Around Father’s Day we see ads telling us to buy a gift for Dad. The movie “Field of Dreams” goes into heavy rotation to spark memories. My own reminder arrives on my porch every morning, year round. It is the newspaper.
To attract my dad’s ghost, I would have to build not a baseball field but a smoky bar of the kind where old-school newspapermen used to hang out. My dad was one of those men. He wasn’t famous. He topped out at section editor for a small publication. It was no Pulitzer factory, just a good honest newspaper. Dad was a storyteller whose writing never rose above journeyman level, but who nevertheless made his living getting the stories out. At home he talked more about his adventures on the police and courthouse beats and even his years as a copy editor than he ever did about his later positions. He became good at the managerial and administrative tasks out of financial necessity. Regardless of the lure of higher pay, though, he never accepted a position that would take him too far away from contact with the words and the ink. It’s a good thing he retired long before even the ink went digital.
Instead of baseball, we bonded over reading the newspaper on weekend mornings. I would take sports first, while Dad would take opinion. Our version of playing catch was critiquing and rewriting the headlines. I grew up and moved away, but I like to think that as he read his newspapers at home, and as I read mine in far-flung cities, we both stepped through a doorway into that pleasant world that existed for a time in a suburban sunroom, and in both our memories for years thereafter, and now just in my memory.
They haven’t made the newspaper equivalent of “Field of Dreams” yet, but I don’t need a movie to take me into my own dream of Dad. All I have to do is open today’s paper, and I’m there. And I know that—to borrow a phrase—if I read it, he will come.
Christopher Jones, Ottumwa