I like to write holiday themed columns. Mother’s Day gave me the opportunity to share the story of a maternally-minded ewe who adopted a family of triplets after her own lambs were born dead. Five weeks later, I also had the Father’s Day gig, but had nothing fatherly to write about. So I told a tale I’d been wanting to tell for a long time about a little dog named Spirit and a veterinary technician with an abundance of it.
A few days later, though, a Father’s Day story began to emerge. During a rare moment of down time, I found myself in our treatment room with a collection of vet techs, assistants and shadows. I don’t even remember why, but I asked them to name their favorite movie. Other than Laura’s answer of “The Lost Boys,” I can’t recall any of their responses. When one asked what my favorite was, I replied, “Field of Dreams.” But when another asked, “Why Dr. John?” I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to make a speedy exit, as tears were about to overflow.
What happened? I simply thought of a line from the movie. However, that line gets to me every time … every darn time. In the film, Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice emanating from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” For much of the rest of the movie, Ray tries to figure out who “he” is.
I’m not going to write the line. Apparently, merely thinking of it makes me an emotional wreck. Let me just say, I would give anything, and by “anything” I mean everything, for the opportunity to deliver Ray’s line to my own “he,” just one more time.
My dad died when I was a senior in veterinary school, five months before graduation. He was one of my professors, and he taught at Ohio State for 35 years. He never really wanted to be a veterinarian, though. He wanted to be a farmer like his Uncle Osborne.
Although he was raised in Cleveland, he spent many a youthful summer on Uncle Osborne and Aunt Minnie’s farm. Osborne’s sister, Aunt Blodwen, lived down the road on the farm where my wife and I now live. My dad enjoyed the country life, and he would regale me with anecdotes about threshing crews and Osborne’s team of Percheron geldings, Tops and Major. He loved their farms, and he loved this area.
My dad talked often of his plans and dreams, and what he wanted to do after he retired. Raising draft horses and sheep on his family’s land was included among them. Coincidentally, or genetically, his youngest son shared those same dreams. Sadly, my dad ran out of time before he ran out of dreams. That lesson did not go unlearned.
After our movie discussion, I must admit to spending most of the afternoon in a bit of a funk. Beyond the obvious sadness, my father’s death has been the greatest disappointment in my life. Dying took away any chance for him to see what Bonnie and I would accomplish with our farm and practice. He was able to witness my brother’s life, and my sister’s life, but not mine. Judging from my visceral reaction to a line in a movie, that wound must still run pretty deep.
I did everything I could to build “it,” and yet “he” didn’t come. Of course, I didn’t really expect him to. That would be silly. But wouldn’t it have been something if he had?
That evening, as I drove past the corner of Aunt Blodwen’s farm, with the wind gently blowing the wispy regrowth on the hayfield, and the sun beginning its slow descent behind Aunt Minnie’s woods, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. My dad did come, and he’s been here the whole time.
First, he came with me to Delphos to join the practice of his old friend, Dr. Ed Laman. Then when Bonnie and I moved the practice to the historic Lincoln Highway, he was right there with us. And 26 years ago, after two generations of dreams, he was finally able to move to his beloved farm.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t influence me in some way. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. “Do you wanna have a catch?”
Dr. John Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital.