They call him Dr. Miller, so he’s got to be smart. But my nephew Jonathan doesn’t know the history that’s practically under his feet. And I didn’t know either. Not until a recent road trip my dad and I made back to western Maryland so he could pay respects at a funeral.
“Want to see Jonathan’s office?” my dad asked, and he directed me to drive to the last street at the very edge of the town.
We sat in the car, my dad and I, in the parking lot of the medical center where my nephew hangs his shingle.
Inside that office, Jonathan takes medical histories and orders diagnostic tests. He reviews labs and x-rays and writes treatment plans. And he teaches patients about healthy lifestyle choices and disease prevention and helps people take control of their health.
My dad sat silent. He watched the people coming and going from his grandson’s office. Then he turned his head to look over the fields that had come out to meet the town. Finally, he stirred.
“Know what I remember about these fields?” he asked.
And he told me how he’d driven sows across those fields from his father’s farm to the Hershberger farm to get them bred or slaughtered, according to the need.
“Look up through those trees,” he said. “See that barn up the slope? That’s where I took them.”
I tried to picture my dad, a barefoot farm boy in coveralls, who had never dreamed he’d move from the mountains of Maryland. And who decades later never dared to hope that one of his grandchildren might find a partner in back in those mountains and settle there.
This was a circle-of-life moment for my dad, sitting there with the fields of his childhood on one side and the medical office of his grandson on the other.
At the next family reunion, I hope my dad gathers Jonathan’s five children, who now run barefoot in the mountains. I hope he tells them about how he once drove sows to slaughter just outside their father’s office. And I hope that after Jonathan hears this story, he occasionally looks toward the fields as he leaves work at the end of a long day and thinks of the people who toiled there before he was born.