Roll Tide

There's a woman ahead of me at the sandwich counter. She has a son sleeping in a stroller. He's no baby. In fact, he's not even a small kid, he looks like a fifth-grader.

Freeport, Florida, 8:39 P.M.—Publix. It’s halftime for the National Championship. I’m here to buy a sandwich. I just left a party at my friend’s house.

Publix is quiet. I’m tired. I’m hungry. The food at the party was god-awful. My pal tried making Mexican cheese dip that tasted microwave-melted fertilizer.

So I’m here.

There’s a woman ahead of me at the sandwich counter. She has a son sleeping in a stroller. He’s no baby. In fact, he’s not even a small kid, he looks like a fifth-grader.

She’s wearing a “Roll Tide” sweatshirt.

And this makes us best friends.

So, we chat football.

While the young man at the counter makes her sandwich, she talks. She tells me she’s recently moved back to town. She was raised here, but moved away when she got married.

I asked what brought her back.

“My divorce,” she said. “I’m starting over.”

Then, we’re interrupted by her son.

No sooner does he open his eyes than he’s screaming loud enough to affect the climate. He flails his arms. Cries. Kicks. She tries to hush him.

He won’t have it.

He throws a plastic toy at her. It hits her square in the face. Hard.

She doesn’t react. She only looks at me and says, “He didn’t mean that, it’s just past his bedtime.”


She picks the kid up, holding him like a newborn. The boy is almost as tall as she is. His legs are limp.

Once her sandwiches are made and wrapped, her boy has calmed. She places him back in the stroller. She thanks the man behind the counter.

Then she looks at me. “I know this is weird, but would you mind watching my son while I go to the bathroom? He’s finally relaxed, I don’t wanna disturb him.”

Absolutely, ma’am.

She walks toward the restrooms with her hands over her face.

She’s only gone a few minutes. When she gets back, her cheeks are wet, her eyes are bloodshot. And I sincerely doubt she did anything in the restroom but cry.

“Thanks,” she says, sniffing. “Sorry about my son.”

“Don’t be.”

“Roll tide,” she says. “I hope we win.”

And she’s gone.

Dear God, I know you’re busy. I know you’ve got folks tugging on your apron from all over the world. I don’t know what’s going on with that child. But if you have a moment…

Bless the hell out of that woman.


  1. Elaine - January 11, 2017 3:22 pm

    I hope one of the blessings is a support group of ‘special parents’–it helps a lot when you have a child who isn’t ‘typical.’ (Speaking as living proof…. and thank you, Sean, for your kindness.)

  2. Jane - January 11, 2017 4:24 pm

    My heart is full, Sean!

  3. Laurie Pallotta - January 11, 2017 4:34 pm

    God heard your prayer before you ever wrote it and blessed the hell out of that woman when he sent you to Publix during the most disappointing (even though Orange deserved to win that one-Roll Tide!) game of the year. I’m glad you understood her situation. And I’m glad for your kind heart.

    • Linda - January 9, 2018 1:38 pm

      I so agree…..our Lord send you on a path and you followed. God Bless you, this chosen mother and her very special son.

  4. Roxanne Kelly - January 11, 2017 5:39 pm

    If the child was that big, could he have been autistic? Not making excuses, but wondering. If so, I would hope she would have told you. I was recently at a restaurant buffet and a boy about 11-12 was all over me at the bar, reaching past me and of course, touching me, etc. I glared wondering where his manners were. His dad quickly appeared, apologized and told me his son was autistic, and began talking calmly to the boy about waiting his turn. They naturally get him out and were trying to teach him boundaries, etc. I admired them for teaching him, and I especially admired the father for not being embarrassed and letting me know his son was autistic. I, of course, understood then why the child did what he did. If you have a child with issues, don’t be afraid to apologize for them and let people know so that WE can be more understanding!! I will however say a prayer for this woman – I learned a long time ago that we have no idea what someone else is going through.

  5. Lynn - January 12, 2017 4:26 am

    I absolutely love your writing. I’ve read your books. Is that your art out there as well?

    • sherry k. - January 12, 2017 6:33 pm

      I like the drawings too.

  6. Carol DeLater - January 12, 2017 11:38 am

    All that and a divorce to boot. For some it’s easy to walk away when the going is tough, but there I go, being judgmental when I’m usually not. Sorry. Then for a minute I thought “what would he do if she didn’t come back”? It never occurred to me to think what would she do if you were gone when she got back. And there you are. She saw something in YOU and knew she could trust you with what is dearest to her heart. That is a blessing, even if in the moment.

  7. Mary Ellen Hall - January 13, 2017 1:31 am

    Thank the Lord, she ran into you!!

  8. Jessica Hall - February 4, 2017 3:39 pm

    Who are you??? I stumbled upon you over the past week and felt your words in my heart. I connected so much with you that I shared some of your sentiments on my business fb page, something I rarely do. Thank you for helping some of us remember the beautiful raw realness of life that we often loose in the consumption of multi-tasking. Thank you for portraying the beautiful grace of being a southern gentleman.

    • Gerald - January 9, 2018 2:58 pm

      Jessica, he is a person that was forced to walk the walk at an early age, struggled for years like any of us, and like a lot of us had dedicated caring ladies that dragged him up and made him into something better than he could ever imagine. Even now he sometimes has trouble accepting his role in the world but greatly appreciates it and is doing his best to pay it forward. Hope that helps you understand who he is.

  9. Regina - February 4, 2017 3:40 pm

    There is a little known disease called Neiman-Pick Disease. It makes “normal” appearing children digress in age appropriate behavior. I wonder about this child. God Bless this Mom. I had the privilege of knowing an awesome young family who had a child sticken with this disease. Just another time we never know what other people are going through.

  10. Robin - February 4, 2017 5:38 pm

    You always bless me!

  11. john masters - January 9, 2018 1:56 pm

    as usual, you got it.

  12. unkle - January 9, 2018 5:29 pm

    If they are born with specal needs they will always be special no matter how old they are. Stranger’s won’t understand , you will try to explain. They won’t really understand special, untill they really meet and spend a little time with the child . Then they might understand. I HOPE. You done good . Uk


Leave a Comment