Popping the Question

A crowded bar. The man is sitting beside me. He’s wearing a tuxedo. Which is a little weird. It’s not every day you see a guy in a tux on the Fourth of July.

The place is crowded. Everyone is getting their patriotic beer. It’s elbow-to-elbow in this joint.

“I’m wearing a tux because I’m going to surprise my girlfriend,” the man says. “I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

“You need a tux to do that?”

“What. You think it’s a little overboard?”

I jingle the change in my pockets. “No.”

He’s no spring chicken. I’d guess he’s in his mid-50s. Maybe older.

“I’m 43,” he explains. “But I’ve got kids.”

He’s been dating his girlfriend since last year. Their story is unconventional. They met on a trip to Texas, on a Greyhound bus. He was traveling to attend the funeral of his former father-in-law. He was bringing both his daughters with him—ages 5 and 9.

They were all on the bus. His 5-year-old was struggling in the bathroom, trying not to pee on her dress. She kept calling from the commode for her daddy to help her. The woman seated in the row outside the bathroom asked if he needed help.

“No,” he told the strange woman. “This isn’t my first rodeo.”

He is once-divorced. His ex-wife decided she didn’t want to be a mother, about six years into their marriage. She just walked out. One day she was there. The next day, all her clothes were gone.

“I was instantly a single dad.”

The woman on the bus listened to his story. Which was this: He was going to a funeral to see a lot of people whom he didn’t want to see because it was the right thing to do. She offered to be his plus-one. For moral support.

So that’s what happened. The man and his two daughters, and one stranger from the bus, went to the funeral. They paid their respects. Then they went out for pizza.

“It sounds like a plot from a Hallmark movie,” he says. “But that’s how it all happened.”

She was natural with his girls, the man adds. “It was like she fit into our family from Day One.”

They started dating. She lives near Talladega. He lives in Birmingham. Most of their dates have involved shrieking kids. But the girlfriend has never seemed to mind. In fact, she seemed to thrive on the energy. They hang out a lot and rarely spend time apart.

They have even taken trips together. A few weeks ago, they went to the Grand Canyon. They traveled by car. It was a huge expense in gas money and a long, cramped ride. But it was great.

“We slept in separate hotel rooms,” he says. “I didn’t want my girls seeing us in the same room, thinking that it was cool to… You know.”

Sometimes his girlfriend surprises him by sneaking into his house before he gets off work and cooking supper for his family. Occasionally, he shows up at her place of work and delivers candy and flowers anonymously.

He’s right. This does sound like a Hallmark movie. A cheap one.

“It’s just nice to have someone who cares about my family,” he says.

A few months ago, his daughters’ school had Grandparents Day. Sadly, his parents live in Canada, and they couldn’t visit. So he told his girls they would just have to make the best of it.

But on Grandparents Day, his girlfriend showed up to school unannounced. She sat with his girls. She did all the things the grandparents were doing, so that his kids wouldn’t feel left out.

“She didn’t have to do that,” he says.

And when his oldest daughter had recent health problems, it was his girlfriend who stayed at his daughter’s bedside for 72 hours in the hospital while he held down a full-time job.

The man is weepy as he tells his story. Or, perhaps, it could be the beer.

And so it is, tonight, while you’re watching fireworks, a man named Chad is going to get down on one knee before his best girl. He is going to present a woman named Susan with a simple silver band. No diamonds, no gold, because he can’t afford them.

“I’m going to say, ‘Susan, you’re my everything, will you do me the honor of growing old with me?’”

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. “Put out some good vibes for me, man, will you?”



  1. Crystal Pariseau - July 5, 2023 4:28 am

    I so enjoy your stories. I love you Sean… and your beautiful wife Jamie who I admire also. You live a fairytale life of joy and so much love. Keep making us laugh, cry and remember the good times of our own lives. Thank you for your daily columns.

  2. Vicki - July 5, 2023 12:31 pm

    Beautiful. ❤️

  3. stephen e acree - July 5, 2023 12:35 pm

    great story. We all hope this man and woman become a family in all the ways that make them happy.

  4. Cathy Moss - July 5, 2023 2:07 pm

    What a sweet story. In an upside down world with so much going on that disturbs us, this is refreshing . I love happy endings. I wish them a bright and happy future. Once again, you are a noticer and a person who draws people and makes them feel comfortable. They open up to you and let you into their lives. It’s a gift from God and then you share these experiences with us. I feel lucky to follow the noticer. You are the best

  5. Patricia Proctor - July 5, 2023 2:10 pm

    Sean, I read you in the Lake City Reporter–I take the paper because f you. You are an extraordinary kind of writer. Your word come from th heart and sometimes I absolutely laugh ut loud and at other times, cry like a baby because of your words. You are brilliant. Your wife and you have a love story for the ages God bless you both.

  6. pattymack43 - July 5, 2023 9:10 pm

    I still LOVE a good syrup-y Hallmark movie!! But, your story out-classes them all!! blessings to the newly engaged (I assume!) couple!! May they always have “fireworks” in their marriage! And, may God bless 2 very lucky little girls.

  7. Dan E. - July 6, 2023 3:36 pm

    So…what happened? It’s a good story, but even a sappy Hallmark movie has a happy ending. Hopefully you’ll let us know what happened, even if it may not be the outcome we’re all hoping for. Can always make it a continuation once you have all the details. BTW – looking forward to seeing you in Boaz next month!

  8. Dan E. - July 6, 2023 3:39 pm

    So…what happened? Even a sappy Hallmark movie has the happy ending – you’re leaving us hanging here! Perhaps a follow up story to appease the masses, even if it’s not the ending we’re all hoping for. BTW – looking forward to your show in Boaz next month! (this may be a repeat comment – website said I was “posting too fast”. Imagine that!)


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