Weeds: A ‘living eulogy’ from a grateful son

Don and Donna Brinkman

Editor’s Note: Dean Brinkman is filling in for Randy Krzmarzick, who is out planting.

This might have an oxymoron-like twist to it, but I have been fortunate to be asked to give many eulogies at friends’ and family’s funerals. It’s truly an honor. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to do another one for a long time. I like my friends and family alive!

I am calling this a “living eulogy.” A panegyric which can’t wait for the ending. A tribute which can’t wait for the person to die. Let me explain.

I am 55 years old, lucky and blessed in so many ways I can’t count them. I grew up in the era when “My Momma Don’t Dance and My Daddy Don’t Rock & Roll.” We didn’t hug. The words “I love you” were found on Hallmark cards and chalky Valentine’s candies but rarely spoken.

However, there was so much unconditional and assumed love. That era was full of generation gaps divided by hair styles, the music, the slang, and the clothes that the different ages wore. Heck, my brothers were nine and ten years older than me, so WE were a generation apart. My heroes, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson and Alan Page, hung on the walls of my bedroom.

I often told my brothers, “You were lucky to have known our grandpas, grandmas, and mom and dad ten years longer than me.” Consequently, I was fortunate that I had more one-on-one time with each of them after my brothers went off to college and moved from home.

My chiropractic father, Don, and his high school sweetheart soul mate, Donna, were born in 1930. They grew up with very little during the Depression. Dad served in the Air Force for four years during the Korean war. Then he finished college and went on to chiropractic college.

They set sail from western Wisconsin looking for a small town-setting with a strong Catholic school and church. You could say they were “steeple chasers.” They chose Sleepy Eye and settled on the “Protestant” side of town where they turned a big old apartment house on Summit Street into a home.

Like many homes in the four-TV channel era, mom was a homemaker. A green thumb gardener, washer and sewer of clothes, baker of blue-ribbon cookies and goodies, and master chef of the 6:00 supper. Dad was the “provider of the family,” up at six, gone by seven, home for a half-hour at noon.

He had the steps on route timed out down to the minute to be at the supper table by six. He arrived just as mom was wrapping up her kitchen time to WCCO’s “Going Home with Cannon.” All this routine was taken for granted. I was pretty sure that every kid grew up like this.

Dr. Donald Brinkman did not bring his work home with him. He was dad the second he set foot in the door. As a kid, I really didn’t know that much about chiropractic. I chose chiropractic as my 7th grade “career assignment” homework project knowing that a pro athlete report was not going to get me an “A.” I didn’t know that was planting the seed to follow in my father’s footsteps.

Fast forward to the Eighties when youthful hopes and dreams crashed into the adolescent reality of “What are you going to do with your life?” I was going to college to play baseball and thought I had plenty of time to figure out what secondary profession would fall into my hands. My professional baseball goals remained a single candle lit in a dark room of my cranium.

Going off to college for knowledge seems to turn the boy into a man. Like many of you, I started to miss what I had taken for granted. Some things the hard way. Others by reasoning with the solid faith and family lessons learned back home. The simple upbringings of a small-town kid who was “never going to come back to MY hometown” became the things that I craved. I ended up being accepted to chiropractic college before my last year of baseball eligibility was used up.

In 1988, I came “home” to start my chiropractic practice in the clinic that my father started in 1958. I had some idea that I was in the midst of a legend, but I didn’t realize that his footsteps were going to be this big to follow. Dr. Matt Kirschstein and I practiced together with this legend for a couple years before he decided to retire.

My dad is too humble to share any of this and I am too proud not to. I always tell people that I will consider myself a huge success if I get half the compliments when I retire that my father got. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, Dad sent many people on to Rochester with a diagnosis that was spot-on, and the MD would ask the patient “Who diagnosed this for you? A chiropractor?” I was told that when the late Michael Ecker, MD got a referral from dad, he would say “Well, if Doc Brinkman says you have something then I damn well better check that out.”

I could go on and on with chiropractic stories and lessons learned. To this very day, patients ask about my father, tell me to say “Hi” to him, and proceed with a smile to share some fabulous story about what a great chiropractor and caring person he was to their whole family. The respect behind his legacy means he is still known as “Doc.” He retired over 28 years ago! Not only was he my dad, but I got to work with and learn from him.

I have met Carew, Page and Jackson about thirty total minutes of my life. Now, I know that all along I lived in the same house with my real hero, my father. Doc to all of you, Dad to me.

Recently, I received a beautiful father-to-son saying which read “I can’t promise to be here for the rest of your life, but I can promise to love you for the rest of mine.” I told Mom and Dad, that if they die before me, my world will NOT be a better place without them. And they should know this: even if they are physically gone, they will be with me every day I have on earth in mine. I owe everything to this man and the woman he married.

The life I’ve lived was because of a life worth following. Like a home run in baseball, it starts at home and ends at home. Some people are born to become what they are, and I was born into a faith-filled, family first, chiropractic legacy. The man that started his life with next to nothing, growing up poor in the Depression, has given me everything in mine.

Oh, by the way, I even have him hugging and saying, “I love you.” Old Doc, new tricks.