Son Sean and Charlie, by Hal O’Leary

Son Sean and Charlie, by Hal O’Leary

Yareah Magazine is proud to present a new section for Saturdays: Just Hal by Hal O’Leary. Today, a beautiful and great piece: Son Sean and Charlie.

Son Sean and Charlie, by Hal O'Leary

Artwork on this ball is a common abstract representation of a smiling face. Photo credit: wikipedia

On cleaning out a large walk-in closet in what was once the nursery  the other day, I came across Charlie a large stuffed pony. Charlie was my son Sean’s favorite toy. Ragged though he was now, with his stuffing protruding, I can remember when he was once the sleek steed carrying his master, my son Sean, through all the wondrous adventures his furtive mind could imagine.

I’ve often said that there are only two sources of happiness. The first is anticipation, the anticipation of whatever event we look forward to with joy. In fact, it might be said that these anticipations do indeed provide us with a raison d’etre, a reason for being. The second source of happiness is recollection. Throughout most of our lives we will have accumulated a trove of treasured memories and mementoes that will serve us in later years as a renewed source of happiness. These will gradually replace the fewer periods of anticipation that accompany old age.  In place of a reason for being, they become our reason for having been.

My son Sean moved on years ago, but his room remains pretty much as he left it, and In this one closet we have saved all the things that had served to drive his constant curiosity and anticipation, especially Charlie, and for a very special reason. When Sean was just starting to read and write, I used to read for him a poem by Robert Frost called “The Runaway,” It’s about a young colt that is frightened by his first snow fall. He is trying to run away from the swirling flakes. The poem ends with this plea:

“Whoever it is who leaves him out so late,

When other creatures have gone to stall and bin,

Ought to be told to come and take him in.”

I recall on one occasion, I asked Sean what he would like to have read that night. He wanted to hear “The Runaway” again, but he asked if I could skip the ending for the obvious reason. This became his favorite poem, and because of it, Charlie, became his favorite toy, as evidenced by his first writing attempt at age six. I still keep his hand scrawled poems here in this book of Frost’s poetry. He wrote:

“I see a pony in the snow.

He looks so pretty with his little bow.

And so I get a bow and I go with him

And I say, he’s a nice little fellow.”


“It is raining outside

A horse is naying outside,

And I am laying inside.

Charlie, and Robert Frost inspired, at a very early age, the successful writer Sean has become. But wait, that’s not all. That night, Sean and Charlie taught me a lesson that I would like to pass on. It’s a lesson that all parents should heed, but all too few do in their haste to make of their sons something that nature never intended them to be. We go back to a night more than half a century ago when Charlie was a new and sturdy steed and Sean perhaps a knight in shining armor. It was one night, after a most frustrating day for me of making the calls but not the sales. This poor excuse for a salesman had undertaken a most frustrating task. As an even poorer excuse for an electrician, I was attempting something I was ill-equipped to do.

The scene was our kitchen. To be more precise, it was a space on the kitchen floor where I was engaged with the most perplexing  task of attempting to rewire an offending wall socket that had caused a short circuit throwing several rooms into darkness. Having replaced the fuse and restored the light, I found myself in need of at least one more hand than I came equipped with. Under this handicap (no pun intended) plus the fact that the pair of pliers I needed was somewhat out of reach, and not being able to release the wires for fear of another blackout or worse electrocution of my son, I was forced  to ask son Sean to fetch for me the desired pliers from the tool box across the room. He was playing there beside me on the floor, courageously astride Charlie, his sturdy steed, on a mission that I might imagine was to do in a dragon and save a damsel in distress. My request was simple enough:

I said, “Sean, fetch me the pliers from the tool box,” to which he replied with an equally simple, “I can’t.”

Calmly but painfully, I repeated my command, but receiving no response at all, I raised my voice, only to hear a more explicit, “I can’t.”

With growing frustration, I cried, “What do you mean you can’t?”

“I’m busy.” he somewhat curtly replied.

.“You’re what?” I questioned.

“I’m busy.”

“Don’t tell me you’re busy?”

“But Dad. . . “

“But Dad nothing! You’re busy doing what?”

At this point came the lesson of my life as a parent. It was nothing short of an epiphany, for in a flash, I realized a truth that should have been oh so obvious.

He simply said, “But Dad. . .I’ve got so much playing to do.”

I smiled quietly, . .tucked the wires out of danger. . .sheepishly rose. . .crossed the room to retrieve  the pliers, and then, I quietly set about my task once more with humility, yes, but also with a real and justified sense of pride in my son happily riding Charlie here, into the fray on missions certainly more rewarding and far more important than any of my own.



View Comments (6)
  • Anticipation and recollection, the sources of happiness. I agree. In Spain, there is a saying: Sow and you’ll reap. Have a nice Saturday, Hal O’Leary, with your friendly family. Congratulations!

  • Isadora

    Educate a child is always difficult but a happy experience in a long way. I’ve similar experiences with my children. Thanks for sharing Hal O’Leary.

  • Ayax

    A lesson. Thanks, Hal O’Leary. Good to read you every Saturday.

  • a beautiful story – out of the mouths of babes – thanks so much for sharing –

  • oh, and so great to be reading you every week now!

  • Love your column Hal O’Leary!


Hal O’Leary is an eighty-seven-year-old Secular Humanist who believes that it is only through the arts that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University.

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