Slightly Off Center
Miracle for a cynic.
—by Dennis Hinkamp
I don’t believe in miracles, karma, ghosts or half of what I read in the news. I am skeptical about skeptics. However, I am not cynical enough to not to share this story.
My dad died in 2007 and mom almost exactly a year later. They had lived in their modest suburban St. Louis home since 1963. They collected many interesting things. This meant that I, the only child, inherited a three-bedroom house full of collectables 1,316 miles away. At age 52 I already had a house cluttered full of my own stuff.
We all do this mental drill: What would you grab if the house were on fire? It’s sort of the same thing when your last parent dies, though you have more time. You choose photos and memorable things from your childhood; maybe an antique chair, pieces of jewelry, quilts and more photos.
Susan and I gave ourselves two weeks to edit my parents’ lifetime accumulations down to one mid-sized U-Haul trailer. We were probably overly ambitious, given the funeral arrangement, grieving process and antique mall appearance of the place. There were not 10 square inches of bare wall space in the house. My mom had 65 collectable teddy bears, 500 glass open salts and several hundred antique miniature perfume bottles. My dad mainly collected coffee cans full of nails and screws, rusted tools and premium cigars.
I saved three plastic tubs of photos. I left the large portraits behind; they didn’t fit in the tubs and being life-sized made them too painful to look at. You get in a mindset of “memories are better than photos anyway, right? I just can’t bear to pack on more thing.”
Filling a nine-yard dumpster was followed by a free choice day with the remaining relatives, then an estate sale, a garage sale and finally paying someone to take what was left to the dump.
Flash forward six years. On November 29, 2014 I walked into a Logan, Utah antique mall and saw the portrait of my dad that I had left behind. It was labeled “Vintage Officer Picture $25.25.” There is no rational explanation for this. It was a signed in oil paint, one of a kind. Why would someone even try to sell a portrait of an anonymous cop? The frame isn’t really worth $25. Of course I bought it. This photo/painting hybrid was typical of 1962 when he would have been 28.
Since it is a consignment store I was able to trace the seller back to somebody in St. George who bought it at another estate sale in St. George. How it got from St. Louis to St. George remains a mystery. I have no more leads. I only hope that Dad had a good time winding through the Southwest where he and my mother loved to travel. I hope he forgives me for leaving him behind.
Many men, myself included, have had strained relationships with their father. Ronald Victor Hinkamp died an obese, depressed, angry shadow of himself at age 74. Maybe I needed to be reminded that he was once a young, proud, handsome police officer trying to do the right thing. With the daily barrage of bad cop stories, especially from St. Louis, I needed to see this; Field of Dreams without the corn. For whatever reason, thanks for finding me, Dad.
Dennis Hinkamp wishes you only the best karma, ghosts and miracles.