You are my best good friend. In many ways, you are the brother I never had. I’m not sure that’s a title you want to bear. I’m sort of a degenerate.
But I love you, brother. So help me, I do.
I met you while we were playing music, years ago. Which is typical for me. All my friends are musicians. Because, you see, from birth I was damned to be a hapless musician. It’s a blessing and a curse.
A blessing, because there is nothing more gratifying than producing music; the cadence of a good tune, throbbing in your brain and bones, is like a narcotic. A curse, because being a working musician sucks; a musician without a van or a girlfriend is, essentially, homeless.
My life has been lived out on plywood stages, in tobacco-fogged rooms, playing songs I hate, for drunk people who can’t dance, at 1 o’clock in the morning, as I beg for tips over the mic.
I met you in Tallassee, Alabama. You were playing the fiddle like your face was on fire. I was playing guitar (poorly). We were in the band together, at the Mount Vernon Theater.
We hit it off. I admired the way you sawed on your Stradivarius like the Paganini of South Alabama. You liked me, heaven knows why. And that was how our friendship started.
It turned out you were from Slocomb, Alabama, making you my one and only friend from Slocomb.
The closest I’d ever come to Slocomb was when I got my picture made with the Slocomb Tomato Queen at the Peanut Festival—that was a wild night.
So anyway, I liked you, you liked me. And that’s basically how friendship works, really. You meet someone you like, then you just go around doing stuff together.
We did stuff. We’ve played a bunch of gigs together. We’ve shared many a malted beverage. We’ve been on stages, singing together into the same microphone. We have played all the big-ticket, prestigious Alabama cities. Sylacauga, Dothan, Columbiana, Brewton.
So we have some mileage together. We’ve made some memories. We’ve painted a few towns.
I remember once, you passed out at a minor league baseball game. And as you were being loaded into the ambulance, I was the loud guy who kept telling the EMTs and police officials: “I swear, we’ve only had two beers, Ociffer.”
You played fiddle at my mother-in-law’s graveside service. You helped move my furniture when I moved to Birmingham. You’ve been there for me.
Your father died today.
I’m sick about it.
He left this world on Easter Sunday. He was a beautiful man. Big and gentle. Calm and kind. I was privileged to know the man. The world is an empty place without him in it.
When you texted today about your father’s end, do you want to know where I was at the moment? I was in Oak Mountain State Park, with my wife. We were hiking. I sat down and I cried. Long and hard.
My wife, you see, has signed us up for a 26-mile hike which raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Alabama. It’s the most insane idea she’s ever had. This means we are required to go on “training hikes.” These sadistic weekly fitness rituals take place in the park, and take about as long to complete as veterinary school.
So that’s where I was, out in the hinterlands of Shelby County Alabama, hiking the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, when your text came through.
“My daddy just passed away…” you wrote.
I sat on a lonesome boulder on the trail, and I wept. Long and hard. My wife asked what was wrong. I couldn’t even tell her. That’s how upset I was.
Because I know what it’s like to lose a father. My whole life was tainted by the loss of a father. It was the most defining moment in my personal existence.
Losing a father screws with your head. It changes how you see yourself. How you see your life. How you see everything. I don’t know why this is, but it’s true.
I called you while we were on the trail, but I didn’t know what to say. I felt stupid, like a bumbling idiot on the phone. I couldn’t think of any words except “I’m sorry.”
Since that phone call, I’ve had a chance to regroup and think about what it is I truly want to say. It’s nothing fancy, but I hope you know I mean it.
So here it is:
“I love you, brother. What time do you want me in Slocomb?”
julieannhall - April 10, 2023 1:03 pm
Sean, I lost my dad last year and your words bring comfort. We are different after losing our fathers. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. May God bless you and Jamie.
Susie Murphy - April 10, 2023 5:39 pm
My Dad died a year ago in January. I loved him dearly. We were best friends, “cohorts in crime” and adventure buddies. I was a Daddy’s girl from day one. I still feel lost and I am old enough to be a grandmother. Hang in there and know you have been prayed for today.
Harriet White - April 11, 2023 11:56 pm
You know what’s weird is I lost my dad last year and don’t feel anything. No sadness, no anger, nothing, just silence. Very weird.
Marlene Lassiter - April 14, 2023 7:16 pm
This-made me cackle as the storyline of your brotherhood began and of course, it was met with an empathetic heart as I read on. Your writing is beautiful.
Aaron is an incredible guy and comes from an amazing family! I worked side by side of him in the teller booth at the bank in Slocomb for years. My heart hurt like yours when I heard of fathers passing. Thank you for sharing.