Thursday, June 12, 2014

Father's Day 2014: A Memory of William J Hogenkamp

William J Hogenkamp, Sr

I miss my father: it is as simple as that. I plan to dedicate my upcoming book to him (when the time comes) but the the dedication will be short:

 to Dad, who meant the world to me

Although that fragment probably says it best, I wanted to flesh it out a little, if for nothing else than writing about him is the best way for me to spend some time with him.

My father was a deliberate and methodical person; when he used a particular word in a certain circumstance, it was because he had thought about the context, mulled over the way the word sounded, and considered the possible interpretations of the word by his audience before uttering it. (My father was an original ProseCon.) And if he couldn't think of the exact word he wanted, he would ruminate about it until the perfect word became clear in his head. If rumination didn't work, he even stooped to research--his favorite book was Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. 

And while this was especially true when he wrote letters (and he wrote many) it was even the case when he was having a conversation. That's what I miss most about my dad: the conversations we used to have. When there was something you really wanted to discuss, there was no one better to talk to about it than him, especially if it was something to do with academics or ethics--and he could always find something academic or ethical about any issue.

I used to love the way he cocked his head to his right, often with his long fingers supporting his jaw. And he looked at you with his glacier blue eyes, and he listened, only interjecting comments when he needed you to stay on course. He was often as enthusiastic about an idea as you were, and in many cases he took notes as he listened, so that he would have everything exactly right.  

He used the notes too, because he almost never gave you an immediate response. You could expect a minimum of three days time to hear back from him, and it was many times in writing, with his flowing, precise script. And if the subject matter was not all that familiar to him, his full response would be even longer, because research would be involved, and often a trip to the library or bookstore. 

It was not uncommon to get a book or magazine or newspaper article from him weeks or even months after a discussion, always with a short forward alluding to the discussion which engendered the gift. He once gave me a copy of the USGA Rules of the Game to keep with me in my golf bag, months after I had asked him a random question about a ruling during a non-competitive round with friends. It didn't matter to him that I wasn't even keeping score at the time; it did matter that I should know the proper ruling so as to be able to keep an accurate score when the time came.

I still have that copy, Dad--and I even look at it occasionally.

The Yellow-Iris, by Peter Huntoon. (I include it here because my father was an avid gardener, and Peter Huntoon was his favorite artist. )

I have always believed that people romanticize the past, and embellish the people or events they hold dear. But I will not do that here, because my father was factual and accurate to a fault--and he will turn over in his grave if I am not factual and accurate in this memoir. He always used to say his precision stemmed from his training as an accountant, but I think it was congenital. I can not remember the man breaking any rule whatsoever or even bending one a little--other than his penchant for rolling stops when we were late for church. He took no liberties with his tax return, insisting on paying his full share. 

When he had to drink a gallon of some horrible concoction in advance of a medical procedure, he set the timer on his watch and used a measuring cup to make sure he downed 8 oz. every 10 minutes as the instructions demanded. (I swear I am not making this up.) When he went hiking--which we did a lot--he used an altimeter so that I couldn't exaggerate the elevation gain, and a map was consulted at every intersection even if we had hiked the trail on numerous occasions.

I am 50 now, about the same age my dad was when I started high school. And I get it; now, anyway, but not then. Then I always underestimated driving times just to irritate him, then I took tests without studying just to get under his skin--he believed in being well-prepared, stress on well. We both lectored at our church at this time, and he would go over his reading the night before and suggest I do the same, which I naturally didn't. So, what did my wife buy for me recently? A lectoring guide, almost identical to the one dad used. And I love it! My son lectors too, and, in honor of my dad, I have suggested to him he look over his readings the night before--and, in honor of the teenage me, he doesn't. But my my son's ways don't upset me--just like mine didn't bother dad--they just give me a greater appreciation for him and make me hunger for his patience and his understanding.

I have written several books now and have even roped a wonderful literary agent-Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates--into signing me. (Rope is just a figurative term here, I actually used duct tape--and those adhesive marks are bound to fade soon.)The months since I signed that contract have been among the best in my life, and I am looking forward to what comes next. But there is one thing missing and I can't help but lament it. Every day I think about how much I would enjoy talking the whole process over with my father. I can just see the bright sparkle in his eyes listening to me drone on about some aspect of the quest to get published. He was just happy to be sharing in his child's excitement--and if that isn't good parenting, I don't know what is.

I miss you, Dad, and hope I turned out to be the son you had envisioned.


ps You remember how you used to say that the hard time I gave you was going to be paid back in spades? Well, your grandchildren haven't disappointed you. I just wanted you to know.

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at



Susan Clayton-Goldner said...

The dead are alive when you think of them, Peter. You brought your father to life for me today. Thank you. And I agree, you were lucky to be his son.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I so enjoyed reading this. Our fathers were so similar. I could just picture Dick Gralton with "glacial" blue eyes looking at me. The analytical mind is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks, Susan. I feel lucky!

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks, Maureen. They were both wonderful dads who died too soon. peter

Arthur Kerns said...

Really enjoyed you essay. I would have enjoyed meeting your father. What a guy.


Sue Coletta said...

That was so beautiful. I miss my parents too. I lost them both by the age of nineteen, so I know how hard grief can be. This was a wonderful tribute to your Dad. He sounds like a great guy.

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks Art! He was!

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks Sue. I am fortunate that I still have my Mom. But I sure miss my dad.

Conrad Tuerk Jr. said...

Nice job, Peter. This is a great tribute to Big Bill. Your words bring him to life. I can picture you two in earnest discussion, "his long fingers supporting his jaw." He was a good man.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

So sweet. I loved this Peter.

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks, Conrad. I am trying to keep his memory alive.

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks Suzana. I was very lucky to have him, if only for 36 years.

Tom C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom C. said...

Peter, what a great remembrance of your father -- I was proud to know him as my Uncle Bill, and you nailed it by being thoughtful and just as importantly, accurate. Thanks to him, I have a thorough understanding of a golfer's options upon finding his ball in a lateral or regular water hazard or an unplayable lie. Unfortunately I get to use this knowledge frequently. I also think of his love of sweet corn, melon and any product of his prodigious garden (and I proudly admit I just looked up prodigious to make sure I was using it the way I intended). I also think about hiking with your parents from my time in Colorado when they visited your brother Bill (Jr.) and his family. Uncle Bill loved hiking above the treeline, which seems fitting given he was 6' 7". But above all I remember his intellectual curiosity and though normally soft spoken how excited he became when you understood a point he was making and just as excited when he understood the point you were making. A good lesson from a great man -- Happy Father's Day.

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Thanks, Tom C. Happy Father's Day to you as well. One of these days I am going to get around to writing a post about your Dad, who was a great man and one who made the world a better place for those who were lucky enough to know him.