O’Doul’s

“And that’s how it happened” said the elderly woman in the nursing home, finishing her story.

This concluded our six-hour interview.

After an interview that long, my brain’s gray matter was leaking out of my ears.

I was a younger man. I was only at this nursing home for a quick local newspaper story about the new Walmart being built. That was it. A few soundbytes. A few quotes. Everyone goes home.

The elderly woman, however, misunderstood the purpose of my visit and thought we were doing a story about her entire life. Her presentation included a long, detailed illustration of her ancestral genealogy dating back to the Phonecians.

When our interview finished, the nurse wheeled her away. I collapsed on the rec room sofa and tried to uncross my eyes.

And that’s when I met him.

He was sitting in a wheelchair parked beside the TV, wearing a large Stetson, attached to oxygen, drinking an O’Doul’s. He was watching “Law and Order.”

The man wasn’t just old. He was old-old. He looked ancient enough to have the Social Security number 4.

He glared at me, took a sip from his longneck, and announced that he had to visit the little boys’ room.

I looked around for a nurse. There were none.

So he made stronger eye contact with me. “I said I have to take a leak. It’s kinda urgent.”

I blinked. “Are you talking to me?”

“No, your guardian angel. Yes, you. Take me to the john or run and fetch a mop.”

I wheeled him out into the hallway and looked around for a young person in scrubs to save me. But there were no medical staffers.

When we arrived at the bathroom the man upturned his wheelchair footplates and looked at me. “Don’t just stand there. Help me.”

“Uh,” I said, “I’m not sure I’m supposed to be doing this…”

“So you’re just gonna let me pee myself?”

I began helping him out of the chair. Thankfully, a nurse walked by and took over. She placed the old man onto the commode, and all was saved. I almost left the assisted living facility, but something made me stay. I waited for him before I said goodbye.

“You’re still here?” he said, exiting the bathroom. “I thought I scared you away.”

“I just wanted to make sure you were…”

“Take me to my room,” he said. “I wanna show you something.”

So the nurse and I accompanied him to his quarters. No sooner had he unlocked the door than I saw guitars hanging all over the walls. Nice guitars. A few Gibsons, a couple of old-school Epiphones.

He secured another O’Doul’s from his mini-fridge and offered me one. I accepted. This was actually the first O’Doul’s I’d ever tasted because, frankly, I never saw the point.

He nodded to the guitars. “You play?”

“A little.”

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 9, although I haven’t improved any.

He pushed the brim of his hat backward. “Go pick out two guitars, Pilgrim, and let’s play.”

Pilgrim.

I selected a Martin 000-18 and I played rhythmic accompaniment with him. He picked the lead on a Gretsch Country Gentleman. We played tunes your grandparents cut their teeth on. Tunes my granddaddy taught me a long time ago. Like “Cotton Eyed Joe,” “Tennessee Waltz,” and Don Gibson’s “I’d Like to Throw Myself a Party.”

The old man’s hands didn’t move the way they did when he was younger. His fingers were numb from diabetes, and his neuropathy was acting up, but he could still play single-line melodies that made you want to scoot your heels and shake your aspirations.

When he sang “Room Full of Roses,” I had never heard a voice so pure.

His biography wasn’t anything to get sweaty about. He never made it famous, he never played in Nashville or anything. He was just a guy. A real, upstanding guy. And more than that. He was every blue-collar man you ever knew.

He drove a Ford F-100 and paid his bills on time. He was denim and square-toe ropers. He was Friday nights at the Oasis. A man who tucked in his shirt, loved his wife, whose highest financial goal was to own a big-bodied car with too much chrome work.

I drank another O’Doul’s, and so did he. And when our reverie was finished, he said, “Come back and see me sometime.”

I said I would, of course, but I rarely did. Although we emailed all the time. He read my work and forwarded me email jokes and chain letters. Almost every morning, he sent a daily email to see how I was doing. And I would write him a few paragraphs in return because nobody ever checks on me.

This morning, I received an email from his address which began: “Hi, I believe you knew my father. I regret to inform you…”

And anyway, that’s why I’m drinking an O’Doul’s tonight.

68 comments

  1. PurpleIris - April 21, 2022 7:01 am

    😢

    Reply
  2. Hannah - April 21, 2022 8:16 am

    Hail the Traveler… What Is Remembered, Lives.

    Reply
  3. Morton Vice - April 21, 2022 9:24 am

    I’m not sure of the new look for your post. Looks very cold. Maybe you could warm it up a little. Not that important but something that you easily change. Love your writing Sean.

    Reply
    • Cyndi Paola - April 21, 2022 3:30 pm

      Beautiful. Just beautiful.
      (I like the new typeface and format, easier on aging eyes. Thank you!)

      Reply
  4. Sandi. - April 21, 2022 9:27 am

    I enjoyed this story, but really teared up at the sad ending.

    Reply
  5. oldlibrariansshelf - April 21, 2022 9:50 am

    Music is the universal language. I’m SO glad you two connected. Everyone needs a lifelong friend!

    Reply
  6. Shirley Robin Ivie - April 21, 2022 10:13 am

    My friend told me about Sean a year ago and I have enjoyed reading his stories every night since. I feel like he is an old friend whose writing style is just my cup of tea and am anxiously awaiting his next heart warming tale! Keep um coming Sean!

    Reply
  7. alsapapa - April 21, 2022 10:21 am

    Thanks, Sean. Your good,news is a life saver.

    Reply
  8. Barb - April 21, 2022 10:25 am

    Another great story! Thanks for taking the time to get close to people and find out who they are – then sharing with us in a manner only you can.

    Reply
  9. Joy Jacobs - April 21, 2022 10:46 am

    I’ve got a lot going on in my family, thanks for sharing this, it helps put things into perspective. It made me cry, of course. ❤️

    Reply
  10. Eliz - April 21, 2022 10:51 am

    Damn!

    Reply
  11. Eliz - April 21, 2022 10:52 am

    I check my emotions with you every day. They are working andmy vision is blurry this morning.

    Reply
  12. Donna George-Moskovitz - April 21, 2022 10:59 am

    This is a beautiful tribute. God bless you, Sean and Jaime. Also, I loved watching you speak with Andy Andrew’s. Two of my favorite authors.

    Reply
  13. Jean Taylor - April 21, 2022 11:10 am

    I love this.

    Reply
  14. Helen De Prima - April 21, 2022 11:21 am

    although I hated working the night shift in nursing homes, I heard many unforgettable stories from patients who couldn’t sleep, like the woman who had worked as slave labor in a German munitions factory during WWII; she escaped and was hidden by an Austrian family. And a Estonian man who had been forced to strip naked by Nazi soldiers to prove he wasn’t Jewish. A Polish lady who taught me a few phrases in her language.

    Reply
  15. "Tree J" Convery - April 21, 2022 11:26 am

    My eyes are leaking… “Be kind, everybody’s going thru something”…

    Reply
  16. Al Cato - April 21, 2022 11:31 am

    Thank you for sharing this story and thank you for taking the time to be a friend to this man. When we began delivering Meals On Wheels, we thought it was all about the food. It wasn’t and it never was. It is about visiting, spending time, talking, getting to know those we serve. Many rarely have visitors as well as family. As you learned, his story was very interesting and something you didn’t expect. We also learned the same and have been Blessed by so many.

    Reply
    • Lin - April 21, 2022 7:08 pm

      Bless you for volunteering and caring about the people you visit.

      Reply
  17. Marilyn Johnson - April 21, 2022 11:32 am

    Another wonderful story about life and great people. You have a gift in telling us about them. Thank you.

    Reply
  18. Connie - April 21, 2022 11:33 am

    You really meet some very interesting people…real people. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  19. Patsy - April 21, 2022 11:37 am

    Good morning, Sean. Just checking on you to see how you’re doing. I appreciate you. Have a blessed day.

    Reply
  20. Bob E - April 21, 2022 11:40 am

    Do stuff with people while you can – I’ve missed a few opportunities, can’t catch up now but hope to do better from now on.
    Thanks for the message – keep it up.

    Reply
  21. Christine - April 21, 2022 11:41 am

    Thank you for taking the time to get to know him. I’m sure he looked forward to hearing from you and remembering his precious time spent with you. ♥️

    Reply
  22. Jerry Harp - April 21, 2022 11:50 am

    Just the kind of stories we need in this crazy world,keep up the great work !!

    Reply
  23. Elgin - April 21, 2022 11:59 am

    Beautiful

    Reply
  24. Lisa K Riley - April 21, 2022 12:23 pm

    I’m sorry. Those are the worst messages you can get. I sent several after my husband passed, and got several from people he impacted. Keep doing your work, Sean. God Bless.

    Reply
  25. weirlisa630799 - April 21, 2022 12:32 pm

    Most of the time, when I read your column I say, “Damnit, Sean,” because a huge lump has developed in my throat and warm tears are beginning to stream down my face. It’s really not the best way to start a day, but I’ve become accustomed to the fact that this will likely happen. Today though, like a few other days, I said, “I love you, Sean,” because you shared such a lovely story about the human condition and it didn’t make me cry, but somehow made me feel connected to you, like a very dear friend or a brother…someone I would love. I believe when we near the end of our lives — whether young or old — we just want to know we mattered, that we were somehow worthy while we were here. I believe that’s what you did for the man in the Stetson who tucked in his shirt and loved his wife. God bless you for it, Sean.

    Reply
  26. Lisa Sanford - April 21, 2022 12:34 pm

    Sean, I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Reply
  27. Deb - April 21, 2022 12:50 pm

    My condolences, Sean, for the loss of your dear friend. He’s picking on another shore now…….and his fingers literally FLY.

    Reply
  28. Melody Wright - April 21, 2022 12:51 pm

    This old world just wasn’t big enough to contain a spirit that big.

    Reply
  29. Pingback: Sean of the South: O’Doul’s | The Trussville Tribune

  30. Julie, RN - April 21, 2022 1:02 pm

    You gave him as much joy as you received…a Double Blessing💕

    Reply
  31. Patricia - April 21, 2022 1:02 pm

    Sean I enjoy reading your daily blog sent to my gmail every morning.

    Reply
  32. Cathy Boswell - April 21, 2022 1:07 pm

    Cheers to you both…. Him for sharing his story, and you for telling it

    Reply
  33. Lani Wilson - April 21, 2022 1:10 pm

    A wonderful reminder to those who are obedient to the Spirit that lives within us that we do indeed sometimes entertain angels unaware❤️❤️

    Reply
  34. Jan - April 21, 2022 1:12 pm

    May he rest in peace and entertain the angels with his beautiful voice! Thanks you once again for a precious life story!

    Reply
  35. CM - April 21, 2022 1:15 pm

    Sniff sniff and watery eyes.

    Reply
  36. Al - April 21, 2022 1:16 pm

    I love your writing!!! Thank you for your uplifting stories about real people.

    Reply
  37. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - April 21, 2022 1:23 pm

    Not sure about the new layout. Nowhere to subscribe when I recommend to others. Superior story today. You made that old “pilgrim” happy & feel loved in his last years. You are one of Gods gifts to others. Kindness can never be bought. Keep it rolling “pilgrim”.

    Reply
  38. Ruth Mitchell - April 21, 2022 1:28 pm

    I think so many of our best stories reside in nursing facilities, but they never get told. Thank you for making sure this one did. (I don’t even know what an O’Doul’s is, but if I ever see one I’ll think of guitars hanging on a wall.)

    Reply
  39. mikec4193 - April 21, 2022 1:41 pm

    Chatting with a senior…picking a guitar….and drinking O’Doul’s…does not get any better than that….thanks for sharing…

    Reply
  40. Cheryl Andrews - April 21, 2022 1:51 pm

    So sweet! Thanks for being a good listener and taking the time to listen. I’m sorry for your loss..

    Reply
  41. Jean McCrady - April 21, 2022 2:50 pm

    One of my aspirations is to visit with nursing home residents, listen to and record their stories, and compile them in a book titled “Life as Remembered by the Forgotten”. Your story has moved me a notch closer to acting on that aspiration. Your daily blog is my daily “fix.”

    Reply
    • Allyson - April 21, 2022 11:48 pm

      I would love to read a book like that!

      Reply
  42. Shelton A. - April 21, 2022 3:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing yourself, your time, and your love with the old fella. You done good. God bless to all

    Reply
  43. Susie Flick - April 21, 2022 3:14 pm

    You brought tears to my eyes and this reminded me of my friendship with a woman named, Nigel, at a senior facility nearby. One Sunday, I was backing down my drive with a visiting girlfriend as my passenger. We spotted a 9×12 manila envelope in the street. I stopped and picked it up and we went on our way. Upon returning home, I opened the envelope and it was someone’s tax returns! I worked at a financial company for 30 years and knew all this information was very ​confidential. When I first read the name Nigel, I thought it was a man. I called the number at the bottom of the tax return and a woman answered the call. This was Nigel, who had been to church down the street from. A friend at church did her taxes for her and she had put the envelope on the top of her car while getting in & the envelope rode on the top of her car for half a mile & fell off her car in front of my house. She was on her way to meet up with friends for breakfast after church. I live on a well traveled street across from a big church – the cross street is IL-40 where semi trucks travel. The envelope with her taxes could have landed on that busy road and disappeared to who knows where. Nigel said she’d come and get them from me. I said no need to drive 30 minutes to me – I would be glad to deliver the envelope to her. She gave me her “apartment” number at the senior village. I went after work that Monday and met up with Nigel. When I arrived she invited me into her place and said she wanted to give me a short tour of the facility. But, first, could I show her how to fold up her ironing board? With that small request done, I got a tour of where she lived. We kept up our friendship through letters and cards. One year I sent a Christmas card and didn’t hear from her. Six months later, her son called me and said he came across our correspondence and didn’t know if I knew Nigel had passed away before Christmas. He said his Mom had relayed the story a few years ago of me finding & returning her tax return. I treasured our friendship and was so sad to hear she was no longer on this earth.

    Reply
    • Tim - April 21, 2022 5:04 pm

      Beautiful Suzie, And very well written. Sean should be proud. Amazing how our lives interact with others for strange reasons. I’m sure you meant a lot to Nigel in her last few years/months. Thanks for sharing

      Reply
  44. Tom Salter - April 21, 2022 3:16 pm

    Back when I was on the radio, I used to MC beauty pageants at a nursing home. It was a wonderful experience… except almost every year one of my favorites would have gone on to her hevenly reward when I came back the next year. These gals were full of spunk and were in every way beautiful.

    Reply
  45. imcdbw - April 21, 2022 3:43 pm

    Sean, you will never know, not even when you’re old and gray like me, how much you meant to that sweet fellow. Not until you meet again in Glory. How blessed you are to have known him. How blessed he was to know you! These are the riches our god gives us. Much, much more valuable that that big bodied, chromed car. Hugs. Enjoy the O’Douls.

    Reply
  46. Cynthia Russell - April 21, 2022 3:59 pm

    YOU ARE SUCH A GOOOOD SOUL!! LOVE YOU.. THANK YOU FOR SLOWING DOWN & LISTENING TO OTHERS.. EVERYONE HAS A STORY! BLESS YOU!! HE’S PROBABLY TALKING TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW NOW!!

    Reply
  47. johnallenberry - April 21, 2022 4:05 pm

    *sniff* The pollen must be bad this morning. I can’t seem to stop my eyes from watering.

    Ph.Dude

    Reply
  48. Linda Moon - April 21, 2022 4:07 pm

    Beautiful…just beautiful for those of us who are aging with love and grace. Thank you for telling his story.

    Reply
  49. pattymack43 - April 21, 2022 6:06 pm

    Thank you for remembering the common man by honoring a common man!! It is very important ant to be remembered by someone who……..

    Reply
  50. Krista - April 21, 2022 7:00 pm

    Nursing home living is ridiculously hard on the heart. Thank you for making his a little easier.

    Reply
  51. Linda Moon - April 21, 2022 7:06 pm

    Enjoy your O’Doul’s as you remember your old friend. Us two old folks….My Guy and me…sure do enjoy you now, while we can!

    Reply
  52. MAM - April 21, 2022 7:09 pm

    I, too, questioned the new format, although the font is easy on the eyes. I have interviewed many an old-timer for one already published book and for another I’m working on. I love their stories. We are blessed to have you writing to us every day, Sean, and for sharing your stories of the love you have for others. Thanks! God sent you to all of us!

    Reply
  53. Dru Brown - April 21, 2022 10:14 pm

    I wish I had heard him sing. I am putting O’Doul’s on my shopping list. Maybe someone around here sells it.

    Reply
  54. Ann - April 22, 2022 12:38 am

    Sweet and beautiful

    Reply
  55. Lauren Lopez - April 22, 2022 3:54 pm

    You are an amazing writer, Sean! I share your posts with my husband and friends. Abundant blessings to you always!

    Reply
  56. Ronald Howard - April 22, 2022 7:53 pm

    This one brought a tear to my eye.

    Reply
  57. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 23, 2022 12:51 am

    Reply
  58. Naomi Smith - April 23, 2022 7:19 am

    Loved your engaging story of real souls whose bodies and minds have not served them as well as they would have wanted them to. I have had close ties with some in that situation.
    Thank you, Sean, for your exemplary actions in giving dignity to these souls. My undying gratitude is yours. I don’t mind saying that your words brought more than a few tears.

    Reply
  59. Sandy - April 23, 2022 2:15 pm

    You’re a good guy Sean. You made that gentleman’s day.

    Reply
  60. Virginia Thomas - April 23, 2022 9:20 pm

    That was a great thing you did for him & I bet it’s something you enjoyed….listening to someone who just wanted to share part of his life. We all need to do this for others.

    Reply
  61. Jerilyn Blom - April 23, 2022 9:21 pm

    It became a tearjerker. I cried through the last line!

    Reply
  62. Debora Bettis - April 25, 2022 12:29 pm

    Thank you, Sean. I totally relate to your story. Out of the blue one day, I found a message from a dear Uncle I had
    lost touch with. I returned his call, and we met many times, via the phone. I called him my “phone buddy”. He told me many stories about growing up on the farm, about his time in the military, and about meeting the love of his life. I even learned more about my Dad (his brother), who died when I was very small. This actually gave me a more complete picture of Daddy than I had before. Some of his family thanked me for making time for Uncle Carroll, but he was the gift to me, instead. I miss him, but I am so grateful for his stories and his insights. What a dear old soul he was! My thoughts on spending time with these dear ones? It is never wasted.

    Reply
  63. Terri Stokes - April 26, 2022 1:26 am

    You gave this gentleman something to look forward to with your emails…what a blessing you were to him. God bless.

    Reply
  64. Slimpicker - April 28, 2022 8:53 pm

    Sean, this story reminds me of a great song, “The Parting Glass”, by the High Kings.

    Reply

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