I was sitting here thinking about you. Which is kind of weird because I don’t know you. But I still consider us friends. And this has been one heck of a year.
See, when I write, sometimes I envision you reading this. Whoever you are. I can almost see you sitting in your PJs, or your work clothes, or dressed in a gorilla suit.
Maybe you’re sipping your morning coffee, or hot tea, or an ice cold Ensure. Or maybe you’re stopped at a redlight, reading this on your phone, holding up miles of traffic. In which case, you’d better put your phone down because right now everyone wants to harm you.
Over the years I have written some off-the-wall things to you. I once wrote an entire column/blog/whatever-you-call-it about eyebrow hair. Another time I wrote a column where, as a joke, I quoted God. Almost everyone got the joke, but a select few didn’t. These are a select few religious people who might benefit from a little Metamucil in their diets.
But after I quoted God I got some hate mail from these people who obviously have incredible amounts of free time because they went into lengthy detail about what was going to happen to my eternal butt. One guy told me I was going to rot in hell for putting words into God’s mouth.
Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bug me too bad. But getting more than a few hate messages at once can really put you in the dumps. Which is what happened.
But the tides turned. A Catholic gentleman from Maine sent me a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon in the mail. There was a card attached.
It read: “I sure love you. Sincerely, God.”
Somebody I’ve never met guessed that I was having a bad week and took the time to send me the Catholic sacrament of choice, full-proof alcohol. The thing is, I don’t even like bourbon, but it made my whole year. The bottle sits unopened on my pantry shelf because I don’t ever want to forget that guy.
Large swatches of my life have been spent in the dumps. My childhood especially. I don’t think I had clinical depression, but after losing a parent I was probably pretty close to it. There’s no getting away from sadness when it hits you. You don’t simply shirk the blues. You have to ride it like a bucking mule.
I sincerely hope you never feel that way. Not that there’s anything I could do about it if you do. Though, believe me, if there were something I could do, I would. Even if it involved wearing a gorilla suit or force feeding you Metamucil.
Because I remember how it feels. You could say I was sad from my eleventh birthday all the way into my mid-twenties. It wasn’t crippling sadness. I still fake-smiled at the appropriate times. I was a friendly guy. But every single recollection from these decades has gray clouds in it. I cannot recall many sunny days.
I am not speaking figuratively here. I mean that I remember the actual sky as being cloudy. It’s as though my brain replaced all sunny skies with gray ones. Maybe that’s why I write about eyebrow hair. Maybe that’s why I tell jokes where God has a bit of fictional dialogue. Maybe that’s why I try too hard to be cheerful sometimes.
One time, before the pandemic, a kid recognized me in the grocery store. He was with his grandfather when he called my name. He told me he’d read some of my books. He seemed downright excited to meet me.
Then he told me some of his story. The boy’s father died from pancreatic cancer. It was sudden. His father went fast. The kid said that I sort of reminded him of his dad since his dad used to play guitar like I do, and tell corny jokes. He actually used the word “corny.”
Then without warning the kid gave me a hug. A big one. His grandfather joined the embrace. There we were, three of us holding each other right there in public.
I could see the kid’s granddaddy crying. But the old man didn’t want his grandson to see this, so he wiped his face with his sleeve and sniffed a few times. Because being strong is a full-time job.
I said to the kid, “So what else can you tell me about your father?”
The kid looked at his shoes. “Um, well, I visit him every day.”
The boy had reddish hair. The way I did when my old man died. The child had that same ruddy complexion I have. I have always had splotchy red cheeks. This is why I first grew a beard, to hide my pitiful face.
After we said goodbye, the boy walked away with his grandfather. He yelled one last time, “Bye, Mister Sean!”
I stayed up for most of that night, reading a book while my wife slept. But I couldn’t concentrate. So I just stared at the ceiling. Because something kept going through my mind. And it was you.
You’re the person I’m thinking about as I write this. I don’t know why. And I don’t know what you’re feeling right now. So I won’t drag this out any longer, you’re probably bored stiff if you’ve read this far. I’ll just cut to the chase:
“I sure love you.”