Our calendar shows it’s November and almost Thanksgiving. I find myself being thankful for people who have influenced and impacted my life over the years. One person was James W. Robinson, DVM. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly before Thanksgiving of 2016 and died in early 2018.
Reading from the book of James in the Bible, we are told in Chapter 1, verse 27 to look after widows and orphans. And indeed, James Robinson did that for so many people. What a great example he sat!
Anyone who knew James learned a lot from him; he was a font of knowledge, not just about veterinary medicine, but also about God, life, building construction, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. James’ religion was very important to him. Shortly after his death, his Sunday School class at Central Baptist Church was renamed the James Robinson Sunday School Class.
In no particular order, here are some random memories of James. James would be the first to admit his thoughts were scattered all over the place.
My father, Jack, and James were good buddies. I’ve heard both of them say repeatedly “Most people do the best they can do, most of the time.” That’s so true, especially in these days of COVID-19.
James would often opine about his employees’ lot in life. On multiple occasions, he’d say, “I wish I could get (name of employee) to understand the reason she’s in the situation she’s in is because of the choices she’s made.” We often discussed that much stress people had was created by their choices. He was a father figure to some, and a brother figure to others, including me.
I was in the clinic with a critter, and James asked an employee to do something. The employee said, “We can’t do it that, because of ABC.” And James said, “Well, you need to find a way to do it.” He then shut the door and continued to examine the critter. He said, “Something I learned from Jack is you find a way to do things, rather than trying to explain why something can’t be done. It generally takes less time to do the thing than to think of excuses.”
Another day I was at the clinic, James was lamenting about hiring techs. He confided in me that he liked to meet them before they were hired, but he really didn’t like interviewing them. He really detested having to fire someone. He said, “I’ve learned to do what I do best, and that’s to be a veterinarian. And I let others do the rest of the work. They don’t do mine, and I don’t do theirs.”
More wisdom: “You and I think (name of person and their hobby) is a waste of money and to us, it is. But for (name of person), it’s the only thing she has to look forward to.” I now try to view people with entertainment tastes different from mine thru the lens James would use. A change in perspective.
I’m not sure what year James’ new clinic opened, but I remember it was in January. James wanted to open the clinic on a certain day, and remarked, “Mama’s birthday is that weekend. I’ll be the only child that’s not going home, but it’s just another day. I have gotta get this clinic open. I’m losing money when it’s not open.”
I told him I was disappointed in him for not going to see his mother on her birthday. I said, “James, there will be lots of pictures taken. Some will probably be shown at her funeral. How is it going to look if you’re not in the picture? People will say, ‘Why wasn’t James in any picture?”
“Someone will pipe up and say, ‘Oh, that’s the weekend James was opening his new clinic.’”
He said, “I guess you’re right. I really should go. I’ll regret it if I don’t.” He went. I felt I had accomplished a lot!
One Christmas, Santa, in the form of James, visited my house. Around 5:30 a.m., I heard something at my front door. I assumed it was the paper carrier. When I looked for the paper, it wasn’t there, but Santa had left me a bottle or two of wine, some goodies, all beautifully presented. Truly special and surprising!
James always asked me to go to see him in The Living Christmas Tree at Central Baptist. I never did. That’s my one regret — he asked me, repeatedly, to do something that would make him happy, and I never did it. From that I’ve learned to make those visits now, to make those phone calls now. It may be too late if I wait until Christmas.
I’m thankful for Thanksgiving and for memories.
Rebecca Henderson of Johnson City is an author and community volunteer.