The local classical station plays movie music late Saturday mornings. I was listening to it just now and the theme from ‘Field of Dreams’ came on.
And I, as I reflexively do when it plays, started to tear up.
The one movie that can make men cry. As opposed to most men who cry at the end (and understandably so) my favorite part of the movie comes just before when James Earl Jones delivers one of the best, most moving soliloquies of any movie. One that we so need today:
Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
But it’s the end part that gets us guys. But I cry for a different reason.
At the end when Kevin Costner asks his ‘ghost’ father if he wants to have a catch, men everywhere are taken back to the moment, perhaps the last one, where they and their father ‘had a catch.
In the movie, Costner was the one who stopped playing catch with his dad.
In my life, I weep because it was my father who stopped playing catch with me.
It came at around the same time he emotionally abandoned me; would have nothing more to do with me.
At the end of his hopes and dreams that I would become a replicant of himself – a hunter, fisher, outdoorsman. That I wouldn’t be someone that he could be proud of around his outdoorsman friends. That I wouldn’t be tough enough to handle real life.
And since he could not believe that would be a failure of his, it was my failure to be the person he ordered from God. And he didn’t want to be associated with a failure.
So, from about 14 on, he wasn’t.
So, when I see that scene, it hits be like a gut punch for a different reason.
It took me many years to figure out why he did what he did. And when I figured it out, I wish I hadn’t.
Ray Kinsella had closure with his dad. I would never have closure with mine – he died when I was 20.
And truth be told, had he lived, I probably would have nothing to do with him today.
I guess when I look at other guys dad’s the guys that we in my little league, cub scouts, elementary and high schools, I wonder what might have been in my life if their dads had been mine.
Maybe I didn’t see their dark side. All I saw what those dads standing behind their sons, coaching, mentoring, talking to them about life – the things my dad never did for me. Somehow, he just expected me to pick it up somehow.
And I look at the men these guys became – men their dads, if they are still alive – would be proud of. I know my dad would have not been proud of me – the ‘mistake.’ It is a valid question which one of us would have broken contact first.
There are things we can’t change in life; things we will always wonder about and ask, ‘what might have been?’ I have been trying to overcome my father’s abuse and indifference for over three and a half decades without much success.
For it is money I have, but peace I lack.
And yet, I still love ‘Field of Dreams’ for all it is and says about the yearnings from son to father that echo throughout the ages – for the need to reconcile, to forgive, to understand how boys become men, and men become fathers and pass on whatever they need to for their sons.
Dedicate the film to the sons who never had to wonder what might have been, never had to question their father’s love, or if they did, were able to have a touching and meaningful reconciliation at some point.
The reconciliation I will never have; at least not in this life.