Edna, my maternal grandmother, the ex-vaudeville trooper, alongside her first born, Jack. Look, she's pregnant with Betty, my mother. She's lost her dancer's figure, but doesn't really mind because nothing ever stops that fiesty woman from doing precisely what she pleases.
This is how he looked when I first met him. "Tommy, this is your uncle Jack," my mother said.
Jack gave me a penetrating look, which was unnerving because I had never been so intensely scrutinized. It didn't seem to my little boy's mind an entirely friendly examination. He was distant. I knew we'd never be close, even though we were blood relatives.
Looking back, his coolness likely came from perceiving in me traces of my father, Mike, who so terribly abused his beloved sister. Years later my mother told me that many times Uncle Jack threatened to take his baseball bat and teach Mike a bone-breaking and bloody lesson. But they told him, "No, Jackie, leave that miserable bastard alone. With your luck you'll end up in prison, and Mike will just go on as usual."
Jack felt that guys like Mike seem to always get away with everything they do. As if from birth they feel entitled to hurt people. It's in their blood, it is who they ARE, and they're just hell-bent on continuing. The world just steps aside for the man who knows where he's going, eh?
In bound ledgers Jack wrote short stories, and long narrative poems in complex rhyme schemes. But he never showed them to anyone, not even to Lucy, the girl he married. He played violin and piano, and sang in a magnificent, soaring tenor. He'd inherited a multitude of artistic and intellectual gifts from the ancient Joyce clan of County Galway in Ireland, but nevertheless seemed deeply troubled.
On April 18th, 1960, Jack Joyce disappeared. Everyone thought suicide was the most likely explanation. Perhaps one night he jumped from the Mahoning River bridge. Or maybe he decided to drop everything and start a new life in another country.
These things happen.