The Writer

I’ll never forget that. And I’ll never forget him.

We just got home from a week on the road. It’s been a busy seven days. I told stories in four different states, I ate a lot of barbecue, I saw a ballgame in Atlanta.

When we arrived home, our dogs were psychotic. Otis (alleged Labrador) was barking. Thelma Lou (bloodhound) was howling in a low-pitched voice.

If you ever hear a bloodhound howl, it will bless your heart.

I’m starting to sound like my parents. My father used to use that phrase a lot, long before it became a T-shirt cliché. Whenever he talked about anything that was particularly good, that phrase was used.

For example: “Try the cornbread, it will bless your heart.”

Or: “There’s nothing like hearing Bill Gaither hit them high notes, it’ll bless your heart.”

Years later, people started sending cutesy chain emails about this phrase and ruined it for the rest of us.

I remember once, when our church was shorthanded on nursery workers. Someone asked my father to help hold the newborns.

My father was in the nursery all Sunday. You couldn’t drag him away from that room. The blue-collar man rocked a hundred babies and kissed two hundred fat cheeks.

And when my mother asked him how it went, he said, “Volunteering in the nursery will bless your heart.”

I’ll never forget that. And I’ll never forget him.

After my dogs mauled me, I unloaded luggage from our vehicle. I heard a horn honking. It was the UPS truck.

The deliveryman handed me a package and bid me good day.

When he drove away, I tore the manila paper and felt my breath catch. I wasn’t expecting it. It was a book. A novel. Written by me. My name was on the dust jacket.

It had an actual dust jacket.

My wife put her arms around me and I felt hot water roll down my cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” I kept saying because this is what grown men say when they cry. We’re taught from a very young age not to cry openly unless the coach says we can.

But if I’m being completely honest, I’ve done a lot of crying in life. I grew up in a way that wasn’t pretty.

After my father offed himself, I didn’t get the opportunities some of my friends got. My story isn’t unique, it’s the same story you’ve heard a hundred times before. It might even be your story.

Kid grows up without confidence. Kid feels like a loser. Kid believes he has this strange ability to screw up everything, even simple things. He thinks he is a walking, talking mistake.

Kid drops out of school. Kid spends time on construction job-sites, or playing guitar in an all-you-can-eat-crab-leg joint.

Kid feels like white trash, wears Walmart clothes. Kid grows up and lives in sketchy places where his neighbors make fake handicapped parking passes on a home printer and sell them for fifty bucks on the black market.

Kid doesn’t like himself very much. Nobody wants this kid dating their daughter. This kid is hopeless.

That was me.

But this all changed when, by some stroke of fortune, I found a woman who saw through all that.

On our honeymoon night—I shouldn’t be telling you this—we stood on the hotel patio. Me in my tuxedo, her in her dress. We stared at the night sky, awkward in each other’s arms, daydreaming aloud.

“What kinda things do you want outta life?” she asked the dropout.

“Me?” I said.

“You.”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure you do.”

“I wanna be a writer.”

It had just popped out. I didn’t mean to say it. But sometimes you tell the truth by accident.

It felt like a stupid thing to admit. People like me did not become writers. We worked from can to can’t, or until someone called our number, then we drew Social Security—God willing. That’s how life went.

I see now that I was a fool for thinking that. But I don’t feel like a fool anymore. At least not completely.

Tonight, I promised myself I wouldn’t write something sappy. Forgive me. So far, this has been about as sappy as the Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup I knocked over in the fridge yesterday and left for someone else to clean up.

But I can’t control myself. There is a hardback book in my hands, and I never thought I would be holding it. I wish I could buy the whole world a bloodhound and an alleged Labrador so they could feel the way I feel right now.

Earlier, my wife kissed my hair and said, “What’s it feel like holding your book?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

Because I have too many thoughts at once. Some good. Some bittersweet. Some sad.

I wish my father were alive. I wish I could see him hold this book, and read the dust jacket. If he were here, I believe he would have cried. He would have apologized for crying because that’s what grown men do. But I believe he would have worn red eyes and a snotty nose just like I did.

I wish I could have seen that. I would’ve given almost anything to see that. It would have been precious to me. No.

It would have blessed my heart.

68 comments

  1. Amy Hicks - June 6, 2019 7:43 am

    Since I started reading your amazing “gifts” two weeks ago, they’ve each been my favorite. This one made me catch my breath a little. Oh, my favorite. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Toni Tucker Locke - June 6, 2019 7:48 am

    What is the book title? How can your readers order it if we don’t know what the title is? We want to give you more “bless your heart” moments because you bless ours!

    Reply
    • Sandi in FL. - June 6, 2019 8:06 am

      Title is “Stars of Alabama” because Sean’s other delightful books are in paperback on Amazon. I’m certain Sean’s new book will bless every reader’s heart!

      Reply
  3. Nell Thomas - June 6, 2019 8:09 am

    Sounds like you have a very supportive staff- Jamie, Otis and Thelma Lou. Ya’ll keep up the good work- blessing our hearts. Wow! A hard back with a dust jacket. Congratulations whenever that happened. I’m sure it was a time for tears- tears of joy and a feeling of great accompliment- for you and your staff.

    Reply
  4. sharon - June 6, 2019 9:15 am

    Wonderful beyond measure!!

    Reply
  5. Kelly - June 6, 2019 9:34 am

    Congratulations on the book! Looking forward to reading it. BTW, dog greetings after a time away are the best!

    Reply
  6. Cynthia Harmon - June 6, 2019 9:39 am

    I was over the moon excited to see your book listed on the Tennessee Humanities Summer Reading List. I was a bit disappointed to see that we have to wait until July, but it will be ok. We are so happy for you Sean!

    Reply
  7. Nancy - June 6, 2019 9:55 am

    I was so excited to get an email from Amazon about Sean’s new HARDCOVER Book. I’m sure it will be as wonderful as his other writings and already pre-ordered it! Congratulations to the writer that touches my heart every morning! You Father would be so proud!

    Reply
  8. Cathi Russell - June 6, 2019 10:12 am

    I can’t wait to read it…it’s pre-ordered. Now July seems as far away as Christmas did to the 4-year old me! And I know it will be a blessing…I wish my mom was still around to read it as she loved you as much as I do. Christmas in July…can’t wait!

    Reply
  9. Jean - June 6, 2019 10:29 am

    Congratulations Sean! Many aspiring writers never get to that moment you just felt. Bless your heart sweet man!!

    Reply
  10. Joan Lang - June 6, 2019 10:35 am

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  11. bobbie mertes - June 6, 2019 10:58 am

    Thank you for “blessing Our hearts”, every day. ❤️

    Reply
  12. agracefilledhome77 - June 6, 2019 11:14 am

    I love reading this, and all your stories Sean. I am so thrilled for you. You are an instrument of God’s peace. You deliver much more than words to people. You deliver joy, happiness, sadness, and other wonderful emotions that have been buried in all of us at times. I can’t wait to read “Stars of Alabama”.

    Reply
  13. LeAnne - June 6, 2019 11:17 am

    Congratulations, Sean! I am so happy for you! I can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
  14. Don - June 6, 2019 11:24 am

    Well Bless Your Heart, and the rest of you too!…You deserve it.

    Reply
  15. Nona - June 6, 2019 11:34 am

    God saw this coming. The potential has always been there. You just had to believe it . I was in a bookstore in Fairhope yesterday. You were there .
    Displayed beautifully. Volume one and Volume two. Dreams do come true. May God bless your efforts.
    Have you ever seen the movie Saving Mr. Banks.
    Really well written. You and Jamie watch that.
    Congratulations on hearing God whisper “you’ve got this”.The Spirit (God of this beautiful universe) within finally got loud enough so you could hear him.
    In Christ alone .
    He hears our cry.

    Reply
  16. Debbie Galleher - June 6, 2019 11:35 am

    Congratulations Sean on this huge accomplishment!!
    Just maybe your Dad did see you open that Manila envelope. I want to believe that our loved ones spirits ARE with us . And I hold space in my mind to think that someday I will understand more about this.
    In the meantime, enjoy and relish in your new book!!!
    Debbie (Idrivethebackroads)

    Reply
  17. Anne Godwin - June 6, 2019 11:42 am

    Congratulations! Thanks for continuing to bless our hearts…

    Reply
  18. Steve - June 6, 2019 11:59 am

    Congratulations. I look forward to reading another of your books.

    Reply
  19. Judy - June 6, 2019 12:22 pm

    Congratulations! I look forward to holding your new book in my hands. I trust it will bless my heart. 😊🌻

    Reply
  20. Susan Kennedy - June 6, 2019 12:28 pm

    Congratulations!!🎉 I can’t wait to hold your book! Enjoy this; you are deserving and we love you.
    My heart is blessed. 😉

    Reply
  21. Bobbie - June 6, 2019 12:38 pm

    Going on amazon right now and place my order, plus a couple for Christmas gifts! You are a blessing dear man. God has blessed you so you can bless others. A dear friend once told me that. Now it makes sense🥰. I understand what she meant. You bless my heart every morning❤️ God bless you, Sean. You are a gift.

    Reply
  22. Lori Brown - June 6, 2019 12:53 pm

    Reading what you have written blesses my heart each day! Thank you for sharing with us!

    Reply
  23. Dola Johnson - June 6, 2019 12:54 pm

    Sean, your columns bless my heart.

    Reply
  24. Jamie Byers - June 6, 2019 12:56 pm

    Sean, I can’t wait for the UPS man to bless my heart by dropping a copy of your book off at my front door. Thanks for your words. You bless us all!

    Reply
  25. Mary Burns - June 6, 2019 1:04 pm

    Congratulations. You have grown to be quite a good man. Your Dad would have been proud. And he does bless your heart every day.

    Reply
  26. Donald Watts - June 6, 2019 1:05 pm

    Congratulations on your new book. I preordered some time back and look forward to reading it.

    You have a gift. I read you daily and feel as if I know you well because your daily thoughts and experiences are vivid and expressive. I love your sense of humor but your heartfelt thoughts about sad and difficult topics can make this grown man cry. Bless my heart.

    I wish you all the success with the new book.

    A daily fan,

    Don

    Reply
  27. Connie Havard Ryland - June 6, 2019 1:18 pm

    Congratulations Sean. You deserve every good thing. Can’t wait to see you in Fairhope. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  28. Jan - June 6, 2019 1:23 pm

    Congratulations and Amen!!!

    Reply
  29. Michael Seifert - June 6, 2019 1:23 pm

    Got my ARC yesterday from the UPS man, can’t wait to get into it. Congrats

    Reply
  30. Minnie Tate Bourque - June 6, 2019 1:25 pm

    ….and you are blessed, Sean! I can hardly wait to get your hardback book in my hands! Heading to Amazon right now! Bless your heart, Sean! Your mom and dad would be so very proud. My heart has been blessed!

    Reply
  31. Shelton A. - June 6, 2019 1:34 pm

    God bless you, Jamie, the dogs, and Congratulations! Yes, your Dad would have been so proud.

    Reply
  32. Gale Smith - June 6, 2019 1:49 pm

    You and your family and dogs and friends have blessed the hearts of all who have come to know you. I have heard you speak, but that was after I had already been reading your columns. You are a sweet addiction and I want your book as soon as I can get a copy. We love you, Sean! Congratulations!

    Reply
  33. Diana - June 6, 2019 1:50 pm

    Just reading about you holding your book makes me red-eyed and snot-nosed. Congratulations, Sean!

    Reply
  34. Nan Williams - June 6, 2019 1:58 pm

    I found Sean of the South through his “hardcover” book, Stars of Alabama. I loved the book, I love the way he writes and I’m thoroughly enjoying his daily essays. Best wishes, Sean. You have certainly blessed my heart with your hardcover book and continue to start each day by blessing my heart with your insights. Thank you and God bless!

    Reply
  35. Deborah (Debbie) Gillespie - June 6, 2019 2:09 pm

    Yep, I’m crying. You blessed my heart.

    Reply
  36. Linda Moon - June 6, 2019 3:23 pm

    On behalf of all of us who share your story and lost our fathers way too soon, Bless You, Sean.

    Reply
  37. Ann Bodiford - June 6, 2019 3:49 pm

    I really loved this story. I even had tears in my eyes. Please keep writing. Your stories touch my heart each and every day .

    Reply
    • Jennifer Sienes - June 6, 2019 8:34 pm

      Ann Bodiford–my maiden name is Bodiford and I’ve never known anyone outside our family to have that last name!

      Reply
  38. MJ - June 6, 2019 5:34 pm

    Who remembers this?

    Tennessee Ernie Ford used to end his show with Bless Your Pea Picking Little Heart.

    Reply
  39. Sharon Dodd - June 6, 2019 6:04 pm

    Every time that I read one of your stories, it blesses my heart.

    Reply
  40. Liz Reed - June 6, 2019 6:15 pm

    Congratulations Sean!

    Reply
  41. Adam Quay - June 6, 2019 6:28 pm

    Congratulations Sean! I love reading your essays every day. I cannot count the times your words detailing your unique experience have blessed my heart. I am grateful that I found you and that you have become a part of my every day life. All the best to you and yours! Adam

    Reply
  42. Amy - June 6, 2019 7:25 pm

    Congrats on your book! I look forward to reading it! This post gave me a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. You certainly do have a gift with words.

    Reply
  43. Judy Goode - June 6, 2019 7:44 pm

    I can’t wait until I have a copy of your novel in my hands. I know it will bless my heart!

    Reply
  44. Margaret Craig - June 6, 2019 8:13 pm

    Congrats! I’m sure your book will bless all our hearts!

    Reply
  45. Ingrid W - June 6, 2019 8:25 pm

    Congratulations, and BLESS your heart. Can’t wait to read your book!

    Reply
  46. Jennifer Sienes - June 6, 2019 8:37 pm

    Congratulations on your book. I read most every post you write and this one had me in tears. I, too, am a writer and my debut novel was just released a month ago. I wish with all my heart that my mom was here to see it. I know exactly how you feel. Looking forward to reading your novel.

    Reply
  47. Susan Self - June 6, 2019 9:00 pm

    Pre-ordered Stars of Alabama. Can’t wait. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  48. Christopher Spencer - June 7, 2019 12:34 am

    I pre-ordered my copy a few months back and should be getting it soon.
    Congrats Sean!! You bless a lot of hearts.
    Chris

    Reply
  49. Ailene - June 7, 2019 1:46 am

    Congratulations! I can’t wait to read your new book! I have been listening to your podcasts for a few weeks now and they have certainly blessed my heart!

    Reply
  50. Janet Mary Lee - June 7, 2019 2:43 am

    So proud of you !!!! Bless the hearts of you and your family, including all those four legged inspirations! I cannot wait to read your latest (and hardest back) book!! Your Daddy is so proud he is bursting a spiritual seam!! ((hugs!!))…

    Reply
  51. Ann Marie Bouchet - June 7, 2019 4:33 am

    And you, Sean, bless out hearts with your writing. Congratulations on the book and know that we love your writing. And, you, my friend, are a WRITER

    Reply
  52. Becca - June 7, 2019 12:53 pm

    Starting my day reading Sean Dietrich makes my start off better!

    Reply
  53. Beverly Wilburn - June 7, 2019 2:02 pm

    I am preordering today! Will you be hosting a book signing? I am curious to know if you are a reader of the author Charles Martin. You remind me of his main characters. Your daily article is such a blessed way to begin each day—thank you!

    Beverly Wilburn
    Walton County

    Reply
  54. Daniel Lee - June 7, 2019 2:25 pm

    Sean, do you see “Sean of the South” as the new ‘A Prairie Home Companion’? I think that you are much better than Garrison Keillor though.

    Reply
  55. Sue Cronkite - June 8, 2019 12:57 am

    What’s the name of the book?

    Reply
  56. Jack Darnell - June 8, 2019 1:18 am

    Good one, and it must ‘Bless your heart!’ to hold a hard back, I will never see that, but I was 70 before I started. hahahaha
    Love it
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  57. Dianne - June 8, 2019 1:54 pm

    Congratulations on your book, Sean!!! Can’t wait to buy a copy of it and read it. You are just one more proof that dreams do come true. Proud of you!!

    Reply
  58. staley robertson - June 8, 2019 7:35 pm

    I read this story, along with the Love one and the Boy one, all in a row. I just recently subscribed to your site and started receiving them via e-mail in addition to Facebook. Much nicer reading them here and not via my smartphone.
    I literally GASPED while reading The Boy.
    Tears flew freely when I read Love.
    And my heart hurt for you while reading this one, The Writer.
    Again, the tears flowed.

    Most of us, indeed, have suffered heartache in our lives. Especially if you’ve lived at all.
    My mother got sick when I was a freshman in high school.
    I then became with-child as a junior, and she was (by then) bedridden, blind and almost gone.
    She passed away in my 7th month of pregnancy.
    And I gave birth to a baby girl who was 8.7 lbs the month I turned 18.

    So I do recognize the heartache you suffer from losing your father.
    And I hope you know that he is very proud of you, as my mother is of me.
    Congratulations on your success with your book. I can’t wait to own one, and have it here on my coffee table.
    Love to you,
    Staley

    Reply
  59. Marci Welker - June 9, 2019 3:44 am

    Congratulations. I’m sure your book will bless a lot of hearts.

    Reply
  60. Jeanie - June 9, 2019 1:13 pm

    Left me with teary eyes. But Congratulations on the book. God Bless you. You deserve it as you bless me each time I read an email.

    Reply
  61. Jack Ray - June 9, 2019 2:59 pm

    I had the same feeling…but my first one was a paperback self published. That was 9 years ago, and I occasionally get a small royalty deposit in my bank account. But, like you, I wish my Dad could hold a copy, hmmmm, maybe he already has? I wonder if there’s a library in heaven? Sure hope so.

    Reply
  62. throughmyeyesusa - June 9, 2019 3:28 pm

    A hard back with a dust cover! A blessing to us all and a huge accomplishment for you! But here’s another:

    Do you realize that subscribers email your wonderful column to friends far from your, and their, native South? Then that person subscribes and eventually emails a column they find irresistible to another friend and they subscribe and on and on it goes.

    But what tickles me – and should purely bless your heart as well – is that it doesn’t stop there. Among us we STILL email that occasional column that speaks to one or another of us….even though we know everyone already read it him/herself! That’s pretty high praise, Sean-the-Writer! I think it lift you into the category of “Cult Favorite” or “Heart Blesser” – something very special!

    It’s not what you gather, Sean, but what you scatter that determines the kind of life you lead.
    You scatter blessings before you with every written word, my friend. Thank you.

    Reply
  63. Patricia - July 7, 2019 8:01 am

    Once again, in the wee hours of the morning, your words have blessed my heart. I’m pulling an “All-nighter”, as I have done so many times in the past. I remember picking up a pencil at the age of 11, and on a dare, I sketched part of an illustration out of a Huckleberry Finn book I was reading. My Sister said, “I betcha you can’t draw that”. And that’s how it started. From then on, I stuck back my break money for extra pencils, n paper to draw on. When I got my first water color pan from Santa, I felt like I had won the lottery. I was rich! I write too, and have over 250 poems n short stories that I’ve done over the years. But in my heart, I’ve always wanted to be a painter. I’m 60 yo now, as of July 20th, last year somebody saw one of my canvasses and just HAD to have one for Christmas, and that’s how it all started. I wish my Mom could see what I’m doing now, but she left this world last year, we buried her 2 days before my birthday. I believe your Daddy is smiling down on you now, with great pride in what you have done in your life. And I believe my Momma watches me paint.

    Reply
  64. Steve W. - July 7, 2019 1:32 pm

    A popular & very loved writer you are. I’d say we’re all blessed to have discovered you.

    Reply
  65. Joe Patterson - July 7, 2019 8:52 pm

    Thanks again love your story I was lucky too . If you are ever in Florence call me I got the meal .My story is not as good as yours ,but it is close bless your heart

    Reply

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