I Didn’t Know The Man

Today, I’m going to tell you all I know about my father, Jack “Junior” Marchman. It won’t take long. I don’t remember him at all, and have only seen a few photographs of him. Checking cemetery records in Sayre Oklahoma, I found he was born on September 29, 1929.

I’ve never asked Mom why they got divorced, and never asked why he allowed Roy Mashburn to adopt me, my brother, Billy, and my sister, Patsy. She never brought it up, and I grew up not giving it a whole lot of thought.

I grew up not knowing whether my biological father was dead or alive. I was Charles Mashburn; Roy Mashburn—for better or worse—was my dad.

Then one day I was visiting my aunt Ada and Uncle Sid, and uncle Sid said he thought I should get in touch with my father. I was twenty-one at the time, and after thinking it over and finding out Uncle Sid had already talked to my father, I headed for Sayre, Oklahoma to introduce Jack Marchman to his oldest son. The visit didn’t go well.

When I met him on that summer day in 1972, “Junior” Marchman was 53 years old and living on welfare in his mother’s—my paternal grandmother, Velma Marchman—house; an old farmhouse that sat among fields of some crop or another outside of Sayre. I don’t know for certain, but I doubt any of the land belonged to either my grandmother or my father. For all I know, they were renting the house. It doesn’t matter.

“Junior” and I sat at the kitchen table while my grandmother sat in the living room crying. She cried the whole time I was there, which turned out to be not very long. My father—I have a hard time referring to him as that, but I guess it is what it is—asked me a few questions about my life. The visit lasted fifteen—maybe twenty—minutes, and I drove away from the little farm house, knowing I would never see my father or grandmother again, and not caring. It had been a mistake going there.

I not only never saw them again, but seldom—I can’t remember ever—thought about them. My father had never tried to be a part of my life and obviously had no desire to be a part of it after our meeting.

I don’t remember why, but sometime in 2003 I asked my mom what my father’s first name was. Yes, I’d forgotten; all I knew was everyone called him Junior. After I got his name, I looked him up on the Internet. The search led me to a Social Security site, and I finally located the name, Jack A. Marchman, in Sayre, Oklahoma. I followed the name, then the town and state, across the page to the far right, and I saw the word, DECEASED.

I was stunned for a moment, but other than that I felt nothing.

Jack Marchman died on December 13, 1997. Sometimes he comes across my mind and I see him sitting across from me at the kitchen table in that old farm house. Sometimes it bothers me; most of the time it doesn’t. I didn’t know the man.

 

9 Comments »

  1. Janet said

    I, at times, find it so sad that families can’t be what God intended for them to be. But I often, in mine and the boys case, just like yours, am so very thankful for sending Terry into our lives. When the boys took his last name in 2008 it was such a great gift; just as Terry has been. Yes, thank God for Men like Terry Jackson and Roy Mashburn!

  2. waynette said

    Most can be a father – fewer can be a dad!

  3. Sherry Mashburn said

    Saddest of all . . . Jack Marchman never got to know his son and what a wonderful man he grew up to be. It was his loss.

  4. Faye said

    This sounds very close to what happened to my oldest grandchild – Sarah. She reached out to her biological father. She had a ‘hole’ in her life and she felt corresponding with him might help take care of it. The first contact was not bad but the next contact that he initiated was not good. Unfortunately for him, he has burned that bridge. She told my son-in-law that he is more like a father to her because he cares. God knows what each child of His needs in life. I am thankful for the people in Sarah’s life that love her deeply and without reservations.

  5. mbwilliams said

    hey, I think you have the gift of easy storytelling, even in difficult tales such as this. My girlfriend has a story somewhat similar to yours, a father estranged with no effort to reach out to his children, and a disappointing reunion. I admire not only your writing ability, but also your honesty in sharing snapshots of your life.

    • MB: Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments on my story. It seems the more I write, the more I become an open book. There are things I can’t tell, of course, but there are many things I can share with the world and hope maybe oyhers can learn from what I’ve seen and done in my life. I like to think I got my “gift” from my grandpa, “Bunk” Stringer. He was my most admired father figure, and the man I would most want to have people say, “You remind me of him.”
      I’m sorry your girlfriend had to go through the bad experience with her father. It leaves a hole that can never be completely filled or mended.
      Thanks again for the kind words. They are the thing that keeps me going.

  6. Frog said

    Charlie
    Some children grow up in the home with a father and never know him. You have had the privilege of knowing many mighty men in your life. Might not have been father figures but they made an impact in your life and molded you into the great man you are today

    • I know that’s true, Ray Brown, but I’ll always wonder what it would have been like to grow up with a “normal” dad. Then again, I know people who grew up with their biological father that went through as much hell–maybe more–than I did.
      It also bothers me that I turned out to be not much better than Junior or Roy. Not the same as them, but just as bad when it was all said and done.

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