6:59 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jamie. You are one lucky dude. PLEASE always feel this way about her, it can last forever with some help.

  70. Judy Kate - October 27, 2018 12:01 am

    Happy BIRTHday, Jamie! ?
    Happy Forever More Together and Never Apart, Sean and Jamie! ❤️

  71. Judy Kate - October 27, 2018 12:06 am


  72. Sandi in FL. - October 27, 2018 12:06 am

    Hope your birthday is extra–special, Jamie! I’m certain that Sean will help to make it memorable and happy.. Party hearty!

  73. Shelton Armour - October 27, 2018 1:38 am

    Happy Birthday, Jamie! You must be very special, indeed.

  74. Marilyn - October 27, 2018 2:08 am

    Happy Birthday Jamie!! I hope your day was filled with sweet surprises!! ???

  75. Martha Roberson Green - October 27, 2018 2:09 am

    Birthday Blessings Jamie….enjoy those sweet,sweet love pats!!

  76. Susan - October 27, 2018 3:03 am

    Great story and so sweet!

  77. ALICE RYAN - October 27, 2018 2:06 pm

    Happy Birthday Jamie. Isn’t it wonderful and a blessing to be married to your best friend.

  78. sandysewwhatever - October 27, 2018 9:04 pm

    I don’t get the love pats in church because he is the preacher! But he definitely preaches about more than just sin. very interesting, actually.

    • sandysewwhatever - October 27, 2018 9:09 pm

      I forgot, I meant to say Happy Birthday Jamie! Your husband calls you blessed and praises you saying, Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all!

  79. Michael Hawke - October 28, 2018 1:12 am

    Big points, good job!

  80. Michael and Denise Hawke - October 28, 2018 1:13 am

    And, oh yeah, Happy birthday Jamie!

  81. Mary Ellen Hall - October 28, 2018 8:02 pm

    BEAUTIFUL Sean!!
    “HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to Jamie!!” ???

  82. Barbara Schweck - October 28, 2018 9:35 pm

    Happy Birthday Jamie!!!! Best wishes!!!!

  83. Elaine Hegwood - October 29, 2018 12:21 am

    Best one yet. Really got tears flowing. After 65 years together I lost my cute hubby. I miss those shoulder pats. And the ones on the behind too. ?

  84. Rosie Preston - November 10, 2018 12:32 am

    It is a joy to read your articles. I am also a writer of short stories. I’ve been writing around Etowah County, AL since 1998. I’ve been published in several publications. My blog site is:
    It would be a blessing if you check it out. At the bottom right you can click to read older columns. I didn’t realize until the other day how many I have! Rosie Preston

  85. Rosie Preston - November 10, 2018 12:37 am

    Rosie Preston – November 10, 2018 12:32 am
    It is a joy to read your articles. I am also a writer of short stories. I’ve been writing around Etowah County, AL since 1998. I’ve been published in several publications. My blog site is:
    It would be a blessing if you check it out. At the bottom right you can click to read older columns. I didn’t realize until the other day how many I have! This is my second post! I left a letter off the URL in the first comment. Sorry.
    Rosie Preston

  86. Carolyn K - December 17, 2018 11:45 am

    Happy birthday?????

  87. Janie F. - December 17, 2018 12:47 pm

    My husband I will celebrate our 45th anniversary in January. Guess what? We still feel the same way we did the first time he ever gave me that love pat in church. It just keeps getting sweeter. So glad you and your wife know that feeling Sean.

  88. Helen Allen - December 17, 2018 2:57 pm

    Enjoyed your story, brought back a lot of memories. Miss those “love pats”. My first Christmas without my beloved husband. Thanks Sean

  89. Trish Parker - December 17, 2018 8:26 pm

    Happy Birthday,Jamie! ?

  90. Amy Easton - December 18, 2018 3:44 am

    That fake yawn move…classic Andy Griffith stuff right there! Happy birthday to your bride, Sean…we love how you love her! Merry Christmas to you both…??

  91. Maria - December 19, 2019 5:05 am

    Happy birthday Jamie..
    I know Sean is grateful everyday..that before either of you were were sitting on Gods knee..he looked at both of you..and said…you will find each other when it is right..and your lives together wont be perfect..but they will be filled with love pats.. much love…and lots of laughter..
    Now go and make a joyful noise!
    And you both did!

  92. Ann Biggs Williams - December 19, 2019 2:57 pm

    Such a tribute to Jamie. Great observation of the love pat maneuver❤️. We are all blessed by the fact you two found each other.

  93. Dawn - December 19, 2019 6:00 pm

    It was divinely appointed, most definitely❣️ Happy & Blessed Birthday, Jamie Dietrich❣️May God fill your lives with LOVE, JOY, & PEACE! 🤟💖✝️💐


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