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Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: Three Dads Have I
By Sherry A. Jackman
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My biological father (Mr. Busk) was an alcoholic sailor, injured aboard ship; and, at the time of my birth, was in Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Illinois, recovering from his injuries. He reportedly came to California in 1946 looking for me. However, after meeting my half-brother Scott who was born November 15, 1946, I am sure Mrs. Busk was expecting Scott at the time they traveled to California to see me. My mom and I only have second-hand information from a relative, because by then she had already married my step-father (Miles, who raised me), also a sailor, and we were living in Yakima, Washington.
Miles is the only dad I knew and I didn’t realize he was not my birth father, until as a teenager, I found my hospital baby bracelet with the last name of Chapman on it. My mom quickly explained the circumstances to me. She did not want me to look up Mr. Chapman and have him rudely explain I wasn’t related. It seems Mr. Chapman’s dad was a merchant seaman from Michigan and someone to be feared. At least that’s what my mom gave as her reasons for not moving to Michigan after she married John Chapman in Missouri and he joined his unit in the U.S. Army and went off to fight in World War II. Even though Miles is not my blood father, he thinks of himself that way. Thus, it’s an extremely sensitive subject, and not one Mom and I can discuss in front of him, as they have stayed married for 61 ½ years. Therefore, I don’t know if she ever saw John Chapman much after her wedding day. I do know that she got the military allotment checks due her as his wife and she worked in offices to supplement that income. Even though she was only 15 at the time she got married, she was able to get a job, as she was mature for her age.
My mom met Miles through her younger sister, Bernice. They were watching a parade in downtown San Francisco when Bernice saw Miles and somehow or other got invited on a date with him. When it came time to go for the date, Bernice refused to go with Miles unless my Mom went along. I don’t recall who the other sailor was that went with them. I know it wasn’t my birth father, as he was on an entirely different ship and was a radioman, while Miles was in refrigeration. When Mom and Miles were dating, he often carried me on his shoulders. In the 1940s, baby diapers were cloth and rubber pants were scarce. Somehow or other I managed to water the back of Miles’ neck, a story I have heard my parents repeat many times. I don’t know whether part of the fable was that he married my mom to get even with me for soaking him, or for some other reasons.
Miles was a good provider. We always had plenty to eat. I recall the varied foods we ate: horse meat, rabbits my dad raised and butchered, and lots of green beans. One year I helped clean and snap close to 80 pounds of them for canning. It was years before I could resume eating green beans. When raising our own beef in the mid sixties, we had one well-marked heifer with big black spots under her eyes, who we think got boy crazy, cause she ran off—twice. The first time the herd she got in with was just across the river, so Dad got her home by himself. The second time the people had moved their herd and claimed they didn’t have her. I remember being off work and having to tromp around in a strange cow pasture to fetch her home. This time Dad butchered her and aged her for a month. She tasted fabulous—we always said she had to after all the trouble she caused us.
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