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. (No, he was not given over to quick responses.) 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 (you know, that massive thing you see in libraries). 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. The trouble with this was the converse: he also expected that you were selecting your words with the same care.
The thing I miss most about my dad is 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 (did I mention he was an accountant?) 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 USGA Rules of the Game book 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.
My father was proper and accurate. He always used to say these things stemmed from his training as an accountant, but I think they were congenital. I can not ever remember the man breaking any rule whatsoever or even bending one a little--other than his penchant for rolling stops. 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 ten 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 almost 50 now, about the same age my dad was when I started high school. And--as Mike Golic is fond of saying--I get it. Now, anyway, I get it--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 didn't. But my my son's stubborn 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 two 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. The two 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 trying to get published process. 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.
Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of 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, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at email@example.com.