Ghosts of ….
It hit Jesse and me at the same time, there were 9 vaults carrying names of the deceased, but the family had had only 8 members, right?!
My Uncle said nothing as we gave our find some voice, and we began to read the names.
Jacob, Adelaide, Jacob JR, Stephen Francis, Frank, Mary, Joseph, and…….Joseph
I froze, There it was Joseph Froes with a birth date, and date of death some nine years later, I looked across the room, there was the other vault, with a Joseph Froes and birth date 2 years later than the first Joseph, and no date of death!
I looked questioningly up at my Uncle.
He started to explain, his voice low and hushed.
“Adelaide had had twins, Mary had had a twin brother, who was named Joseph.”
“Poor Joseph was born with what today we call Down syndrome. Despite custom, Joseph was kept home, where others like him may have been sent away to institutions. Though Joseph needed constant care, he was the heart and soul of poor Adelaide. But his special needs, along with those his 5 other young siblings required, was too much.”
“Adelaide finally had to be committed to a county asylum to rest and attempt to preserve her sanity!”
“Poor Francis tried her best to raise the others, but Joseph was a handful!”
“Then one night in the dead of winter, Joseph slipped away from the house through the cellar door in his father’s workshop.
The door locked behind him. His small lifeless body was found the next day, laying frozen neath a stone bench by the garden. It had been the eve of his tenth birthday, and it was believed he had about gone looking for presents!”
“Adelaide was beside herself when she learned of this, though she was not told until after he had been laid out in the vault…., and she slipped a bit deeper into insanity, but she insisted on having another child, I think she wanted to replace joseph!”
“Jacob, though fearing for his wife’s health, agreed, against the doctor’s advice!”
“Then, Adelaide became pregnant, and another male child was born!”
“ Adelaide insisted that Joseph would be his name! But after the boy’s birth, she discovered it was not the same, the void left in her soul with the loss of her sweet innocent Joseph could not be filled by this smiling, happy youth!”
“Adelaide began to slip out of reason, talking to an unseen, unanswering child!”
“Walking room to room looking for her dead son, Joseph!”
“She took to visiting the cellar and attic, staying, praying for hours on end!”
“Then one night Jacob woke to find his wife gone from the bed!”
“He searched the house fruitlessly, then he went outside where it was raining cats and dogs. He found Adelaide sitting on the same stone bench where they had found the boy. She was clad only in her nightgown, chilled to the bone, totally out of her mind!”
“She was admitted back into the asylum, where she perished some months later, a victim of a broken heart!”
I said, not being able to come up with anything else to say!
Jesse just stared.
I could see it in his eyes that his mind was working overtime.
“So no-one ever mentions the first Joseph, and his memory was a secret, a burden everyone carried and kept to themselves!”
“No wonder everyone was so unhappy!”
I thought to myself…
“What would it have it been like to grow up with that hanging over you?”
We asked a few questions, but my uncle had no answers other than what he had told us.
Though It certainly filled in a few pieces of the puzzling mystery, it left us with many more unanswered questions!
I became silent, thinking some very deep thoughts as Jesse tried to ask a few more random questions, but receiving no satisfactory answers to em…
Soon me uncle turned the conversation to matters of the house, and what they were going to do next to get it ready for the church to take over.
He obviously felt the matter was closed; the problem, if it truly still existed, would soon belong to someone else...
As my Uncle and Cousin, Jesse talked they moved off a little way…
I stayed behind; my mind still abuzz with it all!
I believed that what transpired over the weekend was more than a little “ problem”!
But I could see uncle’s point, what could we rationally do about it. Especially since it wasn’t like we were selling the house to someone, it was owned by the Church now!
So they could deal with it.
Considering how I felt about the issues of Frances’s will, I made meself agree to let the sleeping dog just lie!
……. Our Own Making