One by One

I was a little boy. I was in a bad mood. My mother sent me to my room before supper.

“You march upstairs, mister,” she told me. “You go count your blessings.”

“But MAMA!” I said.

“Count’em one by one, young man, make a long list, or you don’t get any meatloaf.”

I’m thirty-some-odd years too late, but my wife is making meatloaf tonight.


My wife—because she loved me first.

And boiled peanuts. Just because.

And dogs. Every dog.

And people who stop four lanes of traffic to save dogs. And people who adopt dogs. And people who like dogs. And people who spend so much time with dogs that they start to think like dogs.

And saturated fat. Pork. Smoked bacon, cured hams, and runny yolks in my fried eggs.

And cotton clothes that just came off a summer clothesline.

And the sound wind makes when it makes its way through the trees. And the smells of fall. And rain. Garlic.

Old radio shows. As a boy, a local station used to play radio reruns of Superman, the Lone Ranger, Little Orphan Annie, the Jack Benny Show, Abbott and Costello, and the Grand Ole Opry. I lived for these shows.

And the girl I met in Birmingham—she’s lived in fourteen different foster homes.

The child in Nashville—whose feet are too big for her sneakers. She can’t afford new ones.

Every soul at Children’s Hospital, Birmingham. Doctors, nurses, janitors, cooks, staff, and patients.

Every child who will be fortunate enough to see tomorrow morning. Every child who won’t.

And tomatoes. Tomatoes remind me of things deeper than just tomatoes themselves. They remind me of women who garden. Women like my mother, who suffered to raise two children after her husband met an untimely end.

Mama. The woman who made me. The woman whose voice I inherited. Sometimes, I hear myself talking on the phone and I realize I sound just like her. I am proud of this.

And books. I have a garage full of books. Hundreds of books. No, thousands. Some I have read. Most I haven’t.

I love the smell of old pages, and the feel of paper.

Growing up, I frequented bookstores and libraries. I read too much. I love the was a book feels in my hand. I love the way the pages start going by faster during the good parts. Novels. Biographies. Comedies. Romances. Adventures. Classics. I have read every word Lewis Grizzard ever wrote at least three hundred and fifty-three times.

My whole life, all I ever wanted to be was a maker of books.

Moving right along. Beer. Biscuits. Cheese. Birds. Fishing when I should be working. Sleeping when I should be fishing.

Mayonnaise-based salads. Duke’s. My wife’s pimento cheese—which ought to be illegal.

The people who hurt me—they know who they are. They were like inflatable bumpers in the gutters of a children’s bowling alley. They bounced this poor bowling ball toward home.

Funny. I thought they were my friends. I was wrong. They were even better than friends, they just didn’t know it. They were constellations that sailors use to guide ships.

Norman Rockwell. Will Rogers. Hank Senior. Kathryn Tucker Windham. Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

People with white hair, who remember when phone numbers had letters in them. Anyone who can remember what the world was like before mass media swallowed it.

My sister—who became a beautiful woman. And her husband. And her daughters. And my friends. Always my friends.

Anyone who has survived a pandemic.

The precious memories of those who didn’t.

I don’t know where you are. I don’t know if your life is good or bad. I hope you are healthy. I hope you have shoes that fit, and a forever home. But I don’t know.

Tonight, I don’t know if you sleep in a hospital bed, beside someone you love, on a friend’s sofa, beside your kids, or beneath the watchful eye of a hospice nurse. I don’t know if you’re happy or not. But I want you to know a few things.

I want you to know that I care about you. I want you to know that you can be whatever you decide to be. I want you to know that bad things don’t last forever.

And I want you to know that long ago, a woman once told me that if I counted my blessings, I would get meatloaf. I’m glad she made me do that.

Because her meatloaf was worth it.


  1. Slimpicker - June 19, 2023 3:42 am

    I count my blessings every night and I had meatloaf last night and tonight. The only thing missing was mashed potatoes. I am a blessed man.

  2. stephen e acree - June 19, 2023 12:45 pm

    “”””I read too much. I love the was a book feels in my hand. I love the way the pages start going by faster during the good parts. Novels. Biographies. Comedies. Romances. Adventures. Classics. I have read every word Lewis Grizzard ever wrote at least three hundred and fifty-three times.”””

    Somehow I have known this since I found your page. Throw in a little Rick Bragg and we got you and we all are better for it.

    • James - June 19, 2023 4:01 pm

      What Steven said plus one. Kindred spirits have a way of finding one another.

  3. Donna Dicks - June 19, 2023 3:12 pm

    I LOVE your list , Sean! I would add Donald Davis, internationally known storyteller. You have to listen to his “Don’t Postpone Joy” story, but have a tissue nearby.

    We have a blessings jar on our table that we write down things for which we are grateful..most every day a new one or sometimes a repeat. On New Year’s Day, we pour them out and re-read our blessings from the past year. Some are simple like fresh linens on the bed, some are more profound. but they put things in perspective for the new year ahead.

    Keep writing…we need you and your thoughts.

  4. Barbara Selll - June 19, 2023 4:11 pm

    New to you, I am impressed!!

  5. Cathy Moss - June 19, 2023 5:27 pm

    What a wonderful way to start this week. I have found that counting blessing is the key to happy aging. We have all had our disappointments and losses but to dwell on them only brings one down. I think the pandemic made me realize that if you count your blessings, you realize that there are many people who would love to be in your shoes and at your table eating meatloaf. I went to a high school class reunion years ago. It was fun and I enjoyed seeing so many people that I had not seen since high school. On the drive back to B’ham I told my husband that was a lucky girl. Many people had passed away. Some were on Walkers and so many had failed marriages that had forever changed their lives. Some had lost children and we all know that is the ultimate sacrifice. Yet, here I was ,still married to my high school boyfriend, healthy children and grandchildren. We have had our hard times but the blessings far outweigh the hard times. As I tell my eldest granddaughter from time to time my cup runneth over. Happy Monday to you Sean and you are on my list of blessings every day❤️🙏🏻

  6. pattymack43 - June 19, 2023 5:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing your grateful heart!! ❤️ Blessings for your day…


Leave a Comment