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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 20. Squaring some Ajurnamat Realities

So, my grandfather had been cremated. This de-railed the plan I had in mind to bring three stones to his gravesite; one from our land of origin, Saputiligait-Tuqsukattaq, one from the original trading post at Kangiqsuruaq, where my mother had been conceived, and one from my mother’s grave. Gone also was the alternate plan to have all of us place a stone upon his grave on our pilgrimage to his burial place. Be careful not to plan too soon.

Considering that life is not a tidy script, I could not be disappointed. The Inuktitut expression, Ajurnamat, (It cannot be helped), fully applied here. Neither was it disappointing to learn that there were no cousins. Ajurnamat, again. Instead, I counted our blessings. We learned what had become of our grandfather, and gained a fuller understanding of his extended family. We were the only grandchildren of this man, and we could take renewed pride in this.

Most of all, we had a living uncle we could look forward to eventually meeting. My conversation with Jess Peter lasted an hour and a half, but felt like 15 minutes. Here was another segment for the how-to manual: “The first verbal communication with a searched-for relative should last as long as human nature makes it. Be your genuine, human self. The length and content of the conversation will look after itself. Never let cost be a consideration: You don’t search long and far only to become a miser when you’ve finally made contact!”

I told Jess Peter about my mother’s seven children; five sons and two daughters: all fortunately still alive! By the time she died in March 1995, she had 30 grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren. There had never been any way for us to search for her father while she lived. Even when we, here children, learned English, it had been impossible to know where to look for the records of a company that had ceased to exist in 1936. Ajurnasimammat Ilaa! (It had certainly not been possible!)

Jess told me she’d send me some photographs of themselves, as well as a newspaper clipping of the death notice of my grandfather. There was a lifetime of two family histories, spanning a period of over 77 years, to be connected; of lives lived separately – one Scottish, the other Inuit. All the gaps could not be filled in one sitting.

But we were well on to squaring the basic outlines, and the ocean between us no longer seemed to matter!

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