This is what I know of my grandfather. His name was Joe. “Grandpa Joe” I heard him called once, but that was wishful thinking, not something anyone actually called him. He was a draftsman by trade and, despite being very good at it, had trouble keeping a job. Joe was my Aunt Phyllis’ brother, but strangely, he did not share her Italian accent. I’m told that he abused his wife, yelling and hitting his way through his frustrations. My mother was often in the middle and my aunt, nine years my mother’s junior, was oblivious to it all. Finally, after my parents married, he left, or my grandmother left him and his frustrations only worsened. I’m not sure they knew it then, and I’m not sure we know it now, but he was likely mentally ill and undiagnosed. He continued to live in Phyllis’ house as they always had, and this caused hurt feelings and relationships to strain.
I saw him in wedding photos and in frames at my aunt’s house, but never in person. If I did, I certainly don’t remember. I do remember that voice though, booming from the other side of the door.
Years of frustration shook that door for what seemed like an eternity and then, in a blink, it slid away, like discarded skin. After this, Joe no longer lived in his sister’s house. I heard he was lost or wandering. I assume he was alone. My father and uncle identified his body, found alone, under a bridge somewhere. Bludgeoned and beaten. “He must have pissed someone off,” I heard someone say.
Joe died that day and while I would never know my grandfather, I had a front row seat for what happened next.