By Sean Dietrich
You were not a great season this year. In fact, you were the worst. I’m glad to see you go. I hope autumn is better. Adios. Goodbye forever. It’s been a slice.
The thing is, I’ve had some great summers in my life. Some real humdingers. Summers that were pure euphoria, just the way the dog days should be. But you were not one of them.
One summer, for instance, our Little League team swept the regional championships. What a sunny season that was.
Yes, it’s true, we 12-year-olds were not playing a team who matched us in age, weight, or ability. Yes, it is also true that the opposing Methodist team was made up almost entirely of first-graders who still had all their baby teeth. But the point is we beat them.
After the game, I remember sitting on the tailgate of my father’s truck eating an ice cream cone at a rural Dairy Queen. And it was already the greatest summer of my life.
Except, as it turns out, it wasn’t. Because I would end up having many that were even better.
Like the summer when my cousin and I took a road trip to see a Willie Nelson concert. It was shaping up to be one of the happiest summertides of all time.
But it was not meant to be.
We were on our way to Atlanta, riding a crumbling two-lane highway in my cousin’s ‘82 Ford, when we happened upon a truck that was broken down.
An elderly man was on his way to his daughter’s wedding shower. Half of the man’s face was paralyzed from a recent stroke, and he was just so old. He needed help.
My cousin and I looked at each other and knew we’d never make it to Atlanta.
We gave the guy a lift, and even attended his daughter’s shower. We missed the concert and never saw Willie.
Still, even though I was disappointed, it was an exceptional summer. It was a road trip to remember. The Coca-Colas were cold, the roasted peanuts were extra salty. And I carry the memory with me.
There was another good summer. One sweltering July day a little black dog wandered onto my porch. She was covered in twigs and burrs. Her long coat was matted. Her floppy ears were muddy. She was a cocker spaniel with no collar, only cuts and scrapes.
So I took her into the bathroom. Bathed her. Clipped her tangled fur with Mama’s dressmaking scissors. Named her. Fed her. She slept at the foot of my bed for 10 years.
We were tight friends. She loved to chew ice cubes. She always rode in the front seat. I buried her in the woods and couldn’t quit crying for a year.
What a summer.
Oh, and there was the summer I asked my wife to marry me. I remember the exact outfit she was wearing. I remember the weather on that particular afternoon. Deathly hot. Locker-room humid.
Ours wasn’t a dramatic engagement moment like the ones you see online. Today, when guys pop the question, they bring a minimum of four photographers along with them. If the special moment isn’t captured on camera looking like it was directed by Spielberg it’s considered a flop.
But that’s not how things were 20 years ago. Engagements were pretty basic. You asked her. She checked yes or no. Social media hadn’t been invented yet. I didn’t even own a cellphone.
After my future-wife said yes, we attended a Wednesday night church service. I played piano for the meeting that evening. But I couldn’t focus. I saw her sitting in the back pew. And even though the building was packed, I only saw her.
I forgot all about the piano keys. I was supposed to be playing, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” but I think I was playing, “Another One Bites the Dust.”
That was a legendary summer. One of my hall-of-famers.
So you see, dear Summer, at one time in my life I looked forward to your arrival. But that was before you hoodwinked me this year.
That was before the virus hit. Before paper masks. Before 24-hour headline-news channels ruled conversations at the American supper table.
Before handshakes and hugs disappeared. Before baseball got cancelled. Then uncancelled. Then re-cancelled. Then shortened.
Before people conducted entire verbal wars within tiny online comment sections. Before hand-sanitizer dispensers were placed beside every door, elevator, gas pump, and henhouse.
Before human beings had been isolated. Before many fell into a deep well of mental and physical sadness. Before clinical depression affected one third of adults in the U.S. And that’s just the third who admits it.
Oh, Summer, I remember golden seasons before the back-to-back hurricanes began knocking down our live oaks, tearing off our rooftops, and flooding our living rooms. Before wildfires consumed the American West.
Before movie theaters closed down. Before little kids had to wear latex gloves to play on the monkey bars.
Summer, you screwed up royally. You took more than you gave, you hurt good people, and you horsewhipped those I love. You were the worst season I ever knew. And it looked like you were going to ruin this world forever.
But do you know something, Summer? You didn’t ruin us. You tried, but you could not win. And anyway, it’s too late for you now. Because today is the first day of autumn.
And all God’s children get a fresh start.
Starting right now.