I awoke to massive confusion on the 19th floor of Trump International Hotel. Clothes were heaped all over the huge bed and shoes were strewn all over the floor. The reason for the disarray was the indecision I faced yesterday making a choice of what to wear for lunch. What was so important about lunch? It was the lunch of a lifetime. I insisted on beginning the lunch with a toast to Uncle Dave. That was because it was a lunch for and by the Niece’s of Dave Dryburgh and I said: ( I think without crying) that if it were not for him we would not be there.It was not exactly a typical cousin get together in that most had not met, nor even laid eyes on one another before. Our union was made possible through the diligent work of Cousin Gail who assembled all to assist me in the compilation of the biography of my (oops, OUR) darling uncle. I cleverly called us, this assemblage, the Niece’s Nexus.
This is from the book. You will learn about the lunch in tomorrow’s blog, our picture is attached to this blog.
George and Janet begat eight sons, seven lived to adulthood and all, save Dave Dryburgh (the love of my life) begat. So at the beginning of this tale, in 2011, there was little or no connection between the branches. Many of George and Janet’s grandchildren had not even met one another, much less had anything resembling a close family connection. All of the eight sons, save Aki, were dead. Aki, my father, has dementia so was absent, but alive.
For reasons you will learn, I decide to write a biography of Dave Dryburgh. He is, was and always will be, as far as I am concerned, the star of the show. He was brilliant, a sportswriter par excellence. (I hate sports.) The apex of his work was the Regina Leader-Post, writing for them was his first job, and his last. He died in the saddle.
But finding Uncle Dave proved to be a difficult, if not an impossible task. But not purposively, not thinking ahead, I managed to assemble a group of people that not only helped me but paved the way for the search. A search party, I suppose. Another word that comes to mind is posse, but that conjures up criminality and Uncle Dave is not a criminal. My cohorts are trusty, reliable, wonderful people and without them I would not be able to put this “book of love” as one calls it, together.
The first person to join the search party was Gail. We “met” one dismal, not-quite-spring-but-not-winter-either day in March of 2011 at a deconsecrated church in Canada. She is my first cousin, we had actually met before but neither of us can remember the same place and time. I remember a time when we were eight, she remembers when were were seventeen, We are the same age, so that, at least, makes the math easy. We met in mutual memory at Aki’s ninetieth birthday party. You can find that story in the Afterword.
Gail and I kept in touch through the magic of the Internet. I found myself in London writing a biography of my uncle. I thought I needed to follow in his footsteps and go to his birthplace in Scotland. Gail had always wanted to go to Scotland to see the birthplace of her father and try to unlock some of the mystery of his life. As will be revealed, none of the Dryburgh boys talked about their early years, their childhood or of their family of origin. Their lives were barren of the memorabilia that mark most family histories. There were no pictures, no diaries, no letters, no post cards; none of the paraphernalia, bits and pieces that most families collect over the years.
So Gail wanted to go there and observe first hand, her father’s birthplace and country. She was a willing companion on my journey to Scotland. I was following in the footsteps of the fine biographer Richard Holmes whose book Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer served as an inspiration. So Gail and I traveled to Scotland to “dig up” our ancestors. Spoiler alert: It was not altogether a successful “dig” but it was invaluable.
It was invaluable because I became the Lone Ranger and Gail became my Tonto. (So far no one has assumed the role of Silver, the horse.)
Tonto had the “need to know” and the connections. The connections were the names and email addresses of the kissing kin, the nieces of Uncle Dave. I reached out to them via email and asked them to join the search party. They all saddled up and off we rode.
I cleverly call us the Niece’s Nexus, here is a description.
Gail Daughter of George, the fourth son of Janet and George Dryburgh.
Geri Gail’s sister, so also a daughter of George; she and Gail live in Vancouver
with their families.
Pat Daughter of Jim, the fifth son of Janet and George Dryburgh; lives in Australia.
Faye Daughter of Bill, the sixth son of Janet and George Dryburgh; lives in Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan. Regina looms large in this story.
Carol-Ann Daughter of Garnet, the eighth son of Janet and George Dryburgh; lives in Vancouver with her family.
All the women play instrumental roles and make huge contributions on an individual level as well as being supportive members of the Niece’s Nexus. I have not included their last names, all have assumed their husband’s last name.
This is a biography, not a fairy story, but it is a story with a happy ending. The search for Uncle Dave led to my finding not only him, but myself. I began the search as a childless old woman, without a family to call my own. (Carol-Ann aptly labelled the Dryburghs “a family of strangers”.) I was on the periphery of this family of strangers. A moderately successful, well-educated, much-married woman but a chameleon constantly searching for approval, laughs, and affection, with (as one of my friends described) an almost desperate quest for family. I have found one. When I wrote of my intention to return to Canada upon the expiration of the student visa that allows me to be in the U.K. I was assured that I would be welcomed “with open arms.”
So I set out to find an uncle. I did. Not only did I find him but also I found a family and myself. All of us were there the whole time.
p.s. Within the last couple of days we have completed the circle, due again to Gail’s diligence. The daughter of the George and Janet’s third son Jack has joined us. Janet lives in the greater Toronto Ontario area. I copy from Gail’s email. (The she and her refers to Janet, the “your visit” is me) “In the email I sent a week or so ago I attached the photo of the “cousins” at Carol-Ann’s during your visit in January. She had not realized how many cousins were still alive as her father never talked about his family. I also sent the emails “the best day” to help fill her in (I sorted it out so she didn’t have to read from the bottom up). She said her daughter was very interested in family history but as a working mom it was difficult to find the time. Today I sent on “the submission for my tutorial” to her and to daughter Karen. Karen told me her daughter is studying International Relations at St. Andrews in Scotland. In May Karen will be going to Scotland to pick up Abi and they are planning on going to Kirkcaldy.