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 mud pies 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 butt 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.
Life moves so quickly. One day you’re a child playing radio. The next day, you wake up and 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.
Because 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.
But then. Something happens to you that changes your mind. 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 pea-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. Thank you for being in my life. May I be truly grateful for every second of it. Good and bad. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a radio.
Maybe that truck driver is listening.
Julia Matson - May 23, 2022 9:20 am
You hit the mark out there in the dark. Someone is listening.
pdjpop - May 23, 2022 10:21 am
Quite special. Your insight and being comfortable to share pieces of you.
We are all more alike than we are willing to admit.
Anne Arthur - May 23, 2022 11:01 am
You matter to me, to us, to the universe, and to God. Your writings, the funny and the sad, the light and the deep, give me hope and put smiles on my face. Thank you for being you.
oldlibrariansshelf - May 23, 2022 11:18 am
Just touching one someone makes a difference–and I’m certain that your words touch many hearts. Mahalo.
Ginny Nevins - May 23, 2022 11:31 am
You are loved, so loved, by all!
Jean L Daniel - May 23, 2022 11:54 am
I am not a trucker driver listening to a weak radio signal, nor would I even know how to find you on the radio! But I am a little old lady in my late seventies who when waking up every morning picks up my phone off the nightstand to read your column.
It is pouring rain in Georgia this morning but you just changed it to a sunrise and put a smile on my face as I read your words. Some days I laugh with you, some days I cry with you, and others, I just want to hug you and say, “Well, bless your heart!”
I love you for being you! Keep being you!
Karen - May 23, 2022 1:12 pm
Sean, you are a treasure. You relate to your readers. I remember my first transistor radio. Great memories. I miss those slower days and enjoying my family. It beats the rush mentality of today.
Christine - May 23, 2022 12:02 pm
That truck driver, many others, and all of heaven was listening.❤️
Paul McCutchen - May 23, 2022 12:03 pm
I used to listen to rock and roll out of Memphis, Tennessee but at night I would use my crystal diode set that I make for a merit badge and pick up, sometimes, the Grand ol Opry or what ever I could receive. The antenna stretched from the house to the pump house so I could pick up a lot. It worked great till someone decided to take it down.
Leigh Amiot - May 23, 2022 12:10 pm
A fresh, new day is a beautiful thing. Coffee, starting a load of laundry, inspirational reading, feeding a couple of feral cats and filling five bird feeding stations is how I start most days. Your reflections and memories almost always bring mine to the surface. An uncle who had a knack for giving great gifts for Christmas gave all his nieces and nephews a transistor radio (early 1970s) which ran on a 9 volt battery. Casey Kasem’s top 40 radio show was the highlight of my weekend, and how exciting it was to hear a favorite song after listening for hours, even more thrilling when my favorite song was number 1.
When that 9V battery died, it seemed interminably long before I got another from Radio Shack. That wasn’t a priority expenditure in my parents’ budget. It’s almost too easy now to tap a few keys and buy a song online. The instant gratification we have in so many realms in modern life truly may contribute to our discontent. Have we lost our ability to hope and wait without becoming despondent?
Marilyn - May 23, 2022 12:51 pm
As always, I enjoyed reading what you have written for us. But there is another round of pleasure to be had when reading the comments from others who are daily readers of your column. So, I get your insight on a subject and more from the comments of other readers. Thank you, Sean and all the commenters!
Cindy - May 23, 2022 4:21 pm
I second this! Thanks to all.
Elizabeth G - May 23, 2022 12:53 pm
This one’s deep, like that favorite swimming hole out in the boonies where the best of memories were made and still linger, even If that swimming hole has long since been rehabbed as a focal point for a multi-million dollar home subdivision. You never disappoint — the writing is rich and has so much to say, when taking time to read between the lines. Good stuff !
Jan - May 23, 2022 1:07 pm
Thank you, for making life brighter and helping me to make sense out of the life I am living!
Dale Parsons - May 23, 2022 1:32 pm
I know I don’t really have to say ‘thank you’ every time I read your post. I just want to. So, thank you.
BEX - May 23, 2022 1:35 pm
WOULD YOU SERVE AS PRESIDENT OF THE USA IF ELECTED? You get my vote! Thank you for your uplifting life stories and observations! Keep writing! God bless!
Lydia - May 23, 2022 1:55 pm
And your father loves you still.He never stopped.
Lauren Lopez - May 23, 2022 1:56 pm
So thankful for you Sean! Keep sharing your beautiful gift of writing!
Cynthia Russell - May 23, 2022 2:06 pm
THANK YOU FOR BEING IN MY LIFE EVERYSINGLEMORNING WHEN I SIGN ON THE COMPUTER TO GET RID OF 500 EMAILS THAT CAME INTO MY INBOX WHILE I SLEPT!!! YOUR THE FIRST THING I READ AFTER GETTING RID OF ALL THE EMAILS THAT ARE STUPID & i AMNOT WASTING MY TIME CHECKING THEM OUT!!! THANK YOU FOR THE BREATH OF FREST AIR AS I READ TO START MY DAY.. (YOU REALLY COULD SEND ONE IN THE MORNING & ONE BEFORE I GO TO BED – as far as i’m concerned.. but anyway HUGH THANK YOU for your words & thoughts!! ALABAMA GIRL LIVING IN A Louisiana world…(if you ever come up on a silver Chevy Equinox with the tag BAMAGAL …that would be me…..)
Robyn - May 23, 2022 2:07 pm
Sean – know someone in TX is so grateful you are in her life everyday…writing, singing, whatever is the voodoo you do. You are da bomb!
Cathy - May 23, 2022 2:10 pm
You have made my Monday . WABB radio in Mobile was usually on in my bedroom. It is probably the reason that I can identify many songs from the sixties as well as the artist. It is one of my few talents but it is fun to name that tune bc that was a happy time in my life. I am a music lover and a radio in my car is always playing. All different genres. I hope you realize how many people you touch every day. You have not only a career my friend, you have a ministr and a very special place in many hearts❤️
Gordon - May 23, 2022 2:19 pm
Thank you Sean for being in my life and the lives of so many who read your words of inspiration and kindness. We need you!!
Joan - May 23, 2022 2:25 pm
Leigh, you have probably identified the root of so many modern problems with your last sentence. Patience is a skill.
beachdreamer - May 23, 2022 2:28 pm
Another winner! Thank you for being in my life Sean Dietrich! And all your readers as well. Your writing and insight is unique…simple, yet says so much! It touches all who read it, just as your words on the radio will reach whoever they’re supposed to. I so agree with Jean Daniel and her comment….just Bless your Heart!❤️ A good way to start off the week, God Bless you!
Alison Baird - May 23, 2022 3:30 pm
Thank you for caring enough to remind us. My doctor just died. He was my doctor for 38 years. He has seen me through birth control pills and honeymoon cystitis, as well as menopause and depression. He delivered my children. He was 82 years old and still practicing. I often think they don’t make men like that anymore, but then I read your column and know that they still exist!
Bobby West - May 23, 2022 4:08 pm
God loves you and your enduring love for His children. Keep on rocking!
Maggie Priestaf - May 23, 2022 5:07 pm
You’re welcome and thank you!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - May 23, 2022 5:26 pm
Patricia Schmaltz - May 23, 2022 7:25 pm
Thank YOU! You always brighten my day… and I read you EVERY day!
Linda Moon - May 23, 2022 7:55 pm
I love to laugh, therefore I love your jokes. Didn’t Descartes imply that? I love listening to AM radio, but that’s just me with no philosopher involved. My Guy listened to the Opry from an AM station and once rode from Alabama to the Opry on the back of a pick-up truck with three of his brothers. Life itself can be against us, Sean. It’s sort of impersonal, isn’t it. But we, the people who inhabit it are not. So thank you, Sean, for being a part of mine.
MAM - May 23, 2022 8:12 pm
The heavenly truck driver was definitely listening, and He’s really the only one who counts. But know that you have lots of fans out here waiting every day to read your message, which always brings us hope, not to mention memories.
Patricia Gibson - May 23, 2022 10:14 pm
Sean I am grateful you are in my life!!!
Kat - May 23, 2022 11:06 pm
Sean, you really got me this time. Thank you so much. Please never stop writing. You matter so much!!!
suzi - May 24, 2022 1:06 am
The Big Guy is listening-no static there
Kathy - May 24, 2022 5:19 pm
Anne Trawick - May 28, 2022 12:04 am
I love you too.