Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Emma watched me as I opened the envelope and began to read. One minute later, having made sense of the information before me, I spoke, 'It's so... it's so horribly predic-'. I could speak no more.

Just over two weeks ago, I established that my Dad's missing brother - last seen in the north east of England around 1980 - had died 260 miles south, in Islington (North London) in 1985. From this, I sought the death certificate.

One week ago, I acquired details of the missing brother's burial location - a public grave, also in Islington.

Today, a copy of the death certificate arrived.

Mindful of my decision to share this information with my Dad, I'm experiencing massively mixed emotions at present.

In the past couple of hours I've dismissed the deceased as an arsehole, I've felt for the deceased as a rootless lost soul, I've wondered about the conflicting addresses (both flats) that were recorded as his 'place of death' and his 'usual address'. Who was the occupant of his place of death, and what - if any - was their relationship. But most of all, the thing that sits with me is the recorded 'place of birth' of my late uncle - surely only a casual acquaintance or a workmate would have suggested 'Newcastle' - the Geordie lilt is perceived in those from far beyond Tyneside.

Looking ahead, I can see that this amateur investigation, this domestic sleuthing, can go on for as long as I want it to go on - I'm wondering about the exact contents of coroners' reports and the likelihood of my gaining access to police archives. But despite that, and really most fundamentally, I'm wondering whether the death certificate should mark the end of this matter... something that started out as a truly naive pursuit of answers to questions that my Dad had sat on for almost thirty years, but to which I had been unwilling to let go.

Next month, for my own benefit, I will visit London.
UPDATE: At Emma's suggestion, I've just shared all of this recently acquired information with my sister. She is single-mindedly against the idea of sharing any of it with Dad... 'I just don't see what good it could do'. When I mentioned that I would want to know if I were Dad, she commented 'The thing is... you're not Dad'. Discuss.


Huw said...

He'll want to know, he just might not want to be told, if that makes sense to you.

I don't have an email address for you anymore. If you get in touch, there's a faint chance I could help.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

'massively mixed emotions' - you're grieving, Shane. Your sister will be, too. Your desire to share the information with your dad, and hers to protect him from it, are each parts of your own grieving process. I suspect you will tell your dad, because you need to, because you're seeking some kind of resolution of all this. Also the news of the death of someone close is one of the fastest-travelling kinds of news, generally speaking; we have an urge, an impulse to pass it on, share it, make it real. And your uncle was close, always part of your life and your family, even though you never knew him. I don't see telling your dad as a 'good' or 'bad' thing to do, just as a thing you will almost certainly do because you want to. Which is fine. You need to be kind to yourself for a while. I hope Emma is dispensing hugs at regular intervals.

PI said...

I'm glad you have discussed it with your sister and think it won't harm to give it more thought and not rush things. Often time makes a decision easier to make - things become clearer. Good luck with it.

having my cake said...

Horrible. As they all said, give yourself time to digest the information before you make any decisions regarding future actions.

Shane said...

Chaps, you're all lovely and a bit clever, and I appreciate that very much.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I dunno, but I think your sister is right. As far as I can tell, Dad has not evinced much interest in knowing anything about the poor soul. To tell Dad that, in the end, his brother was an alky might do more harm than good. On the other hand, put it this way:

I'm glad I don't have your burden.

birdy said...

Sad, horrible - Shane I'm so sorry you are going through this.

And what Zinnia said.