The Fourth

The sun is low. The world is orangish pink. The Fourth of July weekend is at hand. I am another year older.

Lightning bugs are out. There are children in my neighborhood playing catch. They could be playing video games. They could be looking at dirty pictures on the internet. But they’re playing catch. I hear the rhythmic slap of a leather ball glove.

It was supposed to rain this evening, but it didn’t. Not really. It got cloudy. And the sun was still shining throughout the light drizzle. Where I come from, old-timers used to call such weather “the Devil beating his wife.”

The smell of a barbecue grill is wreaking havoc on my memories. I smell smoke. Hickory smoke, I’d guess. Although it could be pecan. Or Kingsford.

There is a ball game playing on my little Zenith radio, tuned to WJOX Birmingham-Tuscaloosa 94.5 AM. The Atlanta Braves are whooping the Miami Marlins like government mules. The old radio crackles with static.

Three weeks ago, Apple Inc. released Apple Vision Pro, a “mixed reality headset soon to be available for purchase in 2024 in the United States.” A set of goggles that mixes software and reality. They call it “augmented reality.” Meaning, you can now live inside a computer world.

Thankfully, some of us still listen to Zenith radios, given to us by our fathers.

I hear an aluminum can, cracked open, in the far-off. “Hiss-kuh-KRACK!” Maybe it’s a Coca-Cola. Maybe it’s something stronger. I hope the latter.

Someone is sitting on their porch watching a television at low volume. It’s “Casablanca.” I can tell by the dialogue. The best dialogue in cinematic history:

“I am shocked—shocked—to find that gambling is going on in here.”

“Your winnings, sir.”

My dog, Otis (alleged Labrador) is lying at my feet. He is snoring beneath the weight of a deep sleep.

I watch him, and find myself wishing I could sleep like that. I can’t, of course. Which is something my mother used to warn me about when I was young. “When you get older,” she said, “you won’t sleep like you used to.”

I think about my mother a lot on holidays. The young version of her. When Mama’s hair was long, and semi-golden with youth. My mother had curly hair. But when her mane was long, the weight pulled the curls out and made it straight.

She was lean and surly. Stubborn and spirited. Spry and energetic. People always used to remark at how much energy my mother had. You have no idea.

My mother has never been bored a day. Her hands were constantly moving. All my life, Mama was either making a quilt, or crocheting, or repairing socks, or sewing tiny personalized tags into the waistband of my underpants, informing all would-be thieves that these undergarments were the “Property of Sean Dietrich.”

God help the man who is desperate enough to steal underpants.

“Casablanca” is almost over now. I can hear the closing scene from faraway. “We’ll always have Paris.”

The ballgame is coming to a close. The Braves are the winners. That’s what they’re saying on the radio. My old man would have liked that.

There are a few fireworks going off. People are getting the celebration started early. My dog awakes because of the loud detonation sound. He just looks at me. Like he knows something.

The older I get, the more the world moves on without me. Flying cars, augmented reality, AI, ChatGPT is going to put writers like me out of business. And I wonder if anyone will listen to AM radios anymore.

But today, I close my eyes and still see my mother. Young and happy. I can see my father, in my mind, slender and strong, shirtless, with a leather mitt on his hand.

I still hear the fireworks of a bygone youth. Cherry bombs, sparklers, bottle rockets, firecrackers, Roman candles, Catherine wheels.

I can remember every heartbreak, triumph, and loss I ever had. I remember learning to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was in kindergarten, in Mrs. Welch’s class, in that little one-room schoolhouse; we had to cross the creek to get to class.

I remember my father singing the national anthem at ball games, at the top of his voice. Louder than everyone else. “It embarrasses me when you sing so loud,” I once told him. “Son,” he replied, “it embarrasses me when you don’t sing.” I can remember it all tonight.

And I thank heaven, truly, that the most identifiable thing about me is that I am an American.


  1. Harriet White - July 3, 2023 10:43 am

    Oh – no way is that ChatGPT CRAP going to put you out of business. You have a heart and soul and we see it.
    Hope I can meet you one day.

  2. Richard Owen - July 3, 2023 12:53 pm

    Totally agree with Harriet White’s sentiment, Sean!

  3. pattymack43 - July 3, 2023 5:52 pm

    I, too, am very proud to be an American!! Let freedom ring!!

  4. johnny - July 3, 2023 7:27 pm

    Happy Fourth

  5. johnny - July 3, 2023 7:28 pm

    Happy Fourth!!!!!!

  6. Ellen J. Foust - July 3, 2023 11:58 pm

    Happy 4th of July, Sean and Jamie!

  7. Josie - July 4, 2023 10:48 am

    Happy 4th of July Sean and your beautiful wife Jamie and to everyone god bless America 🇺🇸 🙏


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