The Tough Ropes of Friendship

It’s a long story, but it all starts with red hair. Sort of. She was a redhead, and in love. And 17-year-old redheads in love do impulsive things. It was a different era. Johnson was president.

Her parents were against the romance. His parents were against it, too. But redheads make decisions without consulting the rest of the world. When the young couple found out she was pregnant, they married.

Her father and mother were mad; she had never been so excited. They moved to California. He took a job driving a truck. He was gone a lot, making all-night runs across the U.S., but they were happy.

One lonely night she was rattled awake by loud knocking on the front door. She answered it in her bathrobe. Two patrolmen on her porch said that her husband’s eighteen-wheeler flipped, and he was gone.

She went through pregnancy alone. And on the morning she gave birth, she was unsure about what to feel. She held her boy against her chest and wept over him with the joyful kind of tears that only widows know.

She worked low-paying jobs. A receptionist in a textile factory. An orderly in a rest home. Finally, she decided to go back to school. The night classes were hard, but she stuck with them for many years. During the same week that her son graduated from 7th grade, she graduated with her teaching certificate, and life was looking up.

First she taught elementary, then high school. She was miserable with both jobs. Children can test a woman’s patience and cause her to use very strong cuss words in public sometimes.

She applied for a position at a junior college, it was only a part-time gig, and modest pay. She loved it. The college kids were much more sincere than high-schoolers who spent the majority of their class period grabbing each other’s butts.

There was one student in particular. A girl. Twenty-one. Black hair. Mexican-American. The bump in the girl’s belly gave her away and left her open to ridicule. These were the eighties. Reagan was president.

The girl was taking remedial classes at the college, studying for her GED, and she had a full-time job. The teacher recognized a sadness in this girl’s eyes. A sadness not so different from the kind widows have.

The girl told the woman she was living with friends ever since her boyfriend had been killed in a construction accident. Her family was non-existent. She was, more or less, alone.

The teacher and the girl became friends and started spending a lot of time together. They picked out maternity clothes from secondhand stores, they went to clinical visits together. And eventually they moved into the same apartment.

And on the summer night when the girl began having contractions, her teacher was beside her. From beginning to end. The redheaded woman drove the girl to the hospital. She stood near her bed, reminding her to breathe, telling her to “Push, sweetie!”

The teacher was the second person to hold this new child. And the one to change the first ceremonial poop-filled diaper.

Stay with me here, the story isn’t over yet.

College wasn’t that difficult for the young mother. Especially with the help of a redhead who’d already been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt.

The girl worked hard. She pulled long hours of studying. And when the young mother walked down the aisle to accept her diploma, the first in the audience to applaud was a woman with red hair.

Time moved forward. Soon, the girl was not a girl at all. Her first job was as a part-time teacher, teaching English to Spanish speakers who wanted to learn. Her students were mostly service workers and kitchen staff.

After a few years of this, one of her friends suggested she apply to be a courtroom translator. So she tried it. It was decent money, and she was good at her work. The job eventually led her to hospitals where she worked as an interpreter for several years.

One night, in the emergency room, she met a girl. The girl was on a hospital bed, pregnant, 18 years old, and scared to death. It was a different era. George W. Bush was president.

The woman introduced herself to the girl. The girl cried because she was in dire straits. And it wasn’t the loud kind of crying, it was the kind that only a woman who has been there can understand.

The girl’s story was not unfamiliar: Her mother kicked her out when she found out she was pregnant. So she was living with her cousin who wasn’t exactly a model citizen, who’d just been arrested for drugs. Her boyfriend didn’t want his own baby, so he had disappeared. And she was alone.

Well. The answer seemed so easy to the woman. The woman told the girl she had a free guest bedroom if the girl wanted it. The sheets were fresh. And the woman was more than happy to have company.

Thus, on one winter day, the girl gave birth to a little boy, with the help of a roommate she never expected to have.

Several years later, her baby boy would grow to be a healthy young man. And one day, that young man would be stuck indoors during a quarantine because of a global pandemic, and he would become bored.

The young man would send a long email to a redheaded writer who lives on the other side of the United States, telling him about a string of powerful women who came before him. They were unrelated by blood, but held together by the ropes of friendship.

And now the redheaded writer has just told you.

55 comments

  1. Carol Stern - March 28, 2020 6:53 am

    Sean you absolutely are the kindest, most wonderful writer I’ve read in a long time. You have made me cry more than any other man in my life. But I love you for touching my heart so often💝. From one redhead to another, I love you!

    Reply
  2. Deb Lockard - March 28, 2020 7:04 am

    We all need those “ropes of friendship “ ( love that phrase) now more than ever. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. The Rev Frances Metcalf - March 28, 2020 7:06 am

    and this redheaded woman just couldn’t keep the tears mixed with both sorrow and joy away. We redheads have to stick together …

    Reply
  4. Grant Burris - March 28, 2020 7:56 am

    Sean, you”ve gone and got my eyes leaking again because of a red head. Great story. I loved it.

    Reply
  5. K Clem - March 28, 2020 8:31 am

    Empathy is powerful, and sometimes transcendent…it often surpasses kinship’s ability to make a lasting connection with others.
    Thank you for sharing this story!

    Reply
  6. Jennifer Boyanton - March 28, 2020 8:38 am

    ❤️❤️❤️Thanks for sharing this one.

    Reply
  7. Sharon Lawson - March 28, 2020 10:06 am

    I am stunned. It is hard to describe how I feel after reading your piece. It’s just wonderful. That word doesn’t do it justice. I lack the words to describe how beautiful it really is.

    Reply
  8. Annak - March 28, 2020 10:58 am

    A wonderful reminder that kindness is always multiplied many times over when we take the time to care. Thank you, from a mother of grown redheaded sons.

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  9. Diana - March 28, 2020 11:01 am

    Wow. That’s the only word I have. Wow.

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  10. Patti - March 28, 2020 11:07 am

    Your best one yet💗💗

    Reply
  11. Cathi Russell - March 28, 2020 11:09 am

    That story got me right in the heart. Thank you, Sean. And in Battleship terms, “you’ve scored a direct hit!” Happy Saturday, I hope you, Jamie, Thel & Otis (my man!) are well & safe. ❤❤❤❤❤

    Reply
  12. Charles Vianey - March 28, 2020 11:22 am

    Sean,

    Thank you for telling stories that should be told. Everyone has value.

    Reply
  13. Leilona - March 28, 2020 11:38 am

    “The ropes of friendship” how beautiful. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  14. Raymond Baquero - March 28, 2020 11:40 am

    This is what makes being human and decent and caring for others. This is the world I love to live in. With all the doom and gloom we hear are hearing nowadays this reminds us of how we should all treat each other. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - March 28, 2020 11:40 am

    I am not a redhead, but my grandmother was one. Right now, I am feeling the second full minute of the chills after reading this post. I am an emotional man – I tear-up at sad movies and funerals, sad news stories and sad books. I tear-up at special, powerfully inspiring experiences too. I am tearing-up right now, after reading this post. Still feeling those chills too.

    Reply
  16. Ann - March 28, 2020 12:08 pm

    Sad..beautiful…hopeful for humankind….you share them beautifully, thank you..God bless.

    Reply
  17. Debbie - March 28, 2020 12:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing this sweet story, Sean! You’re a great writer!

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  18. Jean - March 28, 2020 12:34 pm

    Bad times bring out either the best in people or the worst. You have shown us the best. thank you and stay safe!

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  19. Bobbie E - March 28, 2020 12:58 pm

    One of your best! Emotions like the ones you wrote about are hard to put into words. But you did a wonderful job. That’s what makes you such an extraordinary writer…your heart feels the story you’re telling. God bless you and Jamie. Keep the faith and keep sharing with all those who love you and look forward to an email every morning, rain or shine. A truly bright spot in the lives of so many.
    Bobbie E

    Reply
  20. Richda McNutt - March 28, 2020 1:09 pm

    This one is especially heartwarming and beautiful – thank you!

    Reply
  21. Jana - March 28, 2020 1:12 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  22. Linda - March 28, 2020 1:20 pm

    Ditto what Jean said: “Bad times bring out either the best in people or the worst. You have shown us the best. thank you and stay safe!” You are helping so many keep perspective!

    Reply
  23. Joretta Parker - March 28, 2020 1:25 pm

    Awesome story Sean. No one knows how far the ripples in the cloth of time will go. I always think of that when when I do some small thing for some one.

    Reply
  24. Allison Gilmore - March 28, 2020 1:33 pm

    I’ve been reading Sean for so long that I can’t even remember what it was like to begin my day without reading his column.  Because things are so off balance in our world right now, this story made me cry good tears and renewed my sense of hope. It reminded me that all over the world, there are kindhearted heroes changing lives and making the world a little better, one step at a time.  With all the scary headlines, it is easy to forget how many good people there are in the world.   And I am so genuinely grateful to Sean for reminding me of that daily.  

    Reply
  25. Keloth Anne - March 28, 2020 1:46 pm

    Oh what a powerful message of love, support, kindness and acceptance. I needed to read this and, again, I say thank you for taking the time to care and for sharing your wonderful uplifting words. Stay healthy and know you are loved and appreciated ♥️

    Reply
  26. Robert M Brenner - March 28, 2020 2:16 pm

    Powerful! God Bless you for sharing this with us…Bob

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  27. Penny Johnson - March 28, 2020 2:23 pm

    Crying! Thank you.

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  28. Molly Gann - March 28, 2020 2:28 pm

    God has plans for us all, and He uses our circumstances to help others! This is beautiful!
    Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  29. aleathia nicholson - March 28, 2020 3:02 pm

    What goes around comes around.

    Reply
  30. Cindy Castle - March 28, 2020 3:03 pm

    People helping people, the “ropes of friendship,” oh, if we all could be like this. Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  31. Anne Arthur - March 28, 2020 3:06 pm

    Therefore, there a strong, wonderful human beings in this world who give hope to those who have lost hope. It takes one person to release a string of goodness, and a writer to keep it going. When I was pregnant at 16, it was my English teacher who advocated to let me finish school without disturbance.

    Reply
  32. Dottie Doherty - March 28, 2020 3:30 pm

    In a time when we hear so much bad news you light up the days with pure joy. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Reply
  33. Natasha Stearns - March 28, 2020 3:37 pm

    Absolutely LOVE it <3

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  34. Sara - March 28, 2020 4:32 pm

    From one red head to another, I love you Sean! Thanks for sharing. : ) I read your stories every day.

    Reply
  35. Linda Moon - March 28, 2020 5:09 pm

    Redheads, teachers, and newborn children are among some of my favorite people. Strings of powerful women who were related by blood held me together a long time ago. One redheaded writer in particular tells me stories, so I’ll add writers and storytellers to my list. Thank you, Sean Dietrich. Keep telling the stories!

    Reply
  36. Sarah Dyess - March 28, 2020 5:19 pm

    Maybe it’s the times we are living through, but this one by Sean brought tears to my eyes and sent chills down my spine. We are all connected, in one way or another.

    Reply
  37. Lydia - March 28, 2020 5:28 pm

    What a wonderful story. Once again,love is all we need! Thanks,Sean

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  38. Barbara Barnes - March 28, 2020 5:43 pm

    Passing the love and kindness from one to another and building new families. Amazing women.

    Reply
  39. Lita - March 28, 2020 5:52 pm

    Thank you for this, Sean x

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  40. Jan - March 28, 2020 5:53 pm

    Beautiful people, beautiful story, beautifully told! Thank you, my red headed friend!

    Reply
  41. Tim House - March 28, 2020 5:56 pm

    The ties that bind… <3

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  42. Diane - March 28, 2020 7:24 pm

    What a great uplifting story. Hugs & thanks my story telling friend.

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  43. Susan Anderson - March 28, 2020 8:10 pm

    Very special and touching. Well written! Shows your ability to stand in another person’s shoes!❤❤❤

    Reply
  44. turtlekid - March 28, 2020 10:45 pm

    “it’s a small world after all” and our Creator helps all these threads to connect into a magnificent Tapestry. Thank you Sean Paul for figuring out how to tell the story of various threads and lives that became interwoven by LOVE.

    Reply
  45. John Hyland - March 28, 2020 11:40 pm

    Sean, reading your writing makes me want to be a better person. Thank you so much

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  46. Hazel Barber - March 29, 2020 1:05 am

    You never cease to amaze, Sean, with your wonderful kind words that reach deep and stir even the hardest of hearts. Thank you for bringing hope to millions. We all love you.
    Hazel, Huntsville AL

    Reply
  47. Ann Marie Bouchet - March 29, 2020 2:29 am

    Made me cry, again, Sean…..wonderful column.

    Reply
  48. Sheri S - March 29, 2020 12:46 pm

    Thank you Sean. I am incapable of reading news, But, your posts bring comfort and connectivity with my family as we all read your words, and discuss what you have written. Please keep it coming.

    Reply
  49. Richard - March 29, 2020 4:53 pm

    Who needs to sing when you can share a story like this buddy.

    Reply
  50. Brenda Braswell - March 29, 2020 7:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing that. It is an encouragement for everyone!

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  51. Jones - March 30, 2020 12:49 am

    Outstanding!

    Reply
  52. Charla Lynn - March 31, 2020 11:25 pm

    Wow! Just wow!!

    Reply
  53. Lynn Hamrick - April 5, 2020 2:08 am

    thank you, my Friend.

    Reply
  54. Hester Guest - April 16, 2020 12:59 pm

    Sean, thank you for being real! Your precious stories are truly appreciated and have a theme of kindness that shines. I truly love your inspiring writings.

    Reply
  55. Mary Hicks - May 13, 2020 12:41 am

    Wow! God is good all the time!!! He always connects people He knew in advance, that would need each other. Thanks again, Sean. God bless you and Jamie.

    Reply

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