I feel so close with a man I’ve never met, and I never will. I think of him often and get so puzzled by his story it keeps me up some nights. Some days I am focused solely on his story because it has left nothing less than a mystery. I speak of my G-Grandfather, a man I only know as a name that doesn’t seem to fit the name of his birth.
My G-Grandmother, whom I only know from a slightly aging postcard and carried the same name as mine, she married a man a long time ago. I don’t know the story of how they met or what brought them together but I do know he was a stranger of Lheidli, the story says he was from Fort Chipewyan – a Metis son of a Hudson Bay Fur Trader. I was told the old folks of the community liked this stranger and was able to share in conversation from the same Athapascan language dialect. I heard he found his way to BC for work, taking advantage of the mill close by. But I guess work was never quite stable during those days. I later heard he left a family of great wealth, so his purpose for being there is not truly known. Maybe he wasn’t a trapper or a trader? Or maybe he moved with hopes, dreams or simply wanted a wife. One can only speculate at this time.
The next chapter I am keen to, is he married my G-Grandmother in a December ceremony at Stuart Lake. A Catholic ceremony by a known Father of the area. The name on the presented certificate is a piece of documentation that has no apparent roots. The name on the paper has kept me at a cornered wall. I’m simply going around and around and around. But it is through this December day that I know he truly was a breathing person.
Four children later, one of them being my Grandmother. But back in that time my G-Grandfather and his children were nothing more than half breeds. There wasn’t a place for his family in a government run community, coordinated by the draw of blood. My G-Grandmother had no choice but to leave her family and community to live the world of a half breed. and put a band aid on the community blood. She no longer carried the same status. I heard they lived where the work kept G-Grandfather busy. But I heard he was a determined worker. Or maybe my mystery G-Grandfather was? Sometimes I can’t tell the difference.
It was unfortunate times as sickness spread through the communities and stealing the breaths of those caught in its wind. I believe this sickness that took the breath of my G-Grandmother was Spanish Flu. And a young age of 27. Leaving 4 children and a half breed husband. The mystery heightens from here on in.
G-Grandmother who shares my name, she finally found peace. And G-Grandfather, well one can only speculate what he was experiencing with four kids, difficulty keeping steady employment and a half breed face. I heard it tried to keep it together but was unable to after about a year of unknowns and I’m sure a not so silent household. My Grandma, she was 4, her oldest brother was about 7 and her oldest sister was in between the both of them. Each of them had a younger brother who was just over a year. The sadness of the story and heightened mystery became the plot when that desperate year, after the last breath of G-Grandmother, my G-Grandfather succumbed to frustration (the only obvious feeling I could relate to) and left his home with his integrity buried with his wife and children behind.
Alone, scared and hungry (again, the only obvious feelings I could relate to) the children remained in the house. The littlest guy, only a precious year and a bit old, died of neglect on a cold April day. It took an observant (or maybe not so observant) neighbor to realize the children were abandoned. The story told was the times were very tough, and the kids were unable to go back to G-Grandmother’s community. A piece of our history that creates further mystery for all that is to follow.
At my Grandmother’s young age of 4, and alongside her older brother and sister, they were taken to a grand school that was gratefully accepting Indian children and quickly tore the band aid off these half breed children exposing all the blood that flowed through their veins. This is the residential school that essentially adopted these orphaned children and raised them accordingly. My Grandmother was to become a nun after leaving on or near her 18th birthday. To an Academy she was to go with a letter of high recommendations.
To bring the story back to the man of mystery, my Grandmother’s oldest brother apparently left in his mid teens. He got married to a woman from his mother’s community and started his own family. Tragedy found its way into his own family as poison water abruptly took the lives of each of his children. It is then, sometime after, a letter to my Grandmother is received by her brother. It is this letter that keeps this mystery alive.
A path is now drawn to who G-Grandfather was, at least my stories that were acquired on a journey to solve the mystery of his father. It is this communication that takes me back to my roots of Fort Chipewyan, a family of Metis blood and Hudson Bay wealth. But it is that name on the marriage certificate so many years back that contradicts a son’s trek to find his father. A simple name has poisoned the nourished roots.
G-Grandfather never returned home. Never inquired about his children. And left as quickly as the wind that took my G-Grandmother’s last breath. I have gone as far as to reach to someone who could see the spirits and stories of those no longer in the physical. So many questions flow from my mouth to ask about this mystery. And the mystery still remains. With some new clues from another depth… he may have had another family with more children. He may have lived with the guilt and thoughts of his children. He may have remained in closer proximity than one can imagine. He may have worked in a mine. He may be buried at a lake I frequented often. He may have…He may be…He could be…He could have… But then…He might not have, or might not have been. He’s simply a mystery.
A rock of a foreign language. Breath that can only be imagined.
What secrets lie within your once active veins? Your story is so bold but incomplete.
A mystery, Grandfather, you have gifted.
I can’t seem to care for the throbbing wound when you bleed under painted masks.
You are my closest stranger and my most colored void.
I’ve searched for your drum and I’ve tried to mimic your beat, but found instead you removed its knowing sounds.
Grandfather Mystery, yet, it is you that brings the path alive – grooming my feet for the pebbles and shifting the chorus of currents with direction. You not only move mountains but you are the mountain.
Grandfather Mystery, we may never recognizer your breath but your intentions continue to bleed through us.
Sweet magic you have carried as you have discovered you are firmly grounded within the soil you once hurried upon.
But don’t worry, your mystery will always be nurtured as long as you remain within the ground below.
I honor you in ceremony, I care for you in prayer and will continue to find your beat.
Grandfather Mystery, I thank you for this path and ask that you continue to share it with me as my footprints have embedded with yours at many of times.
You will always be a mystery, as long as I have questions.
All my Relations.