At a recent men’s retreat we watched portions of the movie, Field of Dreams. Having built this gathering for men around the metaphors of baseball, they did come.
The last clip of the day was the penultimate scene in the movie when the main character, played by Kevin Costner, was united with his father – as a young man. The two play a game of catch in the dusky light, the ball sailing between mitt and mitt. Following the clip, our guest presenter, Coach Tim Jamieson, baseball coach at the University of Missouri, and I both shared our stories of the loss of our fathers to death from cancer. We lost them at roughly the same time, a dozen years ago. And now we have different experiences of our fathers, known through memory, through a different kind of presence living through us.
Men have intriguing relationships with their fathers. They are not all the same. And our father-son relationships shift, move and change. We model after our fathers. We determine not to be like them in certain ways. We become like them in more ways than we like to admit. And later, after we experience life, struggle, loves and losses, and children of our own, we come to know them differently. We often gaze upon them with softer eyes. We forgive and hope for forgiveness.
Somewhere in the twilight corners of memory there is a summer evening in the yard and a ball sailing between father and son. It is the game of catch that is oh so much more than that. The back and forth, giving and receiving, sharing of the same object exchanged time and again, creates a wordless bond that is universal. Perhaps that is the memory, or ones like it, that connect us to our fathers and other dear ones. And somewhere in the mystery of life and death, we play catch with time and eternity, a throw at a time, until it becomes too dark to see, and the voice calls us in to supper.