Donald’s home is half trailer, half homemade lean-to. He has two little dogs, but his daughter takes care of them. He’s too old to care for pets.
His daughter’s home is on the adjoining property. It’s a new-built home. She offered to move her daddy into her spare bedroom. Donald wouldn’t have it.
So, she practically lives with him. She sleeps in a back room. She keeps him fed. She keeps him moving. She encourages Donald to play his fiddle.
He’s the creative type. Donald used to build things, wood-carve, paint pictures, grow roses, tell stories, and bow a fiddle.
His house is a wreck. There are piles everywhere. Cardboard boxes, junk-mail, potato-chip bags, radios, guitars, clocks, and enough coffee mugs to construct a national monument.
Donald pitches a fit if ever she tries to clean.
He’s done a lot in his life. He was a cotton picker, a veterinary assistant, a crop duster, a house painter, a janitor, a hunter, he traveled with a band, playing gospel fiddle.
Today, Donald is slow-moving and half aware.
His daughter shows me photographs lining his dark hallway. Most photos are of a boy. The kid’s entire childhood is hanging on those walls.
A toddler on a tricycle. A boy holding a dead turkey. A young man with a Louisville Slugger. A high-schooler, playing guitar—his daddy on fiddle, smoking a cigarette.
The boy’s name was Daniel. He is no longer.
Donald’s daughter opens a book of poems. Her father wrote them long ago. She’s compiled them into a binder with plastic sleeves.
A few lines:
“…And the place below heaven, where suns and moons both rise,
“Is yet bitter and the same, without my little boy closeby.”
His daughter tells me her father isn’t the man she remembers. He was an artist, an outdoorsman, a creative genius.
Today, his mind is fleeting.
“He was so talented,” she said. “He used to do portraits of us kids. But after Daniel’s wreck, he kinda lost himself.”
I was lucky enough to hear him play his old fiddle. There are cigarette burns in the wood finish. The thing is older than I am. He tuned the instrument by ear.
“Daddy,” she said. “What’cha gonna play for your visitor?”
“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DADGUM PLAY!” he said.
Feisty. I like feisty.
He played a melody I recognized. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” He hit more wrong notes than right ones, but glimpses of brilliance showed through the rust.
Then, he attempted another piece he wrote. It was rough. His fingers weren’t up to the job.
“What’s that song called?” I asked.
“Ain’t got no name,” he mumbled.
His daughter smiled. “That’s the song he wrote for Daniel. He played it at the funeral, didn’t you, Daddy?”
Daniel. That name does something to him. His eyes brighten.
“Daniel,” he said. “Daniel was so, so…”
“I know, Daddy.”
The old man tries to play the melody again. He balances the fiddle low on his shoulder. He’s a hundred years younger. And determined.
He doesn’t make a single mistake.
I almost told him how much I appreciated his playing.
But then, he wasn’t playing for me.
Newell Gay - July 14, 2017 2:10 pm
Love your articles, some depress me and other fill me with joy, some of them bring tears.
Question : Should I be paying for your writings? I am willing to do so as you “articles” are much better than any news paper’s professional writers.
Thanks and keep blogging.
lpmartin - July 14, 2017 5:30 pm
SOTS has several books. I have read two and just started a third. They are on Amazon. Well worth the money.
Anne Braxton - July 14, 2017 3:05 pm
This story touches me! I believe it is one of your most beautiful!
Anonymous - July 14, 2017 3:55 pm
You kill me, Sean, you just kill me with these stories that strike home. You are good. I’m glad you’re here.
Linda - July 14, 2017 4:09 pm
I heartily agree with the first poster. The stories are so varied and are like life – ups and downs….
Some of your stories, Sean, make me feel sad and some even make me cry. Some make me smile and some make me so happy – I could cry.
But I don’t because I am so very blessed and grateful for the family, friends and life that I have right now .
I thank you for your talent and your willingness to share it so eloquently…..
Lynda Gayle Knight - July 14, 2017 4:23 pm
One more winner! Hey, you’re not half bad for pretending to be so unqualified!!❣️Never miss a day! You help to start my day–thinking.
Lois Young - July 14, 2017 4:43 pm
I’m so glad you share stories about all these people with us. Our lives are always in a hurry, and we miss out on meeting so many talented and interesting people. Thank you for taking the time.
Judy Riley - July 14, 2017 4:56 pm
Heart strings twanged on this story…..know what it is to lose a son.
Ann Tolley - July 14, 2017 5:02 pm
Thank you for sharing your gift of conjuring up simple people with compelling stories, describing these people and telling these stories so well.
Donna Holifield - July 14, 2017 6:43 pm
Cathy W. - July 14, 2017 6:51 pm
As Barney told Thelma Lou,
“I like ya a lot. You’re the cat’s.”
(And your emails are the diamonds
of my inbox).
Johnny Johnson - July 14, 2017 7:01 pm
You get me at the end . . . every single day. Thank you for sharing your gift.
Jack Quanstrum - July 15, 2017 3:30 am
Touching and sad, but at the same time glimpses of hope. Reminds me of my dad about 16 months before he passed. I think of all the good things he use to be . What a hero he was to me! Enduring the Great Depression, WWII, Forty five years of construction work. Having to lay to rest his daughter, wife, and then my younger brother before passing himself. He truly was the toughest man I ever knew. Thank God he brought me up like he did. For I have a inner toughness in my heart that others only catch glimpses of. But it carries me like the wings of an eagle. Only God can affect it and touch it. And I am grateful for His creation of it me because He knew I needed it before He knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you Sean for stimulating my heart in a positive way on a daily basis. Peace be with you brother!
Susan in Georgia - July 15, 2017 9:56 am
No words. Just admiration and appreciation for your ability to write what we need to read daily.
Deanna J - September 1, 2017 12:51 pm
Thank you! I have a Leslie, she was a wonderful person, now I take care of her wonderful girl!
C C Cayson - September 1, 2017 2:46 pm
Sean, your stories inspire me in a world that seems to have turned on its ear….they remind me that there is still good in this old beat up world. Oh and I like your new picture….like the laugh lines around your eyes and the pencil in your ear….tells me what a good person you are even without the writing….keep it coming….