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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 19. “The Eagle Has Landed!”

O, Uncle Bill! I have found you! And now, I’m going to call you!

The second e-mail from Uncle Bill’s wife, Jess, contained their telephone number. I had known this number since Don Cameron had sent it to me almost three months earlier. But I had had no intention of invading my uncle’s privacy without a good, solid cue. Now that they had sent their number themselves, I didn’t need to psyche myself up to make The Call. The only thing I had to me mindful of, were the time zone differences; their time was five hours ahead of ours.

A letter and two very cordial e-mail exchanges with photographs, had transformed our addresses to each other from “Mr. Peter” to “Bill and Jess”, and from “Mr. Nungak” to “Zebedee”. There was already a “This is family” air about our very first communications, and this was psychologically very important to me. The direct approach had worked, but needed to be followed up with voice communication. There is no substitute for the inflection of the human voice.

When I made The Call, a woman answered at the other end. “Is this the Peter home?” I asked, as I introduced myself. The person at the other end introduced herself as Jess Peter, wife of my uncle, William James Peter. We then proceeded to have an amazingly normal conversation, free of any awkward stumbling, or self-conscious stiffness. I learned many new facts for the first time, and absorbed these while managing not to sound over-eager for more.

My grandfather had died from injuries sustained in a road accident. He had been cremated on what would have been his 71st birthday. He and his wife had had two other children who did not survive infancy. Hence, my uncle was their only child. William Mackenzie Peter had had three younger sisters: Winifred, whom I had discovered in Aberdeen; Alice, whose married surname had been Cook, and Marjory, who had never married and died childless.

Sometime after the death of his wife, my grandfather had disposed of all his household effects, so there weren’t any keepsakes. During our conversation, I learned that two of my grandfather’s sisters had each had one son. These would be aniksaks (male first cousins) of my mother. Uncle Bill and his wife were childless, although his wife had a 45-year-old son from a previous marriage.

Taking this all in, I had the urge to imitate Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, and say: “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!”

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