Jack lost his mother from cancer when he was 10 and was rejected by a vain father who'd just remarried without telling his young bride that, besides the baby girl in his arms, he had three other children – all boys.
Jack was my dad, turned street urchin during the Great Depression, who camped most nights at houses of those feeling sorry for him and his older brothers. He delivered papers by day to theatre moguls such as Mr Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn, and never had time for self-pity. He ate well-balanced meals via boxed lunches, his payment as an extra on film sets. And he was a busker with the Farmers Market band, reimbursed for his time and trouble in fruit and veg, that is, till the band leader caught wind of him being tone deaf and unable to play a single note on key.
Dad entered the Army Air Corps at the ripe old age of 17.5 years old. He'd crop dusted in his youth and knew how to fly but lied on an intake form. The draft age began at 18; but, at the tail-end of WWII, the US military was desperate for flyers and didn't check authentications too thoroughly. Soon this flying ace found himself commissioned to fly round-trip from Newport to Cairo, transporting goods to servicemen overseas. One harrowing adventure I was told as a child was when Dad ended up abandoned with his men on a small raft at sea after their DC-3 went down with double engine failure. He and his small crew, consisting of navigator, co-pilot and extra crewman, became newsworthy survivors when found three days later--all feeling that they were goners and would most certainly be adrift on the Pacific until dying of dehydration and starvation. But mayday logistics Dad had called in just before going down had been miraculously heard and recorded.
No, Jack did not go gently into that good night and was a difficult man in many ways, especially for children to know and understand as he hadn't had much patience with them. Nor did he understand their often demanding, short-sighted and silly ways. Regardless, he was one who was true to his word and ever the maverick for a good cause. You would not want this man for an enemy. Yet if he met you and liked the ‘cut of your jib’, as he'd often say, you would be his friend for life.
Jack was a man of his own time and caused me a lot of pain growing up in mine. Yet, if truth be told, I loved him just the same. I only wish he could have remained on this planet a little while longer -- waiting for his daughter to grow older and wiser -- then we could have toasted and celebrated life together on this day, his birthday.
Cheers, Dad and Proost!