Seafood In the Summer

An old Florida village. Not the touristy kind with swimsuit shops and scooter rentals. This is a place where the local high-school colors are probably camo and orange.

We are vacationing nearby this week. I am in search of tuna dip.

I pull into a random seafood market. The place isn’t fancy. This is rural Florida, where all seafood markets are required by state law to look like rundown miniature correctional facilities.

In the sandy parking area an old man and a kid leap out of a dusty Suburban then walk inside. The old man wears an Atlanta Braves ballcap. His grandson, maybe 9 years old, wears a Freddie Freeman jersey.

Inside the market, the old man never speaks. He communicates via sign language with the boy. I don’t speak sign language, but I speak fluent Kid. And I see a lot of love on that little freckled face.

When the employee at the counter is ready to take their order, the old man gestures to the kid who serves as our translator this afternoon.

The kid points and speaks to the guy at the counter. “We want three pounds of those.”

The seafood market employee is a man with a shaved head, lots of inkwork, and an unlit cigarette wedged in his lips. We must have caught him just before a smoke break.

The inactive cigarette bounces when he talks. “Three pounds of shrimp? Anything else, boss?”

The kid checks with Granddaddy for instructions. The old man looks over the motherlode of seafood displayed on ice. Choices, choices. He signs to Junior.

Junior translates. “Yeah. What’re those things?”

“These? Grouper cheeks. Good eating. Want some?”

The kid signs to the old man who nods.

“Yes, please.”

The kid never stops signing, even when speaking to the cashier. It’s called being polite to Grandad.

“Sure thing, bossman.” The guy behind the counter is trying to act nonchalant about this exchange, but I can tell he’s impressed by the charismatic duo. So am I.

Cigarette Guy places the fish into a double-bag filled with crushed ice. He addresses the kid. “So… He your grampaw or something?”

“Yessir, this is my granddaddy.”

Granddaddy lifts his hat.

Cigarette Guy nods, then weighs the fish on a digital scale.

“My granddaddy says he wants to know about the tuna dip. Do you make it here?”

“Oh, yessir, boss. We smoke the tuna, my wife makes the dip with my mom. Wanna sample?”

Granddaddy is in full support of this idea.

So Cigarette Guy changes his gloves, then goes behind a sneeze-guard and scoops two club crackers into a sample container.

I make my presence known because I, too, hold a deep affection for free samples.

The grandfather chews, swallows, signs.

“Okay,” the boy says. “We’ll take two tuna dips.”

Granddaddy signs again.

“Nope, wait,” the boy clarifies. “Three tuna dips.”

And I’m lost in the cinematic scope of it all. Sometimes everyday life presents itself like a divine picture show. Sadly, I miss too many of these pretty scenes because I focus on the wrong stuff. All I can say is, I should pay more attention.

Granddaddy and Grandson eventually approach the cash register. They have racked up quite a seafood bill. The old man removes a wallet and pays for his fare while Boy Wonder is placed on sign-language standby.

The seafood guy takes the cash, punches buttons, the money drawer opens. He makes change. The old man says thank you in a universal gesture—hand touching the chin, then sweeping downward.

The kid says, “He says thank you.”

The man at the register smiles. He repeats the thank-you gesture to the duo. Then he does something I will never unsee: he performs another brief phrase in sign language.

And as it happens, I know the exact words he’s signing because I learned this same three-word phrase in Vacation Bible School when I was 6 years old.

Granddaddy and Junior are extremely impressed by this. The old man and kid return salute, then exit the market grinning.

Now it’s my turn to buy seafood.

Cigarette Guy says, “What’ll it be, boss?”

I approach the counter, look over the spread of raw fish, and say, “I know what you just said to them.”

He laughs. He slides the cigarette behind his ear. “Yeah? Well, it’s the only little bit of sign language I know. My daughter had to learn it for a Christmas play one time.”

I smile and pay for my items. But before I leave, I force my clumsy hands to make the same gesture he made earlier. A gesture I haven’t used since Miss Judy’s VBS sign-language class a hundred years ago.

Without dropping a beat he signs back and says, “God bless you, too, boss.”


  1. Tammy S. - May 5, 2021 8:06 am


    • Kelly St John - July 3, 2021 6:53 pm

      Every time I read a blog post of yours my eyes fill up with tears. Not sad ones, I don’t even consider myself an emotional person. I think it’s because it’s the only way I can react to such beauty. There’s such beauty in everything you write. Thank you.

  2. MermaidGrammy - May 5, 2021 9:32 am

    How can you say that you focus on all the wrong things, when, because you see beauty and love everywhere, you then share it with us? Way too long a sentence, but, it has to be said. You’re the best, Sean, and because you are, you make us a little better

  3. eliza - May 5, 2021 10:04 am

    I completely agree with MermaidGrammy.

    • Susan Parker - May 5, 2021 11:27 am

      So do I!

  4. Jan - May 5, 2021 10:08 am

    Love, love, love this story and you, Sean! Thank you!

  5. Julie Messick - May 5, 2021 10:23 am

    Gives one faith in the simple pleasures and graces of life…and faith that it is still out there. Thank you Sean. Wish I knew where that little town is located; I could certainly stand some time there.

  6. Bobbie - May 5, 2021 10:24 am

    Totally agree with Mermaidgrammy!! Sharing these everyday events of the “divine picture show” blesses us all. I call these “God Winks”. A brief encounter with total strangers makes us realize we’re not strangers at all. Thank you again for sharing your heart and your adventures on the Forgotten Coast. No better place to be. God bless.

  7. Lucretia - May 5, 2021 10:29 am

    Thank you, Sean, for the wonderful window into life. God bless you. May God bless each of us to “pay more attention” and find joy in “a divine picture show.”

  8. Leigh Amiot - May 5, 2021 10:38 am

    What Bobbie said.

  9. Bob Brenner - May 5, 2021 11:09 am

    Does it get any better than this story? Thanks Sean, “winner winner seafood dinner”!❤️

  10. Barbara Becker - May 5, 2021 11:28 am

    Love it!

  11. Kay Britton - May 5, 2021 11:30 am

    Thanks for sharing this. It is particularly touching to me, as my brother is deaf. He has grandchildren. I surely hope they continue to learn his language as they grow. They do pretty good for toddlers.

  12. Liz Watkins - May 5, 2021 11:34 am

    Love this❤️

  13. Paige B Hill - May 5, 2021 11:35 am

    Sean, our Good Lord ALWAYS puts you in out of the way places at the right time so that you can share the blessings He has appointed you to see and share with us. Thank you! I always grab a cup of coffee in the morning and read your story before I head into work – YOU ALWAYS BLESS MY DAY!

  14. Heidi - May 5, 2021 11:37 am

    What a sweet, comforting story. I always want to visit the places you go and meet your people. I probably should just open my eyes & ears here as well. Bet you enjoyed the tuna dip!

  15. Maria - May 5, 2021 12:06 pm

    Simply beautiful

  16. Leia Cathey - May 5, 2021 12:24 pm

    Love this sweet story. ❤️❤️

  17. Lisa Holland - May 5, 2021 12:27 pm

    Love this story! We’re all so guilty of focusing on the wrong stuff!
    Keep ’em coming, Sean!

  18. Rochelle - May 5, 2021 12:36 pm

    Thank you for the sunshine this morning. We are headed that way May 13 for a few days. We won’t get to have your cabin, we’re in our 25ft travel trailer that is our home.

  19. Mary Burns - May 5, 2021 12:39 pm

    Some days, God just adds a bit of sunshine to our world. You got a big dose of it that day. And now you made ours. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Suzanne Moore - May 5, 2021 12:45 pm

    God bless you, Sean,and God bless the work you are doing in our hearts every day. I feel that you are healing the damage done in recent years by hateful people, some in leadership positions. Your stories are healing my soul and motivating me to pass on the love which we all need.

  21. Susan - May 5, 2021 12:56 pm


  22. Iris Hamlin - May 5, 2021 1:25 pm

    All of the above.

  23. Melanie Johnston Levy - May 5, 2021 1:31 pm

    Another eye leaker, sean…thank you 145!!!!

  24. Phil (Brown Marlin) - May 5, 2021 1:32 pm

    Great story, as usual. Two things stood out to me. One, the love bond between the kid and his granddad. Two, “Cigarette Guy” first appears to be the type who hates his job, wants to be anywhere else, and would be a villain in the story, but he turns out to be a really good person. Reminds me of an old saying; something about not judging a book by its cover. I first pegged “Cig Guy” as a bum, but turns out I am the bum. Keep teaching me life lessons, Sean.

  25. STEVE MOORE WATKINS - May 5, 2021 2:05 pm

    I recommend the movie Sound of Metal.

  26. Christina - May 5, 2021 2:40 pm

    Love is the most beautiful language. Now I want to try some tuna dip!

  27. Debbi g - May 5, 2021 2:40 pm

    Beautiful story as usual. Thank you!!!!
    Do have blessed day 🙂

  28. Patricia Schmaltz - May 5, 2021 2:41 pm

    Hugs to you Sean. Have a great vacation.

  29. Bex - May 5, 2021 2:46 pm

    You show us that the best things in life that matter are people! And there are good people out there! Thank you for reminding us, God is bless!

  30. Jan Averett - May 5, 2021 2:47 pm


  31. Julie Elsner - May 5, 2021 3:39 pm

    I cannot tell you how much I love LOVE your simple observations of the good things in life. You really make my day, every day and I thank you!!. God bless you always!

  32. Laura Womac - May 5, 2021 3:56 pm

    Oh my gosh! Why does everyone of your pieces make me cry!!! Love this!

  33. Chasity Davis Ritter - May 5, 2021 4:01 pm

    Dang these allergies!!!

  34. Eileen - May 5, 2021 4:33 pm

    Yes, Sean – you have a way with words; taking ordinary everyday life and bringing it to an audience that would not otherwise have an opportunity to see what you see. Thank you.

  35. Linda Moon - May 5, 2021 4:46 pm

    High-school times at the beach. That me, then, would have preferred the touristy kind. But not now. Speaking kid is a beautiful language, Sean. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all focused on the right stuff and talked about it more. You pay attention to a lot of it and then “talk” to us through your stories. And my deaf dog Pyper would’ve fit into this one! He knew ASL very well, thanks to a Baptist boy. The boy, the dog, God, and the writer have all blessed me.

  36. Gay - May 5, 2021 5:47 pm

    reminds me of the atmosphere at the Goatfeathers seafood market on 30A in the 1990’s before the entire area blew up! Loved to grab a long neck and a doze oysters at the restaurant upstairs at 5:00 for $5.95 and then mosey down to the seafood market and get a few trigger fish filets for supper. Those were the days!

  37. Terry E. Baggett - May 5, 2021 8:27 pm

    Great story, just the simple jester of respect and kindness brings tears to my eyes. Too bad it’s so rare we experience such pleasures. Loved it!

  38. Tim House - May 5, 2021 9:21 pm

    Touched my Heart… <3

  39. Carlotta Wright - May 5, 2021 10:42 pm

    You’re describing the Florida I grew up with and the Florida I love.

  40. Patricia Gibson - May 5, 2021 11:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing that heart warming story❤️

  41. MAM - May 5, 2021 11:43 pm

    Beautiful story, beautifully written. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from you, Sean. Wonderful everyday stories that inspire us to be better!

  42. Kate - May 9, 2021 3:21 pm

    Sean, I am so sorry, but you are just ridiculous – ridiculous with love, and laughter, and gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderful things in life, and we are so blessed by it. A week behind in my Sean stories, and it is a joy to be catching up.


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