The Interviewee

I am mid-20s. I am a cub journalist for a tiny local newspaper with a circulation of about six. My biggest dream is to write for the Tallahassee newspaper someday. But it’s not working out. They’ve turned down all my work.

But I’m still trying, God love me. Namely, because I am an idiot.

Today, I am at a small-town nursing home near Tally, doing an interview with someone exceptional. My hope is that the said Tallahassee publication will recognize my immutable genius and publish me.

It’s a pipe dream, yes. But hey, if a writer doesn’t dream then he is a CPA.

My interviewee today is an elderly woman who doesn’t even know I’m here because she has Alzheimer’s.

She used to be a tenth-grade teacher. She has changed many students’ lives. She is nothing short of inspirational.

The woman sits in a wheelchair, watching “Jeopardy!” and blurting out answers along with gameshow contestants.

Which makes it a little hard to concentrate.

I ask my lead-off question.

But I am answered with: “Who the [deleted] are you? And where’s my blueberry yogurt?”

“This man is a writer,” the dayshift nurse explains. “Remember, I told you? He’s trying to get published with the ‘Tallahassee Democrat’? He wants to interview you?”

“I don’t care who he is,” she says. “Where’s my yogurt, you [deleted deleteds]?”

So we are off to a great start.

I ask another interview question. She answers without breaking eye contact with the TV.

“What is the Treaty of Tordesillas!”

After several minutes, I am about to give up on my interview effort altogether. Mostly, because I’m too distracted by Alex Trebek’s episode du jour.

Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of “Jeopardy!” It moves too fast. By the time I’ve figured out the first question, the show is finished and the 18-year-old from Sheboygan who designs nanotubular probes for NASA has won 12 thousand dollars. Roll the credits.

But then, my interview is saved.

A nurse walks into the room. She has heard about the difficulties I’m having with my interviewee and she is here to rescue me. Turns out, the nurse used to be one of this woman’s students.

“I actually decided I wanted to BE a nurse because of this woman,” the nurse explains. “I was in a bad situation, living with my boyfriend’s family, my mom had just died, my boyfriend was beating me. This woman made me believe I could make it into FSU. She actually helped me apply. She is the reason I am what I am today.”

“Who is Saint Hubert!” yells the elderly woman. She looks at me with excited eyes. “Saint Hubert! Ha!”

I smile at her. Mainly because I don’t know anyone named Hubert. I don’t think anybody is actually named Hubert.

We are interrupted again when the elderly woman’s son drops in to rescue my fledgling interview. He, too, has heard about my struggle and wants to help. He is early 60s. White hair. Eyeglasses.

When the lady sees her son, she shouts: “Yogurt, where’s my yogurt! I need yogurt! Now!”

He is able to calm her down, and eventually, I receive more of the woman’s biography:

“When I was a kid,” her son says, “Mama was all about civil rights, that was a big issue back in her day. She wanted to take several students to a Doctor King rally, but my dad was like, ‘No, it’s too dangerous.’

“She went anyway, and my mom actually got attacked by a guy in a parking lot. Guy tried to cut her throat. Pushed her up against her car. I’ll never forget, my mama looked her attacker in the eye and started quoting scripture. He let her go.”

“Who is Andy Williams!” the woman hollers.

Another person interrupts our interview. A middle-aged woman comes barging through the door to resuscitate my comatose interview.

Her name is Chaniqua. Chaniqua is another woman who was once a student of this woman.

“I almost killed myself,” says Chaniqua. “I was a mess when I was a kid. She took me to lunch one day, talked me off the ledge. She said she believed in me, said I could live with her if I needed to. She’s the reason I’m alive. The reason I went to school.”

“What is a Keebler elf!” the old woman screams.

So anyway, after what could be deemed strangest interview of my life, I am about to leave when the elderly woman using the wheelchair turns to faces me.

She seems to be waiting for me to say something, a farewell maybe. But I can’t find the words. Because I am out of my depth. At my core, I’m just an unpublished hack with a notepad. That’s all I’ll ever be.

Even so. Because there is a roomful of people watching me, I feel I am obliged to say some parting words.

“I’m inspired by how many lives you’ve impacted, ma’am,” I say.

“Me?” she says.

I nod. “Yes, ma’am. I heard you had quite an effect on a lot of students. I heard you made a big difference.”

“You heard that?”

“Yes, ma’am. Heard you made a huge impression on hundreds of kids over the years.”

She smiled bigly.

“You mean to tell me,” she said, “you heard all that, all that wonderful stuff, and even after all that, even after you heard what a great person I am, you STILL didn’t bring me any [deleted] yogurt?”

The article never made the “Tallahassee Democrat.” But I’m still holding out hope.


  1. Glenda E Hulbert - July 10, 2022 6:25 am

    after all these years, i still love you

  2. Debra Chambers - July 10, 2022 6:56 am

    My Uncle Hubert, God rest his soul, and his son, Hubert Junior, would beg to differ with you!

  3. Sandra Cockrell - July 10, 2022 8:11 am

    Teachers leave a legacy that trickles down through the generations. Most of us have that one teacher who left an indelible mark on our perspective or our career. The results of those indelible marks are now visible in our children and grandchildren. Great teachers are the foundation of all we have accomplished throughout history.

  4. Steve McCaleb - July 10, 2022 10:18 am

    You and the Keebler Elves. That brings back some strange memories. Some people are worried about the future of the nation’s daily newspapers…not me. People will always clean crappies, line canary cages and potty train puppies. The future of newsprint has never looked brighter. Now there’s a ray of sunshine on a dark morning..Where’s that durn yogurt ?

  5. Leigh Amiot - July 10, 2022 10:23 am

    Mrs. Lee Pulliam of Valdosta High School was that teacher to me in the early 1980s and if she wanted some yogurt now, I’d bring it to her!

  6. Te - July 10, 2022 11:30 am

    And here I was anticipating the tag line was going to be some great words of encouragement! As the saying goes, a tiger (snake/whatever the animal was) gotta be a tiger. This was better.

  7. bpdawson20gmailcom - July 10, 2022 11:38 am

    Love this — humor and wisdom all twisted together.

  8. sjhl7 - July 10, 2022 12:16 pm

    Love this! Such a great way to start my Sunday! Thank you, Sean!

  9. Suellen - July 10, 2022 12:18 pm

    Just get her some yogurt! You have to love a woman who knows what she wants and relentlessly pursues it.

  10. Trent - July 10, 2022 12:29 pm

    Another awesome read today Sean! Thank you! BTW – The TD is a mullet wrapper that doesn’t deserve your insightful wit. And God Bless all of our teachers – past and present – who by their very being and belief in humanity – inspired so many of us. For me, history, Mrs. Northcraft – 4th grade.

  11. Lander - July 10, 2022 12:42 pm

    Boy, some help you are. I bet that poor woman still hasn’t gotten any of her d@#€ yogurt! But it’s sure a great story here. Thanks.

  12. Sancee - July 10, 2022 12:48 pm

    Loved your article today, as usual. My whole family are teachers, and excellent ones, I might add. I was one for six years and decided it just wasn’t my calling. Then I embarked on a career that was fascinating yo me—the world of accounting. I’m a CPA. CPAs have feelings too; we just bury them deep inside. So be kind to us poor, unimaginative, buttoned down souls. Some of us are your biggest fans.

  13. David Britnell - July 10, 2022 12:52 pm

    Even as terrible as Alzheimer’s is that story is still a knee slapped! Thanks Sean for making my day!

  14. Melanie - July 10, 2022 1:09 pm

    Your description of Jeopardy is priceless 😆 and spot on. Great story, Sean. Thank you. 👏🏻👍🏻😊

  15. Richard Owen - July 10, 2022 1:14 pm

    What an ending, Sean! Made me chuckle. Lewis Grizzard and Paul Harvey would be proud!

  16. Marana Parker - July 10, 2022 1:38 pm

    Sean, loved this! My husband’s name is Hubert and guess what! He has Alzheimer’s! He was diagnosed 3 years ago.

  17. Paul McCutchen - July 10, 2022 2:08 pm

    Welcome to “talking with the elderly” A friend of mine had a father that was in the Navy during the second world war. I found him fascinating and would listen to his stories, even when he repeated them. He never would remember me but he loved to tell his stories and I loved to sit and listen.

  18. IRina Meadows - July 10, 2022 3:47 pm

    So cute, I loved the story.

  19. Anne Arthur - July 10, 2022 4:16 pm

    God bless that woman’s soul.
    Great interview, we learned to appreciate her and her caregivers. It’s time for the “Tallahassee Democrat” to wake up from their slumber. -smile-

  20. Linda Moon - July 10, 2022 5:04 pm

    I know someone who is actually named Hubert…the husband of a teacher I worked with. One of my former students looks at my backside and pokes a needle into it once a month! Sean, you’re not an idiot anymore so I’ll make myself a homemade blueberry smoothie after I give you this assignment: Compare the Supposal to the Allegory in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”.

  21. MAM - July 10, 2022 7:35 pm

    I, too, have done interviews like that where most of the information I got about the person was from a family member. But the stories are still great, just like this one is. Thanks as always, Sean, for reminding us every day of the good in this world!

  22. JonDragonfly - July 10, 2022 9:20 pm

    Thank you, Miss Virginia Fowlkes.
    Thank you, Miss Zimmerman.
    Thank you, Mr. Smith.
    Thank you, Miss Ermine Walker.
    Thank you, Mr. DeShields.
    Thank you, Dr. Carl Dixon.
    Thank you, Dr. Ken Ottis.
    I could (and should) go on, but there are too many for this space.
    Just, Thank You to all teachers.


  23. Fred Frederick - July 10, 2022 10:19 pm

    Great finish, Sean!

  24. suzi - July 10, 2022 10:29 pm

    The Tallahassee Democrat missed a great human interest story!

    Folks with cancer, heart failure, crippling arthritis, receive understanding , patience and admiration. Dementia, Alzheimer patients too often are treated with impatience and little respect.
    What a gift to learn about the “real person” imprisoned in that slowly deteriorating brain.

  25. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 10, 2022 11:46 pm


  26. Christina - July 11, 2022 4:34 am

    Her impact still made it to all of us! You are the best!

  27. DiAn - July 11, 2022 4:01 pm

    Yes – we’re all still hoping that writer gets a column printed in “the T.Democrat” pronto – cuz clearly the author is going to be a blooming future Sean Dietrich – and we Need more of Those, please! – DiAn

  28. Nancy M - July 11, 2022 5:25 pm

    I think it might make the paper this time! Great column, great interview, with some help. Now, get that lady some yogurt!

  29. artwimberley - July 22, 2022 2:15 pm

    During my mother’s extended stay in a skilled nursing facility I met many older citizens. Frequently it was only through extensive time with them or others in the facility that I was able to piece together some of their life history. It always fascinated me to learn of their accomplishments, travels, education and families. Many had such wonderful stories to tell although it could take some inquiry to learn. Thank you for sharing this reminder with us. There is always a story.

  30. Harryette Miller Burnette - July 28, 2022 4:38 am

    It might not have made the newspaper column you wanted it to, but it sure made me laugh tonight after having a sort of sad evening. I needed this and I’m glad I’d saved it for a couple weeks so I could enjoy it at just the right time. God bless you & may you always keep on keeping on with you pen & paper. I will be one of your forever readers.


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