Here's a little something I wrote about my father-in-law for the Casablanca blog:
As writers we strive to create unforgettable characters, and sometimes we meet people who are so unique, so singular that we realize we could never make up something better than what’s right in front of us. Richard Force was just that kind of person. His life spanned many adventures—including a stint as a carnival worker and service to his country in World War II as a member of the prestigious Flying Tigers, during which he was shot down over occupied China and spent a month hiding in rice fields until he was rescued. He never ate rice again.
After the war that took the life of his older brother, Richard returned home to Indiana, married his childhood sweetheart, fathered six children (mine is the fifth Force of nature), and went to work building bridges for the railroad in the Midwest. He took great joy in his ten grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was one of the funniest, most outrageous people I’ve ever met—a true character in every sense of the word. And when I think of him, I’ll remember living near them in Florida and how he came running any time I needed help with my kids when my husband was deployed with the Navy. Our relationship was all about razzing each other on a wide variety of topics, ranging from who was a better Euchre player (definitely him, but I can only admit that now that he’s gone) to whether the Cubs or the Red Sox were baseball’s most cursed team (I finally prevailed on that one thanks the 2004 Sox). I’ll never forget mentioning that I was the only woman in the Force family who can’t sew like a professional. “You,” he said, “have other talents.” I certainly hope he was referring to my writing, but knowing his wicked sense of humor, I was afraid to ask! I loved him, and I’ll miss him.
The road trip out and back was fairly smooth. The kids are great travelers as they've been road-tripping with us since they were babies. Back in the day, we had to bring car seats and pack-n-plays as well as two rowdy dogs. These days, it's all about electronics: iPods, iTouches, PSPs, cell phones and a huge bag of chargers to keep all the gadgets going. We also took along my dad's Garmen, the first time we've traveled with the aide of GPS technology. We named her Lola, and Dan finally found a woman who bitches at him more than I do. He argued with her all the way to Indiana and back again! I got wife of the year points by allowing him to listen to the Indy 500 on the radio for FOUR HOURS. Zoom, zoom, zoom...
It was great to spend time with our Indiana family as well as the large group of cousins and friends that six siblings accumulate along the way. I also enjoyed watching my son Jake, the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family, chase his older cousin's babies. He loved that he finally got the chance to play the role of the BIG cousin. On the way back, we drove the full 16-hour, 950-mile trek in one very long day. What seemed like a great idea in eastern Pennsylvania became a bit precarious by eastern Connecticut. But we made it safe and sound and were glad to be home.
For those of you keeping track, yes this has really been a hell of a year for my family. But while we were away, my father got a clean bill of health from his neurologist, closing the final loop on his January head injury. And July 1 marks the start of the second half of the year, the same day Love at First Flight hits stores. Let's hope it's the start of a positive, productive, PEACEFUL second half of 2009! Nowhere to go but up!