I grew up in a family with a mysterious character called Uncle Joe in our background.
Uncle Joe was my grandfather’s younger brother. The story was that as a young man he argued with his father and as a result disappeared. What they argued about we have never been able to ascertain. But no one in the family saw him alive again.
I recall my father saying that as a kid his dad would take him down to the local park and wander around among the homeless men looking to see if Uncle Joe was among them.
I remember my aged Aunts once saying with a degree of glee as if this was a fanciful family myth: I wonder what happened to Uncle Joe.
We knew his birthdate so we had an idea of his age but no one knew what happened to him or where he went. The story was that he had gone to Queensland and died there.
It wasn’t until a cousin researching the family tree was able to locate a record of him so we knew that in 1919 he was alive and living in the records of the police station in Tamworth. He was a vagrant and of course homeless. We also discovered that at one time he was incarcerated in Maitland Gaol for indecent exposure.
The interesting thing about the discovery of Uncle Joe, we still don’t know where he died or where he is buried, was that within the family there was a sense of relief and excitement that he had been found. Well partially found at any rate.
It was as if a family mystery had been solved. Even more fascinating was the discovery of a photograph of him, a police one at that, and when looking at him the resemblance to my older brother is quite remarkable.
Sadly all this came after my dad had passed away. Only one of my dad’s siblings survives him of the eleven children their parents had, good Irish Catholics.
I think every family has some mystery within it and a character who demands to be researched and discovered as having led a life so very different from every one else.
I have often wondered if Uncle Joe missed his family and the connection that affords all of us, that sense of belonging.
I’m wondering if other readers have similar experiences within their respective families.
Do you have a similar experience?
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