Hey folks. This month I’m adding a new feature to my post. After my column and Monthly News, I’ve included a “Book of the Month.” My selections won’t be genre specific or necessarily current releases. They’ll simply be books I believe others will enjoy.
Regular readers of this column have learned a lot about my mom and her Italian family. My dad received a few passing mentions, but this month I want to tell you about the man who shaped my life.
Perhaps all you need to know about my father is that two of his three sons selected him to be the Best Man at their wedding. The third would have if he knew, at the time, picking your dad as Best Man was an option.
Dad was a street kid, living in a rough section of Salem, Massachusetts. There was no stable home life, no money, and no positive role models. His father died when he was seven years old, his mother abandoned him, and he wore government issued clothes. Since heat was an expensive luxury, his childhood winters were cold. I believe, based on a comment he once made, he endured at least one short stint in an orphanage. At other times, he was raised by extended family. Dad earned spending money digging clams, selling sea worms, and setting bowling pins.
There were some positive influences too. The nuns in Catholic school, where he was granted scholarships, taught him discipline. He was also successful on the baseball diamond. A lifelong friend described him as the best southpaw on the Massachusetts North Shore.
Dad emerged from his childhood driven to overcome a painful past. He was easily the most determined person I’ve ever known. For example, as young adult, Dad drove a truck, delivering beer, wine, and liquor to wealthy houses. He also worked at a department store. Other potential employers would tell him he was too short to be hired (Dad was five-feet-two-inches tall.) After landing a position as a life insurance salesman, he channeled his frustration and the hurt, driven to prove others wrong. The result? He became one of the top salesmen in the country and ultimately landed in the home office of John Hancock. His career with the company lasted forty years. My second example is more personal. When my father met my mother, she was engaged to someone else. While I don’t know the details, Dad informally courted Mom, eventually convincing her to leave the other guy and marry him. They were together for over fifty years.
In addition to being a deeply devoted husband, Dad was endlessly committed to his family. Back in his working days, his assistant had a standing order to find him if one of us called the office. This rule was enforced in all circumstances. On more than one occasion I tried to explain my call could wait, only to be told “Nope. I’ve got orders. Be right back.” Once we all got married, he treated our wives as his own daughters. I’m not sure if, in his mind, he ever actually considered the “in-law” part of “daughter-in-law” to be relevant. My favorite example was one Valentine’s Day when me and my brothers were out of town on business. Dad took Mom and our spouses to dinner, introducing them to the restaurant hostess as follows— “This is Mrs. Rogers, and this is Mrs. Rogers, and this is Mrs. Rogers, and this is Mrs. Rogers.” He then paused for effect. “And I’m Mr. Rogers.” My wife still tells the story thirty-plus years later. Regarding his grandchildren, we don’t have the time or column space to describe his love, loyalty, and attentiveness to them all.
My mother was raised in a large Italian family and my aunts, uncles, and a never-ending stream of cousins happily accepted Dad into the fold. He loved being part of the clamor during weddings, Sunday afternoon visits, and crowded holiday celebrations. My uncles dubbed him an “Honorary Italian.” I’m sure mom’s clan helped fill the voids created by his fractured childhood.
Dad was constantly reading. He could discuss history, politics, psychology, current events, and education with anybody. He understood Latin and was an excellent writer. I consulted him on business correspondence well into my career. His math skills were legendary. When we were in the grocery store, he’d stand at the register tallying the bill in his head. On several occasions, he’d discover mistakes in the total. While they never believed his claims, he’d insist the grocery store workers check. I still remember a time the store manager exclaimed “you again?” before adjusting the bill.
My father had a terrific sense of humor and enjoyed practical jokes. My favorite example involved a close friend and the family dog. Dad’s friend rehomed the dog and told his kids their beloved pet had run away. My father seized on the opportunity and, as he traveled around the country for business, sent his friend post cards from the dog with notes like “Just want you to know I’ll be home soon.” On another occasion, Dad convinced me he’d bought me a single ice skate because there was a special sale. My five-year-old self followed him around the house incredulously asking, “One skate? What am I going to do with one skate?” He eventually gave me the other.
Beyond practical jokes, Dad loved a playful jab. My ambition as a youngster was to be a Major League Baseball player. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a gifted athlete. One day, when I was twenty-five, a post card showed up in the mail. On the front was a picture of the Kansas City Royals stadium. Scribbled on the back was a simple sentence. “If you’d worked harder, you’d be here now. Love, Dad.” I remember thinking “everyone’s a comedian.”
Dad, of course, had his weaknesses. His sense of direction was terrible, he lost his keys at a Guinness Book of World Records rate, and you would NEVER want him to hang a picture in your house. Watching him methodically extract the meat from a lobster was a ninety-minute exercise in patience. He had no idea how to dress in winter and looked ridiculous in a baseball hat. Dad was also, shall we say, careful with a dollar. These, however, were all minor quirks in an otherwise outstanding human being.
Like many in his generation, Dad kept his emotions to himself, and he hated talking about his past. The facts we did learn usually came as part of a life lesson. He was not, however, an unfeeling person. Dad was quick with a hug, eager to spend time together, and we always knew how much he loved us. He never hesitated to offer advice, lend a hand, or be present when life got tough. During my junior year in college, I was struggling academically. Dad drove the sixty miles to campus, bought me lunch, and delivered a pep talk about overcoming adversity. I’ll never forget his visit.
All the facts, traits, and anecdotes above provide a fleeting picture of John Rogers as a person. What they don’t do is illustrate what he taught me about life. He provided a shining example of how to love, protect, provide for, and prioritize family. Said another way, Dad taught me how to be a father.
Given the circumstances he overcame and all he achieved, my father was the most successful person I’ve ever known. I live every day hoping I’ve earned the advantages he provided and trying to honor him with my actions. Despite his passing in 2004, he lives forever in my heart, as he does for my two brothers. We are eternally grateful to be his sons.
Steven Rogers’ award-winning novel “Into the Room” is available in paperback, on Kindle, and as an audiobook. If you’d like to order a copy, please visit Amazon or his website: https://steven-rogers.com/
September News from Steve
As you know, I enjoy discussing “Into the Room” with book clubs, reading groups, community organizations, and individuals. I love being interviewed by podcasts, newspapers, and radio stations. If you or a group/individual you know is interested, please email me at email@example.com. Currently, the following speaking engagements are scheduled:
- September 12th: Community Author’s Showcase at the Twin Hickory Library in Henrico County, VA. The event begins at 7:00.
- September 22nd: Crossridge Community gathering, Glen Allen, Virginia. 1:30 pm.
- September 26th: Interview on Storytellers with Christy Lou, a Facebook Live broadcast. Every Monday Christy Lou interviews authors at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. Christy is a gifted voice actor and, in addition to interviewing me, will narrate a portion of “Into the Room” for her viewers.
A special thanks to Mark Prasek of PJNet.TV. Mark interviewed me in June about my spiritual journey and “Into the Room.” You can watch the interview here: https://bit.ly/3wqK7c2
Exciting news! “Into the Room” is a finalist in the Debut Novel category of the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Awards. Winners will be announced at the ACFW Conference on Saturday, September 10th.
Reminder: The audiobook for “Into the Room” is now available through Amazon. Narrator Gary Williams was a fantastic match for the book and did a terrific job bringing Ben Cahill to life. Visit here to learn more: https://amzn.to/3NqXy21\
For $16 I will mail you a signed copy of the “Into the Room,” along with a personalized message, anywhere in the continental United States. If you’re purchasing the book as a gift, the inscription can be customized to address the recipient. For additional information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please allow five to six days for delivery.
If you enjoy my columns and don’t want to miss one, please subscribe by filling out the “Follow Steve” block on my website: https://steven-rogers.com/.
Folks have asked how they can help promote “Into the Room.” If you’d like to assist, I’d love more reviews on Amazon and, of course, please “talk up” the book to others.
Book of the Month
A fire, a rebellious teenager, and a wise-beyond-her-years young girl. Throw in a caring, no-nonsense grandmother and a host of other strong supporting characters and you’ve got yourself a great book.
Cheryl Gray Bostrom’s novel Sugar Birds takes place in 1985 and tells the story of two girls, Celia and Aggie. Celia is dealing with a broken home and teenage angst. Ten-year-old Aggie finds herself running from a family tragedy and living, by herself, in the wilderness. Bostrom masterfully weaves the two stories together, as the girls’ experiences inevitably converge. From the first page, I escaped into the plot and the characters carried me through a wonderful and realistic account of suffering, regret, and redemption. Bostrom also provides a stunning look into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and the reality of living off the land. You won’t regret giving this book a try. A final note: Sugar Birds is one of my fellow nominees in the Debut Novel category of the American Fiction Christian Writer’s Carol Awards.