Sunday, June 17, 2018

On Father's Day, Three Posthumous Lessons from my Father

Bill Hogenkamp was not a flashy man. Perhaps this was a consequence of his being six-foot-nine-inches tall in a day and age in which the average height for men was more than a foot shorter. I've always conjectured that, standing out in a crowd as he did, he endeavored to blend in with modest behavior, a deeply felt sense of decorum, and unflagging civility.

In 2018, sixteen years after Bill Hogenkamp's death, we live in an unprecedented era of unmitigated individualism in which outrageous behavior and indecency are no longer things of which to be ashamed. If anything, the more outrageous and the more indecent the better. And although this all adds up to great sound bytes and unlimited fodder for the late night pundits, it also adds up to a vicious partisanship that has paralyzed our government, and, worse still, a great divide between the red and blue masses that has stretched the very fabric out of which our country has been stiched.

What's the antidote? My father would suggest modest behavior, decorum, and civlity, or, in other words, substance rather than style.

Bill Hogenkamp was not an impulsive man. The one adjective that leaps to my mind every time I think about him is methodical. He used to love to take us hiking, and, for my father, going hiking was far more than getting some exercise. It was exercise, yes, believe me on that one, but it was also an exercise in planning, thoughful execution, and the consideration of many variables. I can remember going on our first hiking trip to Colorado many years ago. As we lived in New York State at the time and did most of our hiking at altitudes of 5,000 feet or less, going up to 14,000 feet was a big deal, at least to my father, and he approached it as such, going to the library to research how to acclimatize to the higher elevation. When we got to Colorado, he watched the weather forecasts closely, and planned out our departure times so that we could summit and descend before the thunderstorms blasted the exposed peaks we were climbing. On the way up, he took careful altitude measurements and calculated our rate of ascent, turning us around on many occasions when we failed to make our self-imposed turn-around time.

How many of the problems that confront us today--a failing health care system, an education system in crisis, and a burgeoning national debt to name just a few--would respond to better planning, careful measurement, and the occasional turn-around when things didn't go to the plan?

Bill Hogenkamp was not an arrogant man. He never bragged about any of his successes, lauded any of his accomplishments, or extolled any of his virtues. He looked at the talent he had been given as a responsibility to help others who hadn't been as blessed, and he acted accordingly. He was a family first kind of guy, and therefore when he brought a couple of teenagers I didn't know on our annual family canoe trip, I wasn't sure what was going on--or happy about, to be frank. When I asked him about who they were and why they were here with us on our family canoe trip, he explained that these boys didn't have a father in their lives but needed one, and that was the end of that. They accompanied us on hikes and canoe trips for years thereafter, until they were grown and had become fathers themselves.

In 2018, extolling one's own virtues has become a national obsession. The problem with this? If we're all so busy lauding our own accomplishments, when are we going to take the time to help others who are less fortunate? Let me remind you that in 2018 the disparity between rich and poor has reached an all time high, and that there has never been a better time to stop bragging about our own successes and start helping the people who've had few or no successes.

My son asked me what I wanted for Father's Day a few days ago; I told him I wanted to go hiking. I think I'm going to break my dad's old altimeter out...

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; 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 The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at