Father’s Day Guest Columnist Dr. Sam Brody: What Dad Taught Me

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Sam Brody is a primary care internist who practices in Forest Hills. His specialty is geriatric medicine.

Dear Kate, Rebecca, Milo and Nash,

My father taught me I could catch a line drive with my eyes closed. He probably would not have remembered this. I will never know because he is dead.

Dad was never athletic. He was always fit but, for him, competitive sports, the arts, horticulture, sports cars, world travel, were irrelevant.

What mattered to him was being learned in his field.His field changed many times. At least three that I know.

Businessman with an MBA from NYU by the time he was twenty-one.

General medical practitioner in his thirties and early forties and then his favorite.

He never said it was his favorite but it was — child psychiatrist.

He played hard in each of his fields. In the area of learning about his current profession, dad was a great athlete.

I guess he thought I should learn to play sports even though he had no interest in any organized sport. He certainly could not have known about the line drive or the fact that I would catch it with my eyes closed. Maybe he would have. He knew me very well. He knew me better than I knew myself and probably knew I needed to catch that line drive with my eyes closed — just to see that it could be done and that it could happen to me.

Otherwise, he spent most of his parenting time teaching me about hard work and delaying gratification for later reward but, I think, having me play right field may have been his greatest lesson.

One of the patients in his general medical practice in the mid-1950s was the coach of a little league baseball team. He was a tall, ruddy-complected man with an Irish sir-name.

Dad and I were the oppositeof this man. This man knew the history of the Yankees. Could quote Babe Ruth’s batting average. Was one of the first to embrace the new Mets and get season tickets.

He was also willing to let a chubby klutz play on the same team as his own sons. His sons played most positions on the team and seemed confident. I don’t remember feeling confident about anything when I was twelve.

I do not remember much about the day, but I think it was sunny and can’t be sure where we played. Probably the local high school practice field. Did we win or lose the game? We lost. How do I remember that? It is not because I remember losing or winning. I remember that I was daydreaming out there.

I wasn’t nervous because the ball almost never came out to right field. Right field was where left handed batters hit the ball. The exception being coach’s sons who could hit to both fields. I remember that because I could hit to neither.

The loud scream caught my attention and I immediately wondered what I had done wrong. Then I started running with my gloved arm reaching into the air. This must have been a reflex response, which was amazing given my lack of any other previous manifestation of innate or learned skill as a baseball player.

I also did what anyone with my level of athletic ability does when required to perform. I closed my eyes.

Luck would have to win the day. So to speak. With the sun burning through my eyelids, I raced across the field when suddenly I felt a thud in my glove. It felt hard and certain. It was delivering a message but, for the first few seconds I could not figure out what happened and kept running. Then I heard the yelling again.

“Way to go, Sam.”

Sam, who?

Me?

Me!I stop running, opened my eyes and slowly lowered my glove from the heavens.

There in my mitt lay a baseball.

As my eyes rose from the ball, I heard my teammates exhorting me. Okay, at this point they were screaming for me to throw the ball in. Of course my reaction was immediate tears. I just cried like a baby, which I was. I mean, I was twelve and belonged as much on that field as…well I guess as much as any other twelve-year-old.

Not that I felt that way.

How do I remember we lost? I don’t, but I do remember crying again on the way home and figure it must have been because we lost. Or it could have been that I realized I’d never had another moment like this ever. I’m not sure if dad was there that day, but he’s been there every day since.

Even now, after he’s gone, he’s still right here.

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