This is my grandfather, Louis, on the day of his first holy communion. His photo sits on a frame next to some of our family photos and yet, I know so little about him or his side of the family. I’ve never been to Belgium but in many ways the spectre of that identity has always haunted me. When he died in 1998, I didn’t shed any tears because we had only met a few times and I was mostly an infant. But each year after his passing, the reality of being somewhat orphaned by his death has forged in me a gaping hole. Having links to your identity vanish heightens the fear that perhaps you will never really solve the mystery that’s you.
Fortunately, on a recent trip to Italy, my sister and my mom met up with some of our remaining relatives. They traveled from the Netherlands to be in Milan taking with them a small USB device full of pictures and the translated copy of a book my grandfather wrote about his father, the painter, Jozef Tysmans. I cannot read Flemish yet so even if the hard copy of the book is somewhere in this house, it remains unopened. The translated version which my father’s cousin worked on really shed some light into this family of mine. It’s funny to bear this name and know so little. But slowly, things have begun to unravel.
This has just added some emotion to the roller coaster that is this month but after a few emails and some books sent through the mail, I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere.Maybe the questions I’ve always asked will finally meet their answers.