Chief Banks passed away last week. He was a chief steward in the Navy when he retired to a long, happy after-Navy life with his beloved wife, Elizabeth, but we met him when my Dad was a brand new admiral and Chief Banks was a Seaman Third Class. We were stationed in Argentia, Newfoundland. He was green as grass, newly married, young, earnest and baffled by having been sent from his home in warm Virginia to cold Newfoundland to serve in the admiral's quarters.
I was twelve. Chief Banks helped to raise me. He was with our family, on and off, for twelve more years. He saw me off on dates, gently scolded me when I sassed my mother (those were sassy years, I'm afraid), gave me good advice about boys, and even recognized my first husband before I did. He told me later that as soon as he met Jim, he thought, "That's the one she will marry." He came to my wedding but gently refused to come to the reception in the Officers Club - despite my urging, he said it wouldn't be fitting.
When, after many years of trying, Chief Banks and his wife realized that they would never have children of their own, they flew to Korea to adopt a little girl of about two - no one knew exactly how old she was. Kwon was the sweetest child ever. At the orphanage, they warned Ben and Elizabeth never to take food away from her as she had had to compete for it in the orphanage; but within two weeks, she was offering us all food from her plate. She knew she was safe and loved. For those few years, she became like a baby sister to me - her little hand offered trustingly just melted my heart.
One day, I arrived in the kitchen in Japan, where we were stationed at the time, to find Chief Banks lifting out of the oven a big pan of bacon. Bacon? In the oven? I didn't know one could bake bacon. He explained that he fried bacon in a pan for our family because that's what we were used to but, for his own family, he baked it. They liked it better that way.
This week, with a heavy heart, I baked a batch of bacon in his honor. That may seem like a paltry way to say goodbye but, for me and Chief Banks, it was fitting.
Labels: Chief Banks