The Novelist

Sometimes, my memory can be foggy. But sometimes it can be remarkably clear. On rare occasions I can remember everything.

I went to the mailbox today and found a package. Before I opened the parcel I already knew what was inside. And it brought my whole life back in a moment.

Sometimes, my memory can be foggy. But sometimes it can be remarkably clear. On rare occasions I can remember everything.

Like the first time I went to the fair. My old man took me to ride the carnival rides with my cousin. We paid our tokens. The glorious rides only lasted a blazing ninety seconds. They were so surprisingly short that you felt cheated at the end.

Or the way I once told Eleanor Nelson I liked her, by giving her a ceramic sculpture I made in art class. A figurine of two people paddling a boat.

“What’s this?” said Eleanor.

“It’s two people in a boat, what else?”

“Is that supposed to be me?”

“Maybe.”

“I look like I fell into a bee’s nest.”

“You mean a hive.”

“Huh?”

“Technically, bees don’t have nests, they have hives.”

“You’re a dork, you know that?”

“I do.”

I remember my first taste of corn liquor—and I’m not making this up. My friend’s father let me take a sip at a Church of God barbecue. I was visiting. The old man’s name was Mister Travis, but everyone called him Big T.

After one tiny sip, I knew why Big T always spoke in tongues at Little League games.

My wedding ring, I remember buying it. We went to the jewelry store to pick out rings. The man behind the counter had white hair and an accent that was pure Alabama. He greeted us with:

“Well look at this pair of lovin’ younguns.”

Now there’s a little gem of a phrase.

The honeymoon my wife and I took, I’ll always remember that. It was one for the books. I had never been to Charleston before, and I certainly never thought it was possible to spend that much money in seventy-two hours.

I will never forget how my wife tutored me through high-school courses and college-level math classes. Math doesn’t register in my brain. I won’t forget how close my wife came to murdering me over the simple concept of My Dear Aunt Sally.

I can’t forget our almost fatal car wreck on the interstate. Nor the way my wife said, “I love you,” the exact moment we crawled from the crumpled Ford truck.

Neither will I forget the day I walked across a community college stage and accepted a slip of paper with my name on it, or the way my wife clapped in the audience.

I will never forget receiving a letter in the mail telling me that a small essay I wrote had been published.

You get a little fatter with the years, and the lines on your face get deeper. And certainly, you change inside, too. But you are forever a child, even if you’re an old one, and you remember it all—even when you aren’t thinking about it. It’s all there.

Your first kiss in the choir loft, and how disappointing it was compared to the movies. And Mary Ann Oliver’s breath, it tasted like orange-flavored bubble gum. You hated orange-flavoring, ever since the doctor gassed you with orange-flavored laughing gas and you woke up the next morning with no tonsils and wearing a buttless hospital gown.

You will never forget when your mother placed a fifty-dollar bill in your hand on the day of your wedding and said:

“I know it ain’t much, but have a good time in Charleston.”

Your mother was a woman who didn’t have fifty dollars to spare, but gave it anyway.

You won’t forget the woman who has been beside you, cheering you on, who calls herself your wife.

And, you will always remember today. Right here. Right now. At the mailbox. A March morning. Sunny. Humid. Birds singing. Your dogs nearby, playing in the tall grass.

The package, crammed into your small Postal-Service-approved cavern.

You cut it open with your pocket knife. Inside is a copy of your first full-length novel.

Your name is on the cover.

That’s when everything floods your memory. Every millisecond. The people who loved you, who convinced you that you were special.

You remember kindred souls who said your name with affection, instead of just saying your name. People who took time to teach you to change your own motor oil, how to do your taxes, how to cook breakfast, how to play guitar, and how to be a man.

These people must’ve known something. They must’ve seen you for who you were, instead of who you weren’t.

Yeah, it’s only a novel, but you were the one who wrote it. And when you hold it, you realize this is more than just paper and ink. This is everything. This is your life. And it’s taken you a long time to learn to love it. Too long.

You only get to enjoy the carnival ride once, and it is so surprisingly short.

Thankfully, love isn’t.

54 comments

  1. sparkerlpc - March 12, 2019 7:33 am

    You wrote your novel! Halla-blooming-lujah!!! That is wonderful news, congratulations !! What a wonderful moment at the mailbox to savor, and how like you to remember to be thankful for all those people who helped to bring you to this moment , to this successful day. Right down to Big T. I am so glad for you!! Enjoy your day, this success your memories, and Jamie’s love.

    Reply
  2. Tamarah - March 12, 2019 8:40 am

    Thankyou for writing and sharing your stories! Congratulations on your book! The world needs what you have to offer!

    Reply
  3. Cathi - March 12, 2019 8:43 am

    I can’t wait to read it. I am so happy and proud for you. My mother would have loved it. I introduced her to you about a year before she passed away and she fell in love with your voice. I bought every book you had out and she read them cover to cover. You’re a darn good writer, Sean & I’m so happy you’re my favorite too!

    Reply
  4. Mary Burns - March 12, 2019 9:18 am

    Congratulations! So glad you have “arrived”! I know that feels great.

    Reply
  5. Karen - March 12, 2019 9:18 am

    “But you are forever a child, even if you’re an old one, and you remember it all—even when you aren’t thinking about it.“ OMG, yes!
    I cannot wait to read your novel. You are not just my favorite. You are my most favorite of all.
    🤗

    Reply
  6. Jan Draper - March 12, 2019 9:54 am

    Congratulations, Sean. I am looking forward to the novel. I love reading your work. Enjoy the “carnival” ride. You deserve it !!

    Reply
  7. Cynthia Harmon - March 12, 2019 10:23 am

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to read it. I love your writing.

    Reply
  8. Linda - March 12, 2019 10:35 am

    So what is the title of this novel?

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  9. Bernadette Wyckoff - March 12, 2019 11:09 am

    Thought I was losing my memory…silly kid I am. You brought it all back for me with this today. Thanks & cant wait to read your novel.

    Reply
  10. Ella Herlihy - March 12, 2019 11:16 am

    So how and when can we get one???

    Reply
  11. Trina V. - March 12, 2019 11:19 am

    Woo hoo!! I can’t wait to read your novel!!

    Reply
  12. Gary - March 12, 2019 11:32 am

    This story is just about my favorite . Thank you so much!

    Reply
  13. Debbie Britt - March 12, 2019 11:46 am

    I have a feeling you’re going to have a best seller! Congratulations!

    Reply
  14. Susan Kennedy - March 12, 2019 11:46 am

    Congratulations Sean!! You deserve this! I can’t wait to read it! 💕💕💕💕

    Reply
  15. Nell Thomas - March 12, 2019 11:57 am

    Congratulations on this one , all of the others and all in the future. Enjoyed the story and all the folks. They apparently played a great part in your success as a writer whether they were aware of it or not.

    Reply
  16. Anne Green - March 12, 2019 12:00 pm

    Congratulations. Remember you are marketing. Tell us the title!

    Reply
  17. Naomi - March 12, 2019 12:13 pm

    I got a book with my name on it but it’s not selling very well.

    Reply
  18. Pat Thomason - March 12, 2019 12:21 pm

    Congratulations, Sean! I am so happy for you and will buy this novel written by a special man!

    Reply
  19. Mitsy Wilbourne - March 12, 2019 12:28 pm

    Thank you, I needed your words this morning! I’m searching Amazon for your novel….it must be wonderful to see your words in a book that is such a part of you!

    Reply
  20. Melissa Armstrong - March 12, 2019 12:55 pm

    Congratulations on your first novel! Can’t wait to read it. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us can feel and relate to but can’t verbalize.
    Mel Armstrong

    Reply
  21. BJean - March 12, 2019 1:00 pm

    At age 73, this all rings so true! 🙂

    Reply
  22. Patricia Pope - March 12, 2019 1:11 pm

    Dear Sean, The heart God has given you and the good gifts to express it are dynamic and with great influence to heal, mend and make the world right again. Thank you for caring enough to share!

    Reply
  23. mfontaine2017 - March 12, 2019 1:20 pm

    Congratulations. I hope it has a dog in it.

    Reply
  24. Jack Darnell - March 12, 2019 1:28 pm

    Funny that. I actually enjoyed that feeling myownself. Even if it was self-published. I am sure that was not your last… novel…

    Reply
  25. Lisa Dempsey - March 12, 2019 1:37 pm

    Always start my day with prayers and then reading your thoughts. As always, well done. And today it’s Congratulations! Leaving us wanting more is one of your writing gifts – and you did that too. SO – what is the name of your new novel and when can we purchase it? I see a best seller across the country with this!

    Reply
  26. Diane Tuttle - March 12, 2019 1:44 pm

    What’s the name of your novel? I want one!!!

    Reply
  27. _emmbeedee_ - March 12, 2019 1:47 pm

    Congratulations!! I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
  28. Lois - March 12, 2019 1:47 pm

    Way to go, Sean!
    Enjoyed seeing and hearing you in Eufaula! You are very talented. Can’t wait to read your novel.

    Reply
  29. sunbaby24 - March 12, 2019 2:18 pm

    Congratulations!! I’m happy that you now have another awesome day to remember forever.

    Reply
  30. Marcia MacLean, Lynn Haven - March 12, 2019 2:26 pm

    I personally know a novelist. Imagine that. Congratulations!

    Reply
  31. Diana - March 12, 2019 2:32 pm

    Please count me as one of those who says your name with affection. I don’t start my day until I have read what you have written for the day.

    Reply
  32. Fran Decker - March 12, 2019 2:33 pm

    I just about cheered out loud !

    Reply
  33. Linda - March 12, 2019 2:59 pm

    Great great one today !

    Reply
  34. Suzanne McElroy - March 12, 2019 3:03 pm

    Where can I purchase your book? And!!! you were “somebody” long before this book was published! I a thankful for Sean Dietrich!

    Reply
  35. Carolyn Kelley - March 12, 2019 3:12 pm

    Congratulations on your book , where can we get a copy. You are so inspiring .

    Reply
  36. Judy - March 12, 2019 3:56 pm

    Congratulations!!! And I love this tribute to all who walked with you on the trail of Life. Press on! I will be looking for that new Novel.

    Reply
  37. Linda Moon - March 12, 2019 4:05 pm

    Keep On Writing and Never Forget!

    Reply
  38. Charaleen Wright - March 12, 2019 4:10 pm

    Reply
  39. Dianne Gibson - March 12, 2019 4:13 pm

    Very true Sean and when you reach 70 your memories are even more special. Thank you!

    Reply
  40. Barbara - March 12, 2019 5:25 pm

    Congratulations Sean, thank you for today’s story it brought back many old memory’s.
    You have a special way of making us look beyond what we see, into the depth of our being to what we feel. even sometime think forgotten and what helped make us into the people we become. Looking forward to reading your new novel.

    Reply
  41. kathleenivy - March 12, 2019 5:29 pm

    Congratulations Sean! Barbara, just above me here, said what I am thinking very well. So she is above me in more ways than one.

    Reply
  42. Carol - March 12, 2019 5:57 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS!!
    Got to have that book!!
    You are so much of what a real man , person,son, husband, and friend should be!
    I feel like you are my friend , just by reading and listening to your stories almost feel like a family member!!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  43. Sandra - March 12, 2019 6:30 pm

    Made my day! Congrats!!!

    Reply
  44. Mike Bone - March 12, 2019 6:40 pm

    Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS) IF you want to be fancy about it.

    Reply
  45. Shelton A. - March 12, 2019 6:56 pm

    How can I buy the novel? Please let us know. I’d love to read the story you have written.

    Reply
  46. Phyllis at All Things Beautiful - March 12, 2019 6:59 pm

    So happy for you!
    PS: My husband and I honeymooned in Charleston, too.

    Reply
  47. Ellen - March 13, 2019 1:09 am

    🎉CONGRATULATIONS!!!!🎉

    Reply
  48. Ann Marie Bouchet - March 13, 2019 1:37 am

    I cannot wait to get this book. I know everyone else has said the same, so maybe all of this who love you ( and Jamie) will help it become a best seller. Congratulations, Sean, we love you

    Reply
  49. Beverly h - March 13, 2019 7:35 pm

    How wonderful to fulfill your dream. Enjoy every moment…you deserve it.

    Reply
  50. Sue - March 13, 2019 8:50 pm

    Congratulations on your book! What is the name of it?

    Reply
  51. Karen Murphy - March 13, 2019 9:53 pm

    Yes!!! Congratulations! This is good news.

    Reply
  52. Greg Simmons - March 14, 2019 2:07 am

    YAY! Congratulations Sean!

    Reply
  53. Kathi harper-hill - March 21, 2019 2:53 pm

    As a fellow author, I salute you! Congratulations!

    Reply

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