Next week we are taking a road trip to my hometown in California. On our way there, Sasha & I will conduct a search for my missing Uncle.
My Dad is the youngest of 9 kids. His Dad was married three times and all three times, his wives died. When my Dad was born, his only sister was 36 years old. My Dadís mom died when he was just 5 years old. She had 4 sons with my Dadís Dad (my grandfather who I never met). All of my fatherís siblings have since died, except 3 of these 4 boys, one of who is now missing and presumed Dead. His name is Mel.
My Uncle Mel has been homeless as long as I can remember. This is a choice he made and a lifestyle that suited him. He lived out of his van and always had a dog with him. He was active military in WWII, so he got a bit of money from the government and he made more money by picking Mushrooms in the winter and Mulberries in the summer in the forest hills of Oregon. He had friends and a routine that he enjoyed.
He would contact my Dad every so often to check in, but never wanted any handouts or a place to stay.
In 2002, their older brother, Frank suddenly died and then 2 weeks later my Mom died. This was a tough time for my Dad. He had not heard from Mel for such a long time, he worried about him, too. This is when my Dad had a dream that my Mom was telling him where to find Mel. My Dad drove for miles, following the clues and miraculously tracked him down within a 500-mile radius.
They kept in better touch since then, but last year Mel was diagnosed with Throat cancer. In order for Mel to get his radiation treatments, he would need a cell phone and an address. He got an apartment, but still chose to sleep in his van with his dog parked just outside of the warm room. My Dad and his brother Jim (the one sibling my Dad has always been closest with) drove to Oregon to Visit Mel in November. This was their chance to say goodbye, as they felt it could be Melís last winter. He took them to some of the beautiful wooded areas that he loved and to his special place at the foot of Mount Saint Helenís.
The cell phone helped them to keep in better touch on a weekly basis, but now it has been 2 full months since they have heard from Mel and they fear the worst. My Dad called the hospital where Mel was getting his radiation treatments and they said he has not been in for his last appointments. My Dad contacted the local police and filed a missing person report, but so far they have done nothing to find him.
The prospects are pretty grim, but when Sasha & I embark on our drive South, we will stop by the address we have for him and some of his favorite haunts to see if we can find out what happened to him. I have both hope that we may actually find his white van and fear of what we may find inside.