Jack’s name was not on my original birth certificate. My “non-ID” from Toledo Crittenden helpfully informed me that my father was a man. Oh, and that he had blue eyes, was a high school drop-out, working class, and Protestant. (That last part is a stretch. I don’t think he was an atheist, but he had no quarter with organized religion. He refused to be baptized.) He must have been from Akron, since that’s where my mother lived.
I got that information in 1980. Not until 1996, however, did I learn in a letter from my mother, Jack’s initials: JR. As in Ewing. That small slice of information was treasured. It meant, as it can only mean to the adopted, that I wasn’t dropped out of a UFO or born in a cabbage patch. I wasn’t an immaculate conception. I already knew I had a mother, of course, but now I had a father. In Akron. Or someplace. It turned out to be Buffalo. . My mother described Jack as “nice looking.”
I learned later from Jack that he and Bob had known each other, but not well. Both were truck drivers. Bob knew all about Jack–and me–but Jack had no idea that his old girlfriend had married Bob or that I even existed. Bob wasn’t about to tell him.
Jack’s family line was poor by the time he was born. He never went beyond the 8th grade. He worked from the time he was 12 or 13 . His first job was unloading slots for a local gambler. He moved up to driving truck, which he did his entire working life with literally millions of safe driving miles….
...Jack taught himself several languages, including fluent Chinese (Mandarin? I don’t know). I once saw him hustle a 30 something Chinese woman at the Buffalo airport…Jack is a big shot in the Masons, the American Legion, the VFW, and the now defunct Veterans of China-Burma…Jack is a voracious reader. He knows everything except how to keep a checkbook. He once called me up to talk about robber barons.
…Jack was and is a New Deal Democrat. His father often warned him never bring home a Republican to darken the family door. His hero is FDR. Jack’s wife was a bigwig in the local Democratic Party and once took him to Washington to meet LBJ. Jack loathes the Bushes. He always votes a straight ticket. In China he met Mao, and had High Tea with Madame Chaing kai-chek. He says that if he’d been Chinese in 1948 he’d have been a “goddamned Communist.”
Jack had lots of stories. In Nanjing, his main base of operation, he said he ran the harbor for awhile and pulled bodies out of the river. Once an old White Russian general chased him around a bakery with an ax, suspecting him of a dalliance with his young wife. Jack soundly denied this activity to the old general– and me- saying one of his drunked up officers had done the deed. Sent to Shanghai for awhile, he helped another soldier bury stolen gold bars under the floorboards of a room at the Hotel New York. Jack didn’t ask and didn’t want to know where they came from. No matter what Jack said to the contrary, I have always believed that I have one or more Chinese siblings. “I’d know if I had a kid,” he’d tell me. I had to remind him that he didn’t know about me until 2000. “That’s different.” Jack promised to take me to the place of my conception, a “motor court” still in operation on the old Akron-Massillon Road. I was in Ohio and he in New York, so it never happened.
Jack knew Jimmy Hoffa and years after Hoffa’s disappearance and “death,” he claimed he ran into the most famous missing person in America in a hotel lobby in Honolulu. In his later years after his wife died, Jack considered himself kind of a chick magnet.
A friend, upon hearing some of Jack’s stories said he sounded like Hunter S. Thompson. Oddly, as he grew older, Jack closely resembled Dr. Thompson.
I think Jack was a great man, but a difficult man. He was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. He was a man’s man, and I suspect a pretty tough act for my brothers to follow. Strangely, I felt from the beginning that I’d fallen right in line behind him. He had, shall I say, disdain for certain wielders of authority, though he could be quite the authoritarian himself sometimes. He took delight in being one of a two-member team who brought a bastard into the world. At a Friday night bingo game at the Amherst VFW Jack introduced me around to his fellow codgers (he was considered a youngster) as his “late in life child.” One of the old timers shook my hand and chuckled, “We’ve been getting quite a few of them lately.”
Marley, I am so sorry for the loss of your father Jack. This is sad to hear. I think a lot of him lives on in you. I am glad you got to know him despite the stupidities of the adoption system. Rest in Peace, Jack.
I am sorry for your loss but so glad you were able to find him. It is dreadful to be part of a social experiment. And I am saddened for all of those who will never know where they came from. Sorry that the generations have turned over for you. That must be sad 🙁
Rest in peace, Jack. Thank you for the gift of my friend, Marley. Now I know how she got that interesting personality. Thinking of you, Marley.
He sounds like he was a terrific man and it’s clear that his legacy lives on in you, Marley. That’s where you get your prodigious smarts, eh?
I am deeply sorry for our loss and am glad that you got ten years with him but am angry it wasn’t more.
He sounds like a hell of a guy, for sure and I bet he was proud of his hell of a daughter.
(((HUGS))) I’m so sorry, Marley.
I am so sorry to hear of your father’s death. He sounds like quite a character who lived a very full life. I am glad that you got to know him, and that he got to know you.
Thanks for sharing a little bit of your Dad with us, Marley. Im glad you were able to get to know him, and I am sorry for your loss.
My most sympathetic condolences on the loss of your father, Jack. Yes, I remember some of the wonderful stories you wrote about him. Quite a man! I’m so glad that you were able to know him.
“I’m proud to be your daughter!” – the best words what you can say to you parents…
Thank you for your story, Marley…
Thank you for sharing the story of your dad. I enjoyed reading about him and am sorry for your loss.
Love ya, Marlez. He sounds like one cool dude.
I am so sorry for your loss, Marls. He sounds like my kind of guy. Our existence as Bastards is unnecessarily complex. May he rest in peace and may you find solace being able to know him.
My deepest sympathy, Marley. I’m glad that you did have a few years with him.
You are so right about adoptees having two familes. The only time I say adoptive or birth is to clarify. Some people still become confused!
Both my mothers and three fathers are gone. My adoptive father was killed in a freak accident while I was two years old. I don’t remember him so there really are three who I missed out on knowing. There is bad along with the good during life but overall I feel more fortunate than the adoptees who have never met a birth family member.
He just looks like a Jack. Thanks for this lovely tribute to him and for letting us know him a bit more. I agree that he appears to survive in you . . .
Marley, your father sounds great! I’m glad you got to know so much about him. My birth parents were similar age-wise to yours–my father may well have been something of a character too–yours was a more generous man, of whom you can well be proud.
My condolences. This is a great tribute. May he rest in peace.
First off I want to say thank you for posting this. I learned things about my grandfather that I never knew. Thank you for honoring your father & my grandfather.
I guess introductions are in honor. I am your neice Jasmine. I just reunited with my fathers side of the family this past January and have met many cousins (some new, some that I knew about) & other family members. I didnt know that I had a Aunt, which is great news. My email is [email protected]. I would love to hear from you.
Hi Jasmine. I’m so glad to hear from you. I’ll be emailing you today or tomorrow probably.
Marley, I am so very sorry for your loss. Black Jack sounds like an excellent nickname for him – such an amazing tribute to an amazing man. Rest in Peace, Jack.
I am sorry for your loss Marley 🙁
Marley, My sympathy on the loss of your father Jack. He sounds like quite the character and I can see why you are proud to be his daughter. I would guess he was pretty proud of you, as well.
I am so glad that you were able to get to know him in spite of the provincial adoption system in our country.
Marley – You are one of my heroes and I am so sorry for the loss of your father and your brothers. Your dad sounds like he was an amazing guy. He must be entertaining the angels up in Heaven.
I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Marley. Your father sounds like a terrific man, and I’m so glad you were able to find him and get to know him.
oh Marley, this is Beautiful, sad, and funny… he sounds so much like you 🙂
I am sure he is proud you are his daughter too.
Marley, I’m so sorry at the passing of your Dad and for all those lost years before you knew him. Given your description of Jack, I couldn’t help but see the “resemblance” between father and daughter. The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Please check the email address you listed on the BN website (************@worldnet.att.net). There’s something I’d like to share with you. Thanks.
Marley, sorry for the loss of your natural father. I loved your tribute to him.
Nice that your niece has made contact with you through this too.
Marley, may Jasmine help to fill some of the void that Jack has left. You have my sympathy & my joy that you & Black Jack were able to get to know each other. He will always live within you.