No Egrets

Yesterday I went for a walk. I have been going on a lot of walks ever since the word “quarantine” became a household term.

Sometimes, I like to be alone in the woods. I grew to become a big fan of the woods when I was a young man, growing up in a household full of females, waiting sometimes nine hours for the bathroom to be free. I visited the woods a lot back then.

One of my favorite secluded spots is near the water, in a big swamp.

When I arrived, I saw two men fishing. They sat on overturned buckets. One man was mid-60s, the other was about 19 maybe 20. Both wore surgical masks and they were sitting about 25 feet apart.

This is one of my all-time favorite fishing spots. But the funny thing is, this place has terrible fishing. That’s not why people come. They all visit for the same reason I do.

They come because these surroundings are a sanctuary. Large swollen cypress trees stand in swamp water that goes on for acres, dotted with billions of lily pads, croaking frogs, a few gators, and egrets.

I love egrets. Sometimes I stop by this little place simply to watch egrets. Egrets have that ice-cold glare. A look that says they are smarter than you are. A look that says they don’t give a rip about what kinds of problems mankind gets himself tangled in. All an egret cares about is eating.

I introduced myself to the two fishermen.

“I’m Mark,” the young kid told me. “And this is my dad.”

Dad said, “I’d shake your hand, but…”

Right. Social-distancing. I stayed about 30 feet away from them.

Dad has a weak immune system after having survived an infection following a surgery last year. When the coronavirus epidemic hit, Mark was away at college in northern Alabama. They told Mark to stay away from home for his father’s sake, until things settled down.

“I haven’t seen my dad in 93 days,” said Mark. “That’s probably the longest we’ve ever gone.”

They’ve had lots of telephone visits, but video calls aren’t enough. A dad and his son need to lock eyes and make sure the other one is still just as goofy as he always was.

A few nights ago, young Mark had finally had enough of being apart. He left Alabama and drove downward to Florida. It was an all-night drive. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

“I just had to see my parents,” said Mark. “Even if I couldn’t come inside the house. I’ve been stuck in my apartment for so long that I’m going crazy.” He points to his father. “I miss this guy.”

They are taking lots of precautions. And I have to hand it to them, they were social-distancing like a couple of pros. Dad wore a bright red mask. Mark wore a Superman mask he ordered online. They were talking in loud voices so they could hear each other from far away. But mostly they kept quiet and fished.

The sound of the the woods was all around us. A great white egret stood in the distance, deathly serious. Looking for lunch.

I started to feel badly that I had invaded these two fishermen. Then again, I’m a columnist—sort of—and this is what I do. I’ve been invading family functions for years now, forcing my way into potluck lines everywhere from Pennsylvania to Florida.

Last night, when Mark got into town it was a tearful reunion in the family driveway. Mark’s mother embraced him. Dad watched from a distance.

Dad says it was difficult staying so far apart from his son.

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Dad went on, “just standing there, not getting close to him, like he had the plague or something.”

Ironic choice of words.

Young Mark has not been sleeping in the house while at home. He is sleeping in a little shed his parents have outfitted with a cot, a lamp, and a window-unit air conditioner. There’s an outdoor shower with a garden hose.

“It’s not bad,” said Mark. “At least I’m home. But I wish I were inside with everyone else.”

This morning, Mark’s mother brought him breakfast and placed it in the yard. The family ate on opposite sides of the kitchen window, shouting through the glass.

“It really wasn’t bad,” said Dad. “Hey, I get to see his face, and see how much he’s grown in the last months.”

“Have I really grown?” asked Mark.

“Yeah,” said Dad.

After breakfast, they decided to go fishing together. They drove separately. They met here.

“It’s been so long since I went fishing with my son,” said Dad. “This is a pretty great day.”

After a few minutes, I decided to quit bugging them. After all, columnist or not, there is something sacred about a father and a son partaking in the sacrament of fishing. I’d give just about anything to fish with my father one more time.

Before I left, I asked each of them what they missed most during the coronavirus quarantine.

Mark said, “Normal life. Concerts, hanging out with friends. Being regular.”

Dad said, “Hugs. I wish I could give my son a hug.”

“Me, too,” the boy added. “I wanna put my arms around my dad, but, I guess fishing is the next best thing.”

Dad wiped his eye.

So did the columnist.


  1. Christina - April 29, 2020 6:54 am

    So does the reader

  2. Norma Den - April 29, 2020 8:37 am

    During this lockdown, I miss HUGS, big HUGS & smiles most of all. Faces covered with masks are no substitute. Please God heal the world so I can give & get HUGS again.

  3. Toni Keeling - April 29, 2020 9:52 am

    I love egrets, fathers and hugs, and your writing Sean. Thank you. Your writing is such a heartfelt joy to read, especially in this quarantine.
    My own dad passed when I was quite young, and I remember all the things that we loved about him quite often when I read your emails.

  4. leeboyz86 - April 29, 2020 11:10 am

    Sometimes, it seems, fishing is metaphor for hugs – for now – it will have to do, but I see lots of hugs in the future of these two fishermen. I think of my grandchildren and my sisters, my nieces and nephews. i can’t go fishing with any of them. So, I’ll have to hug them all twice.

  5. Naomi - April 29, 2020 11:12 am

    I am a female; My father died of a heart attack on New Year’s Eve two weeks after his 65th birthday in 1968. That has been a very long time, but I still miss him. I was a daddy’s girl and I would give anything to be able to hug my father again and hear him say that he loves me. Girls need their fathers also, even married ones.

  6. carol0goodson - April 29, 2020 11:35 am

    Thank you: this is beautiful

  7. Beth Ann Chiles - April 29, 2020 11:45 am

    Darn it–my eyes are leaking again. Such a great thing –the love of family. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Cathi Russell - April 29, 2020 12:26 pm

    Dang it, the ugly cry before 8am.

  9. Linda Clifton - April 29, 2020 12:54 pm

    So sad what we are having to endure! I have very little family left & they are miles & miles from me. I do have my hubby of almost 23 years by my side & that’s a blessing! At least I can hug him! Eat with him. Sleep with him. So far we are safe & healthy. Thankful everyday! ❤️🙏

  10. Paul Click - April 29, 2020 1:21 pm

    Perfect! There are certain spots on this planet, physical, spiritual, emotional, that once we’ve been there, we’re drawn back to them!! Apparently, your and mine are similar!! Beautiful word pictures!!! Thanks!!!

  11. Phil S. - April 29, 2020 1:23 pm

    And so did I.

  12. Karla Kuriger - April 29, 2020 1:56 pm

    Thank you Sean, for finding the humanity and beauty of these weird times! LOVE your blog.

  13. Laurel F. Johnson - April 29, 2020 2:14 pm

    This was a blessing. Thank you Sean.

  14. Marge - April 29, 2020 2:29 pm

    Hugs, I miss hugs and the comfort they give me when receiving or giving them❤️

  15. Christine Washburn - April 29, 2020 3:13 pm

    Thank you for this heartfelt story of the love between father and son. Just like our heavenly Father and His Son.
    Can’t wait until we can all hug and kiss our loved ones again.

  16. Amanda - April 29, 2020 3:15 pm

    That egret you drew is a beauty! Wonderful story

  17. Linda Moon - April 29, 2020 4:28 pm

    Your story of Mark and his dad speaks for lots of us who would like to hug our families again….and also hug a columnist who comes to town for events and book-signings. I didn’t fish with my daddy, but I sure do wish I could hug him again. I’d like to hug John Prine again too, now that he’s coronavirus-free. I bet he’s fishing and whistling in Heaven, maybe even with your daddy, Sean! I’ve wiped my eye, too.

  18. Marti Bunnell - April 29, 2020 4:38 pm

    Naomi, my story is very similar!! My dad passed at age 65 in 1970. Yes, even married girls with a husband, 4 grown children and 9 grandchildren need their father! Looking forward to re-uniting in heaven!!

  19. Marti Bunnell - April 29, 2020 4:39 pm

    Thanks Sean! Your posts always have a way of “hitting home”!

  20. MR - April 29, 2020 5:19 pm

    Sweet article. Well written. I felt like I was right there with you, Sean. I could ‘hear’ the quiet and ‘see’ the egret and ‘feel’ the love.

  21. Donna - April 29, 2020 5:29 pm

    Joining the Wiping Eye / Missing Hugs tribe.

  22. Brenda - April 29, 2020 6:26 pm

    Wiping my tears again! Yes I miss hugs more than anything I miss hugs. so glad the son just got in his car and did what his heart knew we had to do… Hugs of the heart! Great story, hugs 🤗

  23. Grant Burris - April 29, 2020 6:52 pm

    Sean, I really liked this one, I read it twice. The first time I was wiping my eyes so much. There’s nothing like going fishing with your Dad. I miss mine and I know you do too. Thanks for the story..

  24. Carol Rothwell - April 29, 2020 7:51 pm

    I know you did. He’s hugging you in your memories and your stories.
    Thank you. And I’m sending you a hug , cause I’m still waiting for mine !!
    Love ya !

  25. Mary McNeil - April 29, 2020 8:55 pm

    Naomi – me too. My Dad and I last fished together in 1957. I was 11 and he was 54. He died two weeks after his 55th birthday i September. We used to play catch too. And hug. Yes, girls remember too.

  26. Julie Jackson Cotten - April 30, 2020 12:58 am

    Dear Sean, I think this could have been titled No RE-GRETS. Being with family is worth the risk.
    today I was ready to travel to south Alabama to check on my family. I am willing to sit on the outside of the building just to get to see my 86 year old mother in memory care. She doesn’t know it has been 12 weeks since I had the chance to hug her, sing with her, tend to her fingernails, check her ladywhiskers, the things a daughter usually does for her mother in this situation. I have thought of busting out her window and taking her away, hauling her walker and box of depends with her. Let ’em have the old clothes,she insists on wearing the same thing everyday anyway.They can keep the mardigras beads and sugar packets that she secrets away to the corner of a drawer for safekeeping. She won’t remember in 5 minutes where she was or where she is headed. Only the present moment matters to her. But then there is also the son in Texas, learning to build a grown up life on his own after working his way through college to earn his PhD. You two are alot alike from what I can tell.But I can’t take momma there, its too far for her to travel. We have to stop every 30 minutes for her to go toilet and she is worse than a 2 year old about touching everything and I do mean everything in a public restroom. Not a time for the virus to be so rampant. I need to see my younger son, suffering form PTSD from his dad leaving, then his girlfriend leaving, then him leaving college because with only 2 more semesters to go he couldn’t do it any more. Stress, grief, alcohol, depression… he finally has a job he feels good about but he works security 11p-7a. He can’t sleep when he’s off and now he can’t see friends or family. BUT he calls me every morning to wake me up when he gets off work at 7. I tell him I need the call to help me get up but really I just need to hear his voice and know he is still there today. Just like my momma, it’s only the present moment that matters to me too. He doesn’t sound good on the phone. A momma knows when things are not good. I convinced him to come up here to my house this weekend. Damn this virus, but I have no regrets whatever happens if I can just get to see them.
    You were my therapy today. You carry a big burden when you write for others. I am sorry for that.
    I am thankful for you in this moment.

  27. Johnny Bracey - May 4, 2020 11:00 am


    I have been a “Birder” for the past 65 yearns I am fascinated by all species of birds. I love the egrets and herons. they are cool birds. We live on a small farm in Thomasville Georgia and my wife raises ponies and we have a dog rescue. In other words there are acres and acres to mow. It seems endless because when I think the I am finished after a few days , it is time to get back on the tractor and mow some more, This process lasts until the first frost of winter arrives.

    I said all of that to say this. The cattle egrets are amazing to observe as I mow. their vision is so acute that they can discern a bug in all of the grass that I have just mown as they line up behind the mower for their meal. They are not indigenous to America, coming originally from Africa. It is fun to watch them gobble up bugs which are invisible to me as we mow and mow and Mow!

    Johnny Bracey
    Thomasville, Georgia


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