Ellie Mae Dietrich


Dear Ellie Mae:
You spent half your life in my truck passenger seat. There wasn’t a trip that you didn’t sit beside me. That seat was yours. Is yours.
And we used to play in the water together. Remember that? It was your favorite thing. I’ve never had a dog love water like you did.
After each swim, you’d jump in the passenger seat and get the truck upholstery wet. God. That’s a good memory.
The truth is, I can’t feel anything right now. I’m numb all over. And sick. My eyes are hot and swollen. I can’t breathe. It feels like the world has turned to ash, and the sky has become rock. I’ve been crying. I even got down on the floor and moaned. And sobbed. And wailed. I made a fool of myself.
I’m writing you because I don’t know what else to do, honey. I can’t talk to you anymore, and you were Daddy’s little listener.
I’m hoping for a miracle of Heaven. I’m hoping that somehow these words get to you. I hope God sends them upon the wings of angels—I am begging him.
I just want you to know how much I love you. And even though we will not be together anymore, I am grateful.
I’m grateful we belonged to each other. I’m grateful it was me you loved. Grateful it was my truck seat you claimed.
I suppose you’ll have a new hip tonight. New ears. And a new set of young bones, too. And guess what? That means you’ll be able to wrestle again. Isn’t that great? We used to wrestle. Remember how you loved to wrestle after supper? I do. We’d roll on the carpet until you were exhausted. We sure knew how to play, didn’t we?
Ellie, honey. Now listen good. I don’t have long, and I may never get to talk to you again, so this is important:
You’re going somewhere tonight without me. You’re sailing above clouds to a new home. Somewhere so wonderful there aren’t words to describe how magnificent it is. Oh, I wish I were beside you, but I can’t be.
So I want you to make friends there. I want you to swim in silver lakes that stretch toward an infinite horizon. I want you to eat jars of peanut butter like you once did here on earth.
I want you to bark when it’s suppertime. I want you to have so much fun it’s obscene. And most importantly, I want you to run, girl. You were born to run.
I want you to run through the piney woods of a Thousand Hillsides and become the wind. I want you to whip through forests, and across the same bay that we once fished together. I want you to dive over the banister of the sky and visit me.
Please don’t forget me. I was your best friend. I will always be your best friend.
And this humble friend is all alone tonight, asking for a gift from On High. I want to experience the life we had together just one more time. Even if only for a few moments. I want to do it all over again.
I want to kiss your wet nose once more. I want to go for one more drive like we did when you were a pup.
Remember those daily drives? Those early-morning hours in the truck? We’d watch sunsets in a windshield. We’d pass through the Chik-fil-A drive-thru—all the employees knew your name. You howled with the radio. You drank coffee from my cupholder. You slept with your head against me.
Once in a lifetime a soul comes along that breathes new life into a man. A soul who helps that man experience the world in a different way. Ellie, you did that for me. You.
Not long ago, I was a nothing. To the rest of the world, I was a high-school flunky, a construction worker, a bar musician. But not to you. To you, I was the most accomplished man in the world.
Anyway, you have to go now, and it’s killing me. They’re calling you Up Yonder. I can hear them. They’re throwing you a party. You deserve a party. A big one. With peanut butter.
Go, sweetie. It’s okay. Go. I’ll get along somehow. Please don’t forget me.
My passenger seat will always belong to you, dear. And so will my heart. Rest well, Ellie Mae Dietrich.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, the Tallahassee Democrat, Southern Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, the Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.


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