Of course they did try to find them so did the police

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Of course they did try to find them. So did the police. So did our neighbours who had a huge network of relatives all over England and America. But they had vanished without trace. And by the time I tracked them down - twenty-five years later, in London - Agnes was dead and Rose was dying in a hospice for the destitute in Southwark. The scraps of information I gathered about their lives during those missing years were too sparse to be coherent. They had moved about a lot. They had worked as cleaning women in public toilets, in factories, in the Underground. Then, when Rose could no longer get work, Agnes tried to support them both - but couldn't. From then on, I gathered, they gave up. They took to drink; slept in parks, in doorways, on the Thames Embankment. Then Agnes died of exposure. And two days after I found Rose in that grim hospice - she didn't recognize me, of course - she died in her sleep. Father Jack's health improved quickly and he soon recovered his full vocabulary and all his old bounce and vigour. But he didn't say Mass that following Monday. In fact he never said Mass again. And the neighbours stopped enquiring about him. And his name never again appeared in the Donegal Enquirer. And of course there was never a civic reception with bands and flags and speeches. But he never lost his determination to return to Uganda and he still talked passionately about his life with the lepers there. And each new anecdote contained more revelations. And each new revelation startled - shocked - stunned poor Aunt Kate. Until finally she hit on a phrase that appeased her: 'his own distinctive spiritual search'. 'Leaping around a fire and offering a little hen to Uka or Ito or whoever is not religion as I was taught it and indeed know it,' she would say with a defiant toss of her head. 'But then Jack must make his own distinctive search.' And when he died suddenly of a heart attack - within a year of his homecoming, on the very
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eve of the following La Lughnasa - my mother and Maggie mourned him sorely. But for months Kate was inconsolable. My father sailed for Spain that Saturday. The last I saw of him was dancing down the lane in imitation of Fred Astaire, swinging his walking stick, Uncle Jack's ceremonial tricorn at a jaunty angle over his left eye. When he got to the main road he stopped and turned and with both hands blew a dozen theatrical kisses back to Mother and me. He was wounded in Barcelona - he fell off his motor-bike - so that for the rest of his life he walked with a limp. The limp wasn't disabling but it put an end to his dancing days; and that really distressed him. Even the role of maimed veteran, which he loved, could never compensate for that. He still visited us occasionally, perhaps once a year. Each time he was on the brink of a new career. And each time he proposed to Mother and promised me a new bike. Then the war came in 1939; his visits became more infrequent; and finally he stopped coming altogether.
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  • Fall '11
  • Kerins
  • Ode, 2007 singles, 2005 singles, 2008 singles, 2004 singles, UK Singles Chart number-one singles, KATE MAGGIE ROSE

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