Men You’ve Seen Before

Mister Vernon died last night. He went easy. You never met him, but you knew him. He was every white-haired man you’ve ever seen.

He spoke with a drawl. He talked about the old days. He was opinionated. He was American. Lonely.

Miss Charyl, his caregiver, did CPR. She compressed his chest so hard his sternum cracked. She was sobbing when the EMTs took him.

Caregiving is Charyl’s second job. She’s been working nights at Mister Vernon’s for a while.

She arrived at his mobile-home one sunny day. Mister Vernon was fussy, cranky. A twenty-four carat heart.

She listened to his stories—since nobody else would. He had millions.

He talked about creeks, mudcats, frog gigging, bush hooks, and running barefoot through pinestraw and cahaba lilies.

And he talked about Marilyn. Marilyn was the center of his life once. His companion. But she was not long for this world.

He talked politics, too. Charyl and he disagreed. Mister Vernon would holler his opinions loud enough to make the walls bow.

He was a man of his time. An oil rig worker, a logger, a breadwinner, a roughneck. He helped build a country. And a family.

Each day, he’d thumb through a collection of old photos. His favorite: The woman with the warm smile.

Marilyn. The woman who’d helped him make his family. Who’d turned his kids into adults. Adults who had successful lives and successful families. They live in successful cities, they do successful things.

“He sure missed his kids,” says Charyl. “They hardly came to see him. They were so busy.”


Last night, Vernon asked Charyl for a country supper. She lit the stove and tore up the kitchen. She cooked chicken fried steak, creamed potatoes, string beans, milk gravy.

“Marilyn used to make milk gravy,” he remarked.

She served him peach cobbler. Handmade. The kind found at Baptist covered-dish suppers.

“Marilyn used to make peach cobbler,” he said.

After supper, he shuffled to his easy chair. He watched the news with the volume blasting. He got tired. He shut off the television.

“I’m going to bed,” he said.

Charyl helped him into cotton pajamas. She washed his face. She laid him in bed. She tucked the corners of the quilt beneath his shoulders.

“Sing to me,” said Mister Vernon.


“I wanna hear a song.”

“Dunno what to sing, Mister Vern.”

“How ‘bout the ‘Tennessee Waltz?’”

Charyl cleared her throat.

She sang from memory. Eyes shut. It was more than a melody. It was the favorite song of a man with busy kids. It was his song. His era.

It was girls in faded floral print. Men in boots. A generation of dirty hands, cutting timber, pigging pipes, and striking arcs.

When she finished, Vernon’s eyes were closed. She kissed his forehead. He was cold.

“I love you, Vernon,” she whispered.

He breathed a sigh. His chest rose and fell just once.

Marilyn was waiting at the gate.

Vernon might be the most average elderly man anyone’s ever heard of. But America will not be the same without him. Neither will his successful kids.

He was beautiful.

And I just thought you ought to know about him.


  1. Sharon Lawson - February 25, 2020 6:41 am

    Thank you for sharing Mr Vernons life with us.

  2. Annie Walsh - February 25, 2020 6:42 am

    Thanks for giving me a glimpse of this wonderful man and the wonderful woman who is taking care of him.

  3. Ann Marie Bouchet - February 25, 2020 6:49 am

    Thank you ,Sean…..Mr. Vernon was a lot like Mr. Henry at my church. I loved Mr. Henry and I would have loved Mr. Vernon

  4. Brenda - February 25, 2020 7:02 am

    Dear Lord, bless Mr. Vernon , and thank you for people like Charyl.

  5. Dawn A Bratcher - February 25, 2020 7:11 am

    I had a Mr. Maury…wonderful men of days gone by. ❤️ I could sit and listen for hours to his stories of his wife, WWII, his children, his businesses…he was almost 94 when he finally joined everyone. The joy of sharing such a life with someone like these men is immeasurable!

  6. Janie - February 25, 2020 8:01 am

    What a beautiful story, and I thank you for sharing it so eloquently with us. Where I live, we still have those kind of men, and they are a treasure trove of wonderous memories. Bless MIss Charyl for caring for him and listening to him. His family may never really know what they lost.

  7. GaryD - February 25, 2020 8:36 am

    Rest in peace, Mr. Vernon. Rest in peace.

  8. Lita - February 25, 2020 9:40 am

    R.I.P and God bless, Mr Vernon x

  9. Michele - February 25, 2020 10:32 am

    I’ve known many a Mister Vernon and they leave an indelible mark no matter how simply they lived their lives. Beautiful tribute. Listen to Holly Williams’ Waiting on June where a life like his is put to music. It will bring a tear.

  10. Patricia A Schmaltz - February 25, 2020 11:34 am

    Sean… you keep Vernon’s beauty alive with your beautiful heart. Thank you.

  11. Jay - February 25, 2020 11:58 am

    My dad was like this. Man’s man. Tough, opinionated, but fair. He is with my mom where he yearned for years to be. This world needs more like this today.

  12. Sharon Brock - February 25, 2020 12:34 pm

    Salt of the earth, Mr. Vernon. Rest in peace sir.

  13. Terri - February 25, 2020 12:51 pm


  14. Cathi Russell - February 25, 2020 1:04 pm

    I’m weeping with this one. We need more Mr. Vernons & Charyls in this life. Thank you Sean for sharing them with us. RIP Mr. Vernon, I know Marilyn is happy you’re home with her again.

  15. Carol L Parker - February 25, 2020 1:17 pm

    What a beautiful story. A story of love and caring. I am so enjoying reading your stories every day. God Bless you.

  16. Anne Arthur - February 25, 2020 1:44 pm

    Beautiful eulogy.

  17. Regina Chandler - February 25, 2020 1:53 pm

    Such a touching story. The love you pour from deep down, is very well noted. Thank you.

  18. Bobbie E. - February 25, 2020 2:08 pm

    What a tribute. God bless you Sean. Too many Mister Vernons are forgotten, not valued in society. Thank you. For giving him a name to remember…gone but not forgotten. Rest In Peace as you join all those waiting at the gate.

  19. Leia Lona - February 25, 2020 2:43 pm

    And the tears came down…

  20. Ala Red Clay Girl - February 25, 2020 2:48 pm

    This reminds me so much of my father-in-law, except his eight children weren’t too busy to visit often. He, too, had a very special caregiver that took care of him until he could be with his precious wife again. We should never be too busy to visit or pick up the phone to spend some time with those we love.

  21. Steve Winfield - February 25, 2020 3:12 pm

    My dad, Mr. George everyone called him, hauled fuel for Standard Oil / Chevron for 39 yrs. A Korea Army vet. Raised my brother & me without a wife. We settled on the same street.
    I was holding his hand when he took that last breath in 98.

  22. Ken Marston - February 25, 2020 3:18 pm

    Though the present public culture is nothing like Mr. Vernon’s qualities like those written about, independence, confidence, love, and hope remain.
    A beautiful and excellently written tribute. Thank you, Sean!

  23. Melodie - February 25, 2020 3:20 pm

    A beautiful story about beautiful Mr. Vern. God Bless him and his caregiver, Miss Charyl.

  24. Chasity Davis Ritter - February 25, 2020 3:41 pm

    Crying for the Mister Vernon I don’t know and all the ones I did. I bet he was so happy to his Marilyn again. Rest east sir. Rest easy.

  25. Linda Moon - February 25, 2020 4:52 pm

    I love and see a man daily who has told millions of stories to me and anyone else who will listen. You were right, Sean, I needed to know about Vernon. I pictured his beauty as I read. And yours, too, with your big heart for people and life and music and stories. I’m glad Charyl was there to sing him home, easily.

  26. Kathy Daum - February 25, 2020 5:39 pm

    Thanks. A good man left us.

  27. grantburris - February 25, 2020 6:06 pm

    Thanks, Sean for another great story. Vernon was a memorable guy. A great guy. The kind that made America great.

  28. Bernadette Wyckoff - February 25, 2020 9:10 pm

    My Mr Wayne had a Debbie and DJ sing to him till he went with angels to be with Jesus in Heaven. They stood at the foot of his bed , myself holding his hand cause that what wives do…love of my life..Family by marriage ….brother by choice…he was all those things. Son and daughter in law near by. Also stepdaughter with much love for pop Wayne. None were to busy or too many miles to travel to let him know that he was so loved by them and God. I pray when it’s my time to be with my Wayne again and to meet Jesus there will be some who will sing and maybe even dance …my feet did dance for My Wayne. What A Wonderful Day That Will Be When We All Meet Jesus…my song of choice. Thanks Sean again for sharing…ba blessed always.

  29. Dell Corley - February 25, 2020 9:18 pm

    Wow, so happy he is now with his love Marilyn. However, I am a little sad that we are losing so many of the great generation. We learn so much from them.

  30. Jim McGowin - February 26, 2020 2:18 am


  31. Michael & Ruth Gill - February 26, 2020 3:24 am

    oh my!

  32. Peggy Thompson - February 26, 2020 1:28 pm

    Beautiful story of so many.thank you

  33. DeLane Califf - February 26, 2020 8:29 pm

    This brought back so many memories to me. I could hear the conversation, taste the food, feel the mood, hear the music, and appreciate the words of love and the kiss. Sweet and gentle times. Thank you for sharing Mr. Vernon’s last day. So many memories.

  34. Jan Chapman - February 26, 2020 10:20 pm

    Just when I think you’ve done your best work, you do something else to burst my heart wide open. Beautiful. Thank you.

  35. Anne Trawick - February 28, 2020 9:42 am


  36. Constance Camille - February 29, 2020 1:29 pm

    Mine was named Jack. He was from the Greatest Generation and pulled burned and dead bodies from the water when his PT boat responded to a ship attack in the Pacific during WWII. He was 19 years old at the time. In his 90s, he told me that he still thinks about those men. Men like Jack and Vernon can’t be found anymore. And like Vernon, Jack’s children ignored him. They weren’t there when he died. They seemed lost as to what a wonderful specimen of a human being raised them.

  37. lfry1220 - March 7, 2020 3:21 pm


  38. Lynda Gayle Knight - March 11, 2021 3:24 pm

    Loved reading about Mr. Vernon. Reminds me of Mr. Otto, a 95 years “young” man, who was a Baptist deacon at our church. Mr. Otto loved talking about all the life experiences he had, lessons he had learned, all the fun and all the sorrows. I visited with him and Ms. Kathleen (95) often, and it blessed me more than them. We lost Mr. Otto to Covid last year, but We have the memories. I hope everyone has a Mr. Vernon or a Mr. Otto❣️


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