Sherron Forshee & Kenneth Forshee
June 2nd 2019 June 18th 2019
As a family, we have lived very full lives. Traveling with the Army calling the shots was all we knew and thought everyone else lived this way as well. Though the places we lived and the people we met over the years were incredible, it is the everyday things that are sustaining for us. We were not a perfect family but the events that occurred shaped us. Mom & Dad helped us grow into resilient, generous & loving people.
Barbara, Kenton, and I grew up in a household where Mom took care of the home, while Dad did as the Army commanded. It was known to us from a young age that Dad would not always be there. He traveled or worked in a different state than where we lived several times over the years. Mom made sure the money deposited into our account stretched as far as she could make it. Somehow, for nearly 59 years, they made it work.
We lived in California when I was born. My early memories include Daddy holding me above his head when we lived in Hawaii. I was the only child at that time and had all the attention. He smiled a lot back then. He lost that ready ability after Vietnam but regained it when dementia set in. Dad was a Career Counselor in the Army and was forevermore encouraging us to try our hand at this job or that school. In the month before he died, as sick as he was, he was still at it. There was a poster at the Veterans Home where he lived that said, “Only You Can Prevent Falls!” In his halting speech, several times, he tried to talk me into applying for what he thought was a “job.”
Not everything was rosy with Dad. His frequent absences made it hard for him to know our routine at home. He wanted things done a certain way when he was there while Mom had her own rules for us. The PTSD he suffered transferred to us having symptoms of that trauma as well. Quiet was the rule at dinner when he was home while talking about our day was welcomed when he was not.
Barbara was the middle-child and born in Hawaii. She recalls Daddy taking us to the circus in Ft. Worth, Texas. She also had her first Halloween when we lived near there. Daddy had her by the hand, taking her from house to house with her little bucket for candy. The summer we moved to Atlanta, Dad had a part-time job delivering AutoTrader magazines to convenience stores. Barbara went with him to help and would often get a treat of doughnuts and a drink. After her son, Brandon was born, Dad went with them both to the beach in Ft Myers, Florida. Walking with them both on the sand was heaven. In those moments, she was the only child.
Other memories were not so enjoyable. Dad did not approve of Barbara’s first marriage choice. He threatened to not come to the wedding, causing her much heartache. It was only at the last minute did he decide to go. Barbara has mentioned often over the years of Dad’s leaving us. Even though work was the reason, she still hated that feeling of seeing him walk out of the door.
Kenton was the youngest and born in Texas after Dad came back from Vietnam. His best memory was their trip to Italy just before Dad was unable to travel due to his failing health. Dad loved being in new places, seeing new countries, and learning new things. Everything was beautiful for him if it was somewhere else. Kenton loved showing Dad the places he had been when he was in the Air Force, and Dad drank it all in. Dad also loved seeing people he knew when he traveled. Visiting our family friend, Ed in London was a great treat. Kenton and Dad saw the movie Titanic when it opened in theaters. That was an enjoyable event as well.
As with his sisters, not all memories of Dad were amazing. When Barbara and I were small, Dad would take us fishing when we lived in New Orleans. Kenton was a baby then but grew up hearing about our fishing expeditions. When he was older, Kenton begged Dad to take him fishing. Dad relented but sat in the car while Kenton drowned worms in a small pond nearby. Disappointing, to say the least, but there were many other disheartening moments as the only boy child of his soldier father.
Mom teaching Barbara and me our numbers and colors by playing cards with us was an early recollection. She taught us Rummy and Old Maid before I was six years old. She walked me the few blocks to school when I started first grade. I remember her sewing some of our clothes on her portable Singer Sewing machine. She was there for me when my first husband left and when I brought Jon and Robert to meet my parents two years later. We went on many adventures in the mountains and especially to Bald River Falls. We laughed and cried freely with each other.
Mom also had her authoritarian side. Her home was spotlessly clean. Her rigid training of us in housekeeping skills made sure of that. When she said no, that meant no. When she said maybe, that also meant no. I was fearful of asking for things as a child. Mom’s word was law.
Barbara remembers her taking us to buy school clothes. Mom tried to teach her to sew, but Barbara remembers crying more than sewing! Wedding shopping trips with Mom was also a fond recollection for Barbara. They both went to the store to buy the flowers in the arrangement on the alter displayed here today. They had fun putting it together. Barbara has fond memories of Mom playing paddy-cake with Brandon and Nikki when they were both pre-schoolers. Mom also always cut our hair and gave us home-perms.
The arguments our parents had left their mark on Barbara’s mind. There was some conflict over buying a house at one time. Dad wanted to, but Mom did not, preferring to stay in the mobile home we had. There was a big row over it when at some point during the dispute, Mom sailed one of those See & Say Farmer Says toys at Dad like a Frisbee hitting the bedroom door just as he got in and slammed it shut. We were all stunned by this behavior since we were always punished for throwing things at each other.
Remembering the times when Mom would take him to McDonald’s while his sisters were in school is a fond memory of Kenton’s. In later years, watching British TV shows was a favored pastime. Before moving to Maryville, there was a large wildflower patch in their yard purposely planted for Mom. Kenton would take pictures of these beautiful flowers and put them on Mom’s computer for her to enjoy year ’round. She loved it. He also taught her how to work her computer. This valuable skill allowed her to have a view of the world when Dad’s illness prevented them from going places like before.
Kenton also remembers feeling controlled by Mom. She wanted things done her way. He was fearful of disappointing her many times. Her recent decline included her berating him for things he hadn’t done. Knowing a person you love is ill doesn’t make their hurtful words wound you less. Being her primary caregiver during that time was draining.
As a family, we had laughter when Mom scolded Dad about complaining regarding a particular restaurant food. When asked how it was by the server, he glanced at Mom before replying, “We ate it, didn’t we?” We also laughed and sang in the car when we moved from state to state, never knowing what to expect in our surroundings. Tears poured aplenty when Mom was in the hospital for ten months trying to regain her sense of sanity and then again when we watched Dad accept a commendation medal as he retired from the Army. Their last years had many similar moments of laughter and tears.
Our parents were human. They were authentic, and they were as real as you or I. They had their good days and bad, strengths and flaws, shining moments, and glorious failings when it came to parenting. They were the product of their upbringing and what they added to that, just as we are of ours. They improved on their early family life just as we try to improve on the families we brought into the world.
We had days of making ice-cream and folding laundry, learning to drive and failing in relationships, enduring financial hardships, and celebrating career successes. Through all these things and even after death, our parents cared for us. Mom & Dad did what they could with the resources they had and the knowledge they possessed. They loved us… and I believe they still do.
In my memoir- Metaphysical Girl: How I Recovered My Mental Health– Epigenetics is a concept we explore. Beliefs and behaviors can be passed down from generation to generation but without the context of the first-hand experience to tell you why you act the way you do. To learn more about how I saw my family, you can purchase this book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo.