Hogan Hilling

I Missed Not Having a Dad in My Life by Hogan Hilling

Hogan Hilling missed not having a dad in his life.  This article is incredibly moving and very real.  It’s an honor to have a man like Hogan Hilling share this part of his life with the Good Dad Project.

-Larry Hagner

Article below written By Hogan Hilling

My mom never talked about him. All I knew was that his name was Henk and that my mom and Henk divorced after I turned two.

In school, I dreaded the question teachers and kids asked, “What does your dad do?”

With a crushed heart, I would reply, “I don’t have a dad.”

As a child, I did not know how to share the pain of not having a dad or who to share it with. I struggled with my identity and with the question of why I was one of the few children without a dad in his life. Mostly, I really, really missed my dad.

The middle and high school years were extremely difficult because I had no dad to guide me into manhood. I questioned my existence, struggled with self-esteem and had a hard time trusting people. My rage and anger at Henk for robbing me of life without a dad also grew.

Why did he leave? How could he leave? If he is still alive, why didn’t he come back?

By the time I graduated high school, the pain dwindled into acceptance but never disappeared. Although I surrendered to the reality I would never meet my dad, I hung on to a glimmer of hope for a reunion with him. If it did happen, I wondered how I would react.

In 1983, twenty-six years after my parent’s divorced, fate gave me an opportunity to answer my question. It began with a phone call from my brother.

My brother told me about how he had introduced himself to a man while on a visit to San Francisco. The gentleman said he knew another man with the last name Hilling. That man turned out to be our dad’s brother, Theo. My brother got his number and I called Theo who put me in contact with my dad, who was living in Brazil!

My reunion with Henk began with a letter, followed by a phone call and eventually a flight to Brazil.

At the time I owned a business. I closed it and committed to spend time with Henk and his new family for six months. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I did not want to pass it up even if it meant losing my business.

Father and child reunions after so many years are rare. When it does occur, it is difficult for father and child to bury the hatchet and renew their relationship. I decided to let bygones be bygones and gave Henk a clean slate. No animosity. No judgment. No assumptions. No expectations. No drama.

During the first five months there weren’t many opportunities for a one-on-one chat with Henk. who had a full-time job and family responsibilities.

Much of my time was spent bonding with Henk’s wife, Claudette, and children

Heady, Dewi and Anna Lisa. In addition to the good fortune of my reunion with Henk, his new family embraced me with open arms. Claudette treated me like her biological son and Henk’s daughters treated me like their biological big brother. I felt so lucky to have finally become part of a real family.

My time with Henk and his family proved to be more than just a reunion of father and son. As I observed Henk’s mannerisms and interaction with his family, I began to develop a greater understanding of who I was. I recognized qualities, characteristics, and personality traits as well as shortcomings Henk and I had in common. My time with Henk and his family turned out to be very therapeutic.

One of Henk’s traits that impressed me was his pride. Henk took great pride in every aspect of his role as a loving, passionate, dedicated, involved husband and father. There was no doubt that Henk loved his family. He demonstrated it every day with public displays of affection.

Henk also took great pride in his job as draftsman for one of Brazil’s largest energy companies. On my lunch visits to his office, I met many co-workers who shared their respect and admiration for Henk.

I felt proud to call him my dad.

Henk’s pride for his work is what led to the defining moment of our reunion. He invited me to visit one of the power plants he helped design, which was located in the middle of the Brazilian jungle. During the drive, we had alone time to share more of our personal stories of life without each other.

Three hours into the drive, Henk pulled to the side of the two-lane road near a creek surrounded by miles of banana trees. He turned off the engine and finally shared his

side of the story.

“After your mother asked for the divorce, we went our separate ways. I stayed in Brazil and she moved to the Netherlands with you and your brother. I was devastated. I tried many times to contact you through letters but I never received a reply. I lost track of time and didn’t know your whereabouts. Sometimes I feel I didn’t try hard enough to find you and your brother. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you. I hope you will forgive me.”

As I listened to the pain in Henk’s voice, the many why’s I had asked about Henk no longer mattered. While I wallowed in my pain of life without a father, I never thought about the agony of my dad’s life without a son. I realized Henk had missed me more than

I had missed him.

“Dad, I accept your apology but it is unnecessary. I’m so grateful we met and I love you!” I told him.

Later that day I made a pact with myself. If I ever became a dad, I would do whatever it took to be a hands-on, involved dad for two reasons. One reason was an unselfish one. I would not want my children to experience the life I had without a father. The second was a selfish one. I would never want to experience the emotional pain Henk endured in a life without all of his children.

Today, I am proud to have fulfilled my pact as a father to three boys, who are now adults.

Henk passed away in 1995. Although my relationship with him only lasted twelve years, I have many fond father/son memories I still cherish today.

But I still miss him.

Links to Hogan Hilling

Hogan’s Website

Hogan’s Blog

Hogan’s Twitter

Hogan’s Facebook Fan Page

Larry Hagner Links

Check out a free chapter from: THE DAD’S EDGE on UNLIMITED PATIENCE HERE

The Dads Edge Book

Check out this free resource on: CONNECTION WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Check out this free resource on:  CONNECTION WITH YOUR KIDS


larry hagner

Larry Hagner: The Man Behind the Good Dad Project

“Absorb what is useful; discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.”
-Bruce Lee

The surface doesn’t always reflect what is really deep underneath. Truth: we don’t know what experiences someone brings to the table when we meet them. Nothing more real can be said about Larry Hagner’s story than that. To meet Larry, one would not know, first hand, his tumultuous childhood.

The Childhood

Raised by a single mom, Larry’s father left the picture when he was nine months old. After this, Larry recalls his adopted father entering his life at the age of 4, hence the name Hagner, as a good person who drank a lot. This same scenario would continue with the other men Larry would know as significant male figures as a child. Struggling internally with the fact that he did not really know his biological father, Larry finally had the chance at the age of 12. Unfortunately, this exchange did not have the positive result Larry had hoped for.

Hitting rock bottom at the young age of twelve

Larry’s experience meeting his biological father sent him into a tail-spin: he failed 8th grade (straight F’s-that’s hard to do!) and continued to gain weight. In another life scenario that could have gone completely wrong, Larry had the fortitude to turn it around. This time, one of his mom’s husbands, a former bodybuilder, businessman and abusive alcoholic, asked him if “he was sick and tired of being a fat ***” (sorry, it’s a family show). With that, Larry started working out early in the mornings and eating better. Losing weight and becoming more fit in high school, Larry’s self-esteem sky-rocketed. This confidence echoed and continued into college. Again, Larry took the positive he could find in a truly negative situation.

Behind every great man, there is a wonderful, amazing, strong women shaking their head and laughing

After meeting his beautiful wife, Jessica, at college (you’ve got to listen to the podcast for this story-it’s a riot), Larry ventured on to begin a family of his own. Only, it terrified him. Larry was so afraid that because of his own tumultuous experiences with father figures, that he had no clue how to be a father himself. He entered his first foray into fatherhood with trepidation: he became distant from his new son. After a heart-to-heart with Jess, Larry knew things had to change. He had to learn to get past his past. (Of course, three kids later, he’s got this dad thing down!)

The creation of the Good Dad Project came from hitting the bottom

It was this, as well as one final incident in which he lost his temper with his then 3-year-old son, that The Good Dad Project was born. Larry wanted a way to connect with other dads who felt the struggle between being a good man and being a great dad. This project spread like wildfire; delivering listeners and readers from all walks of life a place to share their struggles and their triumphs. Lesson: our experiences do not have to define us. We choose what we want to keep from our past and what we wish to discard.

Free Resources:

Check out a free chapter from: THE DAD’S EDGE on UNLIMITED PATIENCE HERE

The Dads Edge Book

Check out this free resource on: CONNECTION WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Check out this free resource on:  CONNECTION WITH YOUR KIDS


If you enjoyed this episode Larry Hagner: The Man Behind the Good Dad Project . Leave your comments below as we would love to hear your thoughts so we can continue to provide you with content you enjoy.

Joel Louis

Creating a Career and Life that Work for You with Joel Louis

Joel Louis on work/life balance, pursuing your dreams, finding your passion in your career, and doing it all while giving 100% to your family…enjoy!

What Joel Louis has to say about being laid off

You’re panicked. You’ve lost your job and you look around your house to see your beautiful family, the home you’ve built with so many memories and now it seems like it might be in jeopardy if you don’t find a new avenue for income. It’s one of life’s curve balls. Yes, you’ve contacted your business network and put feelers out there for job opportunities, but there’s a little ache in your heart because you want to do something more with your life.

So, maybe the job loss isn’t necessarily a negative. Maybe it’s an opportunity to do what you have really wanted to do with your life and your career. Think about it. Even if you haven’t been in the position of losing a job, maybe you simply would like to step out of the corporate world and into entrepreneurship.

Now is the time

What do you do to identify what business to start? Find ways to add value and identify a need. Not only will this satisfy your desire to be your own boss, but it will also allow you to create the type of lifestyle for your family. The key is just to start. Even if it’s thirty to sixty minutes a day, work on your business idea to start developing your entrepreneurship. Yes, it may take a few sacrifices (cutting expenses), but in the end, living the life you want is definitely worth the shift.

Become a part of a community

It might help to become part of a community of like-minded individuals (you know, like The Good Dad Project!) that help to push you when you need it. Surrounding yourself with people who think like you builds you up and makes you more successful. Not only that, but it helps when you go through the struggles of building your business or finding that work-life balance to be able to share ideas.  Remember, too, that this is going to take patience. It’s going to take effort every day, not just a bit here and there.

Start your day off right!

So why not start every day off right? Your morning routine will be critical in making sure your dream is a success. Start with what works for you be it mediation, exercise, etc. and then, once you’ve gotten to your office, knock out the most important item on your to-do list. That way, it’s done and everything else is secondary.

Leave your legacy and find your balance

And, of course, the reason you are doing this is for your family. Many times we struggle to make sure we are paying enough attention to both work and our spouse and children. The key is to make your work fit your life. But most importantly, it’s important for your kids to see you continuing to develop yourself. In other words, be there for your kids, but don’t lose yourself in them. In all of this, remember that you are leaving a legacy. Your kids want you to be happy and will learn from you how to find their own happiness through your example. They will learn how to handle life’s curve balls.

Free Resources:

Check out a free chapter from: THE DAD’S EDGE on UNLIMITED PATIENCE HERE

The Dads Edge Book

Check out this free resource on: CONNECTION WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Check out this free resource on:  CONNECTION WITH YOUR KIDS


Joel Louis Links:


Links Mentioned:

If you enjoyed this episode Joel Louis on Create a Career and a Life that Work for You let us know. Leave your comments below as we would love to hear your thoughts so we can continue to provide you with content you enjoy.