I am writing this before I go on a stage, about to speak into a microphone and tell a story over radio airwaves. I only have eleven minutes. My story is a simple one. There are jokes embedded within it. Jokes I hope people laugh at.
I am not nervous—which is somewhat of a miracle. I used to get nervous a lot. I used to get so nervous that I talked like Porky Pig on a blind date. But I’m calm.
They tell me this station’s audience is small. Only two radios will actually tune into this AM station on a weeknight. The sound engineer, and the sound engineer’s mother.
The signal isn’t strong. But it does reach the interstate.
I’m excited nonetheless.
After all, you never know who will be listening. Maybe a man in an eighteen-wheeler will be overcome by unexplained inclinations to turn on his radio. And MAYBE, as if by urgings of unseen forces, he’ll turn his dial to a weak-signaled AM station. And MAYBE, by miracle, he will have reception for ninety seconds and hear me say:
“Hi everybody, I’m Sean Di—”
“…And I just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart th—”
“…Our guest has been Sean Dietrich.”
I don’t just like radio. I love it.
In fact, if you would’ve met me when I was a young boy, making mudpies in the backyard, you would’ve known that I already had a career in radio.
I had an old condenser microphone my father bought at a garage sale. It was broken, but I used it for make believe.
Back then, I would report on weather, school kickball, and deliver updates on the happenings within Miss Welch’s socially stratified first-grade class.
I was, for instance, the first broadcaster to break the news of the scandal that rocked the elementary school—involving the high-society couple, Joey and Katie.
Joey allegedly “fell” off the monkey bars after Katie caught him giving part of his Baby Ruth candybar to her cousin, Lynette. I smelled foul play.
I interviewed Katie on the matter, she made no comments except, and I quote: “Joey has fart breath.”
The truth is, my earliest memory is of a radio. I sat on my father’s lap, watching the orange lights on his Philco machine. It rested on a shelf in his workshed.
Keith Bilbrey was announcing for the Grand Ole Opry. There was music, laughter, the tinny voice of Minnie Pearl, steel guitars. And my father loved me back then. I’ve always associated this warm feeling with the Opry.
Years later, my father took me to see the Opry. He got off work early, we drove two hours toward the biggest auditorium I’d ever seen. It was magic. The cowboy hats, the twin fiddles. Minnie.
I told my father that night, “That looks like fun. I wanna do that.”
He didn’t say anything. Instead, he got someone’s autograph. I don’t even know who the signature belonged to—I couldn’t read it. But I kept the slip of paper for years. It reminded me of the greatest night of my life.
When Daddy passed, I tore that paper and threw it into the trash. And I quit listening to the Opry.
Anyway, I’m no fool. I know this radio business is just kid’s stuff. People don’t always get what they want in life. One day, you wake up and you realize you’re an adult with a back surgery underneath your belt, and a string of failures to go with it.
Some days, you have the adult blues, and you start to think that life is against you. And in a way, you’re right. Sort of.
Life can be ugly, and hard, and sour, and dry, and unkind, and unforgiving. And just when you think it can’t get any more difficult, it kills someone you love.
Something happens to you. You’re not sure how it happened. But it starts small, then grows. Something makes you see how wrong you were about life.
You realize you matter. And you realize that the entirety of the cotton-picking universe cares about you. It cares so much that it makes a sunrise for you every morning to prove it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is:
Thank you for my life. And for the people in it. Help me to be grateful for every second. Good and bad.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a radio.
Maybe that truck driver is listening.
Sandi in FL. - August 16, 2018 6:12 am
Sean, in my opinion you ought to be on the radio every night, and in syndicated newspaper columns, too. I also wish you’d make more YouTube videos!
Tom Bowen Sr. - August 16, 2018 7:18 am
Hi Sean, A friend put me on to you and I have been reading you for several months now. I too come from country people (north Alabama in my case). Dad died when I was 2 during the depression, mom had hard time raising me, left home young (14), my main hi school sport was cow milking and tractor backing, married a good woman, no college until after navy hitch but never did finish. So you see I identify with you in many ways even though I am much older. (No dog though.)
I really enjoy our visits every morning and I hope to meet you someday, somewhere along the road.
GaryD - August 16, 2018 8:54 am
Great story, Sean. The Opry ain’t what it use to be. And life can be unkind and unfair and difficult. But I’m glad I still have mine. Sitting in my wheelchair in an almost silent world ain’t the best life. It’s the best I got and with God’s mercy I hope to be around for a long time.
Nancy Thomaston Rogers - August 16, 2018 9:30 am
Thanks for the reminder Sean. I have a sunrise to go watch…
Sue Cronkite - August 16, 2018 12:37 pm
I still have my mother’s AM radio. It’ll still get W something SM, Cincinnati, and a station out of New Orleans, and one out of Tampa that broadcasts in Spanish. Blessings on you, Sean.
Jones - August 16, 2018 1:06 pm
Another fabulous daily read!????
Carla - August 16, 2018 1:09 pm
Joy - August 16, 2018 1:11 pm
Your articles always amaze me…I enjoy everyone of them. Going to check out You Tube and hope to find one of your videos! Would love to hear you in person. May you have a wonderful day! Know that you are appreciated, loved and special to all of us who read your blogs!
Patricia A Schmaltz - August 16, 2018 1:13 pm
… you’re making me tear up again!… ok, that’s not that much of a challenge, as my emotions are not even below the surface of my skin, they are floating on top. LOVE you… I tell some of my students about you (the ones with heart) and so the word is spreading. I see you with a Tim Allen-like TV show within 5 years. Do NOT dye your hair for this new chapter.
HUGS! – P.
Phyllis Hamilton - August 16, 2018 1:20 pm
Wow! You are right about that! I have warm childhood memories but I’ve also had the tragedies of being an adult. I’m grateful for each day I’m allowed to give my grandchildren warm memories.
Carol - August 16, 2018 1:25 pm
We’re a listen!!
Anne - August 16, 2018 2:07 pm
Your father loved you when you sat on his knee and he’s loved you every day since then.
Jack Darnell - August 16, 2018 2:17 pm
Me ‘n my dog watched the radio long before the TV. Radio weren’t a sin, when the TV came along it was a sin, so me ‘n my dog still watched the radio.
Bill Parker - August 16, 2018 2:37 pm
This is great stuff! Fits well with my sermon plans for Sunday. Sermon is about Joy! The “Something that happens to you”? Its God loving on you and giving you the joy you need for the moment you need it. Thanks, Sean. Keep the Joy coming. Love you, man.
Bill Parker - August 16, 2018 2:40 pm
P.S. Hope you don’t mind me using it in the sermon!
Edna B. - August 16, 2018 3:05 pm
Thank you. I’ve been through lots of the bad, and tons of the good in my life, and I’m grateful for every day I wake up to another day. I’ve been to the Opry too, and it’s not the same now. But I still love the old music. Sean, if you were on the radio here in MA, I’d be listening to every broadcast. It would be nice to meet you in person some day. You have an awesome day, hugs, Edna B.
Mary Lee - August 16, 2018 7:58 pm
I so needed this today. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know you will be a big hit with your two listeners on the radio. God bless you.
Ronald Bennett - August 17, 2018 4:09 am
Sean ,I can remember listening to a small transistor radio in my bed looking at the radio tower wondering how it all worked. A couple of years later a bigger radio for Christmas I listen to the Christmas story late that night still one of my best Christmas. Then not so long ago in a desert on the other side of the world I listen on a small shortwave radio to a holiness pastor in Beckley WVa at 3am Iraq time . I still travel with the little SW radio although it really not needed in the days of internet just fills right part of my life
Julie - October 12, 2018 5:35 pm
Thank you for helping people realize that they matter.
kathyjackson - July 2, 2021 5:58 pm
Sean, I am not glad about what happened to you when you were a little boy. But I am glad of the person you have become in spite of it…and to a degree, because of it. You are an inspiration and an encouragement to me every time I read your stories. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.