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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 17. Sitting on an Address


When Don Cameron sent me the e-mail with my uncle’s mailing address and telephone number, I asked myself curtly, “How do we know this is the right man? There must be hundreds of William James Peter’s in the United Kingdom! I don’t want to be writing to, or telephoning, the wrong William Peter.”

Don’s reply was to the point. “I looked up the address listed on his father’s death certificate, which he signed as a witness. I checked the address, along with the listing of his wife Jess’s name, and looked up the Scottish Electoral Rolls List for the year 2004. This has to be our man.”

OK. Now I had all the information needed to complete the search. I could either write a letter, or make a telephone call. It seemed like a simple choice. But soon, it took on the character of Complexity itself, as a series of relevant-sounding questions presented themselves: “Can’t you find a trusted third party, like your Sikaatsiuqatik, John MacDonald, to make First Contact? What if your grandfather never told his family about the existence of your mother? What can you say, or do, that won’t turn them right off, in that case?”

For one of a rare few times in my life, I didn’t know what to do next. I did not want to hurt or embarrass my uncle in any way. I did not want to knock on the door of his life like a pest and have everything turn cold just because my approach might be insensitive. I can’t afford to mess this up, I told myself, with wrong timing, using wrong words, said in the wrong way.

As I contended with all this, I could not immediately find a brilliant stroke of thought, which could serve as the answer.

However, none of this was any reason for despair. I didn’t want to whine to anybody about it. To the few to whom I mentioned the matter, I said, “Now that I have the address and telephone number of my uncle in Scotland, I don’t know what to do!” I said this as clinically as possible, and did not seek advice on what people would do if they were in my shoes. Give it time! Draw upon some legendary Eskimo patience to it! And thus, almost three months passed.

When a solution did present itself, it didn’t come as a flashing bolt of revelation; it just crystallized as a practical piece of common sense:

“”Write the letter yourself, straight.”


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