Sean of the South: I Hope


Sean DietrichBy Sean Dietrich

I met her for coffee. She was middle-aged. Her hair was purple. On her arm was a tattoo which read “HOPE.”

Her story was simple. She was 14 and pregnant. The daughter of a rural preacher, in the mountains of North Alabama. She had never even cut her hair.

Hers was a tribe who wore long skirts, beat Bibles, and spoke in tongues. She was a good kid. But she made a mistake. A big one.

And they kicked her out.

The day the girl left her home, she walked out of her household carrying only a backpack.

She had no phone. No money. No nothing. She wore a Walmart maternity dress. Her mother snuck her $100 in cash.

The girl met her best friend’s sister in a Dollar General parking lot. Her friend’s sister was 19, waiting in an idling Toyota Camry. And away they went. That was the last time the girl saw her immediate family.

The girl had her baby in Tennessee. Her best friend was around for the birthing process. Her best friend held her hand and reminded her to breathe.

Our heroine got a job at a retail store. She had a crappy apartment with a window-unit A/C. She utilized free daycare. She used a cheap ride-sharing service to get to work.
In other words, she had nothing.

But her son was smart. One of the smartest, in fact. He was enrolled in programs for advanced students. Once upon a time, the school system would have called him gifted. But government funding decided that it wasn’t equitable to say some schoolkids were gifted/talented. This made parents mad.

Nevertheless, the gifted boy excelled in his studies. And as his mother continued to work double shifts in fast food joints, deep-frying ribbon-cut potatoes, her son studied into the wee hours.

He was dual enrolled. Which means that by the time he graduated high school, he had a college degree.

Then he garnered scholarships. He was accepted into medical school. By the time he was doing clinicals, his mother had worked her way up to shift manager.

Later, the boy got married. And he continued his medical education. His mom was still working full-time, gifting the happy young couple hundred-dollar bills whenever she had enough leftover cash.

And only a few weeks ago, the former 14-year-old mother went home for the first time in nearly three decades. She is in her mid-40s now. But still lovely. Still strong.

Her hair is dyed purple because that is the color of royalty. Her nose is pierced because she likes the way it looks.

She walked into her old church last Sunday. Her father is still preaching. She sang every song at the top of her voice. She listened to the sermon.

When service ended, her father refused to speak to her. Her siblings ignored her. But her mother met her in the parking lot. Her mother hugged her, and asked why her daughter came to church after all these years.

“Because,” our heroine replied. “I forgive you.”

Her mother said nothing.

“And,” our heroine added, “because I just wanted you to know that, as of last week, your grandson is a neurosurgeon.”

Then she walked away.

So anyway, now you know why she has that tattoo.