Lissa Ann Forbes
most of this story is based on fact and real feelings, it is the product
of a fertile imagination, projected into the future, and the ending is not
true, but symbolizes a significant truth for me.
I took my final passage from Colorado to Arizona. Dad, known as
Lawrence G. Forbes, died on Father’s Day, 2012. He was 95 years old.
It was a journey of mixed emotions. Yes, of course, I was sad and yes, I
cried. He was honor, duty, courage, and life itself. I had always looked
up to him, respected him. Maybe that’s what happens when you don’t
know a person too well. It’s easy to hold them up on that
When Lori called, she had said he’d left me
something—something special. Something he’d contemplated for the
last few years. I wondered what it was. Nine hundred miles in a car
alone. I had plenty of time to reflect.
He was a quiet man. Rarely liked to talk about himself. It was
hard to pin him down about what he really thought and even harder, nye
impossible, to expose his emotions.
Larry, as all is friends and family called him, was frugal. Spent
his money wisely and always seemed to have plenty. We used to tease him,
especially during the Christmas wrapping ritual, that he used such short
pieces of Scotch tape … what was he saving the pennies for? He’d
always say he just didn’t want to run out. When I was ten, I remember
being embarrassed because I had stacks of Christmas presents when my
cousins only had a few. In later years, when I shared this with my
father, he said, “I wish you had told me that years ago, it would have
saved me a lot of money!” His eyes sparkled and I smiled.
was consistent and loyal. Mostly cheerful, in a subdued sort of way, but
occasionally he’d do that raised-eyebrow thing that said louder than
any words ever could, I don’t approve, or how could you? And he loved his wife, Phyllis, of
fifty-six years, the classy woman I called Mom.
And oh, that twinkle in his eyes. Mom used to say, “Your father has
those laughy eyes.” We loved them. There was something uplifting about
seeing that twinkle. Unfortunately, it had become a bit cloudy
over the past few years. I could tell the end was coming. But he
continued with his dry sense of humor that always made me smile.
He’d begun to move much more slowly, so much more deliberately.
He couldn’t hear anymore, so conversing became impossible, but he did
send those emails informing me of the latest trip to Laughlin, or the
West Point class reunion or he’d query me on my choice to move and had
I evaluated the financial ramifications.
Although communication was seldom, I will miss knowing he’s
there. That was my overwhelming thought as I made that final journey.
The weather changed along with my emotions. The sun shone and against the
mountains was a full rainbow that I viewed in the six-inch frame of my
rearview mirror. I chuckled, thinking about the college
boys calling out, “Dirty old man,” as Dad and I hugged in front of
the dorm when I moved in. I remember him saying with those laughy eyes, “Don’t
young girls have fathers anymore.” Then I hit rain and the tears dropped in the same big
droplets. As I crossed the mountain pass near Montrose, Colorado, I was
chilled to feel an orphan again. The snowflakes fell softly on my
windshield. And as I got closer to Arizona, the warmth returned to my
heart as the sun reflected a cheery face.
I was lucky. I was able to know this man. I called him Dad from
the time I was two when he splashed water on me in the small, inflated
plastic pool in our back yard.
I wondered, What's in the box waiting for me.
I arrived in Arizona in the prescribed thirteen and a half hours
it takes me to drive from Lafayette to Mesa with only pit stops for gas
and snacks and potty breaks.
I walked in the door with a shroud of sadness as well as an
encompassing anticipation. Lori put her arms around me and asked if I
was okay. I fell into a puddle. She held me with understanding. We
hadn’t gotten particularly close over the years since she and Dad
married, but she was kind and Dad loved her. That was clear. She looked
after him and for that I was grateful.
She brought the box out right away. It was wrapped in brown
postal paper. The letters LAF printed in block letters. My
initials. For the name I’ve carried for 55 of my 57 years, Lissa Ann
I asked if she minded if I take some time alone. No problem. The
spare room was available. The one I stayed in at Christmas eight years
before. I closed the door,
sat on the bed, hesitating for a moment and thought, this will change
my life, for the second time. The first was when I found my adoption
papers with my birthmother’s name.
I tore off the brown paper. The box was one of those plastic Rubbermaid
containers with a blue lid, the size of a shoebox. The lid popped open as
though some sort of gas or carbonation had built up inside. There
wasn’t much—some papers, a picture of a man and a woman at a much
earlier time, and one of Dad’s medals from his years in the Army.
Although the medals weren’t terribly important to him, he knew they
were to me—that I felt they signified his life’s work. It meant a
lot that he thought to leave me one.
I finally picked up the papers. One was a scrap, torn at the
edges, and in his handwriting it said, “Keep writing. It’s very
good, not only the content but I like your style.” Some other papers
outlined some of the stories of his life … yes, many things I'd never
heard before … something I’d asked for repeatedly over the years as I
developed my publishing business, but had resigned myself to never
getting. Another was my original birth certificate—it confirmed my
birthmother’s name, Lieselotte Inge Bernhardt, which I'd learned years
before. She was German as I had
always been told I was. I remembered in an instant that Mom had always
introduced me as her special Deutscheskind (German child) when I was
little. The space that stated the father’s name said … I gasped
… Lawrence Gordon Forbes. My eyes welled up with tears. They
overflowed as though too many had been poured into too small a vessel.
All this time, since I was old enough to know what adopted meant, I
wondered who my real father was—and there he was guiding my life every
day. And in the bottom of the box, the picture of the two of them
together, him and my birthmother, at a park.
The puzzle was solved, the last piece inserted to complete the
panorama, and I sobbed until my eyes puffed up and my chest heaved, in
gratitude for the man I call ... Dad.
love you, Dad, I whispered ... and I snapped the box shut.
her what she means to you!
could you give your mother that is more personal than a journal with a
picture of her and her children on the cover? Give her something no
one else will give ... her own custom journal.
Add a custom journal to
the Write from the Inside
Booklet and a Can Your Life: The Key to Self-Preservation
audio tape and you get a Catch Your Life Stories Starter Kit. The
booklet and tape will help trigger memories, show how to capture the
details and entertain and inform, and the journal is a place to get it
details click here:
be patient while downloading.
view this document you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader V.5.0.5 or higher.
You may download it using this link:
Write from the Inside
booklet: 14 Triggers for catching those ever elusive, fleeting thoughts,
insights and memories—36 pages of memory sparkers for writing life
stories. $10.00 ea.
Can Your Life: The Key to
audio tape: tools including a guided meditation and stories from my own
life to inspire, motivate, entertain and inform on the craft of catching
life stories and creating a
life treasure. $15.00 ea.
folks are saying:
I have heard or read many of the stories, I loved hearing you tell them.
YOU DO GREAT WORK!"
Crosby, Key Partners, Rock Hill, SC
voice and presentation are wonderfully apt for this type of outreach,
Lissa, and your positive message(s) can only be of help to those who
receive your tapes."
Washburn, Goose Wings Passages, Greensboro, NC