Missing Relatives Monumental Tombstones, Unanswered Questions

It was a wonderful night. The section of the Jacques Cartier Provincial Park I’m camping in is the short duration, no frills section of the park. It’s evident by the condition of the foot tall plants in the fire rings that this area, with no bathroom close by, no water, no electricity and no sewer hook up is definitely the camping spot less explored. If there is one thing that this place has, it’s mosquitoes.  The mosquitoes fight each other in order to take a stab at you. I feel like the buffet at an all you can eat restaurant when the college football team is in town.

It was too buggy for a fire, so I wrote and then went to bed. Before I climbed in for the night I took a look around outside. It’s a new moon time of month, and this area isn’t Metropolis. Every star God made was out in its brilliance. There were so many stars to be seen that sky almost became grey. Unfortunately, there were two things saying “Go to bed!” One was the two gigawatt mercury vapor lamps someone stole from centerfield at Yankee Stadium and installed here, because I suppose there is so much crime in Tignish PEI. Yes, Tignish, where everyone knows EVERYONE, and is related to half of the EVERYONE. The other is that every mosquito God ever created was here last night, and they all wanted a drink. Bed it was.

I seem to have the ability to set a clock in my head and know when to get up. Sometimes, I get up every hour, hence I sleep like a baby, and others, I just wake up, once. It was the once way this morning. I just woke up at 5:20 AM. Sunrise is at 5:28 AM. Right on schedule, without any help from me, up came the sun, all red with a pink haze on the horizon. I’ve seen plenty of sunrises and I never get tired of them. I think the best ones are when the sun rises over a body of water. You get a nice reflection off the water. I prefer sunrises over sunsets. Sunsets are probably more spectacular color wise and far more superior for dramatic effect, but sunsets are the end of stuff. Sunsets mark the time to leave, the time to go to bed, the time to prepare for the dark, the time spooky things start to emerge to rule the night.

Sunrises are “WOW! A new day. I’m alive. There is promise for the coming hours. What will happen? What can I make of this opportunity?” We don’t even think about a new day because, hopefully, we’ve seen so many, and mostly, we’re not completely awake. I would rate this morning’s sunrise as a B. Nice glow, no obstructing clouds. Full orange/red globe emerging from the horizon. I think some oranges are that color; blood orange. No clouds on the horizon, little haze, no refraction and glow of light, a little dazzle off the water, but not much. No band of clouds just off the horizon to make the sun disappear. Don’t laugh, I’ll bet that you’ve never graded a sunrise. You should try it. You’ll really have to watch, and then think about what you’ve seen. It’s harder than it seems.

After all that early morning sensationalism, B grade, I went back to bed. Heck. I’m retired, nothing opens until 9:30 AM, and it was 5:40 AM. I woke up relatively early considering the AM events, had a great breakfast, cleaned the RV, relaxed and decided to read for a little bit. It was warm; there was a beautiful cool breeze, just a wisp of a breeze. It kissed you gently, like a beautiful woman who wants to tell you something, but promises nothing. Suddenly, IT happened again. This time the realization didn’t last beyond than the comprehension, but I understood it. It was freedom. Freedom to dream; freedom to dive into the reality of a book, freedom from cares, worries, responsibility. Freedom from need. Freedom from upset, strife, concern. The freedom to enjoy the moment, the texture, the aroma of your surroundings, the beauty. The freedom to let your mind be care free. The freedom to be as if a child, with no childish concerns. There really aren’t words to describe it. You really have to be there. I hope that state of being visits you often.

I spent my summers in a magical place. My paternal grandfather bought a piece of property in the prior beautiful, undisturbed, rural, tranquil East End of Long Islands, the Hampton’s, before it was loved to death, dismembered and destroyed. It was a large fenced piece of property with plenty of room for the entire family. We were far from the city. It actually was quiet there, then. There were chores to do, but there wasn’t the pressure that things had to be done on a schedule. All the adults, and me, when I was older, worked all week. The lawn needed to be mowed; the pool taken care of, some painting to be attended to, but it was a case of eventually, not of any urgency. There were times where everything that needed to be done was done. Those things that had not been done would just have to wait, because it was neither the time nor the place.

The family would gather in the living room while my grandmother puttered in the kitchen, enjoying the task of preparing a large dinner, talking to her daughters or daughter in law, or spoiling some grandchild quietly. Everyone else was reading, doing a crossword puzzle, examining the NY Times, or quietly working a picture puzzle. Words were not spoken. There was no need. There was peace, relaxation, a sense of well being, no sense of urgency for any aspect of your life, safety, tranquility, unity. A time of spending time on yourself because you deserved it. Being in the moment, and enjoying every aspect of it. Being in that state is a very nice thing, and I’m glad that it’s started to happen to me again. It’s been a long time.

I’m here in PEI for a reason, so I headed off to the Alberton Museum and Genealogical Center, just a couple of minutes down the road. There was a pair of lovely ladies there upon my arrival. One was a frequent visitor, Mrs. Brennan; the other worked there, Mrs. Morrison. Mrs Brennan bore an amazing resemblance to my mother (she didn’t think do, but she liked her red from a bottle hair color.) I think it was because my Mom looked really Irish and so does Mrs Brennan. “Are ye one of the Catholic Brennans?” she asked. I replied that we were. She announced that she was one of the other Brennan’s; they are Presbyterians. I was non committal; I opined that all the Brennan’s are related eventually, it just made it easier, from my point of view, to locate the right one. I was told that the Catholic Brennan’s are from Tignish and they should be planted in the Catholic Cemetery St Simon and St Jude Parish.

I think it’s very cool, that after 150, 175 years everyone has more than a tinge of an Irish Brogue. Yes, it’s an island, and yes more people move off than on, but it’s still cool. I went through he records at the center and found no mention of my Great Grandfather Thomas Brennan. There is no marriage record for him. There is no death record for him. There is no birth or Christening record for him. He is not mentioned in his brothers obituary. The man who left little trace, left no trace at all on PEI. The only information about his existence has been provided by a daughter of my GGG Uncle John P Brennan. I plan on writing to her.

I did learn quite a bit about the Brennans of Tignish. Most of them went someplace else. Only two or three stayed here. You can farm and fish, or work lumber, or you can fish and farm and work lumber. Thomas’s younger brother, John P, left the island, worked in customs, knew everyone by the time he died, and was very successful in New Brunswick, not PEI.

I did find records indicating my great great great grandfather and grandmother were buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Tignish. The cemetery is huge, but after an hour and a half of looking I found the monument. Reading between the lines, both Thomas and John left PEI before they were 16. I don’t have any proof, but I have a feeling both left about the same time. Fortunately for later generations, my GGG Uncle John Brennan did really well by the time his mother, Johanna died in 1899 and his dad died in 1901. The monument must have cost a fortune, and is visible from the road in front of the cemetery. It is easily 8 feet tall or more, quarried from a resistant sandstone. It would be unaffordable today. I cleaned lichen from it, and took a couple of photographs.

It made me think. Why was my great great grandfather leaving, and did he have a goal, or did he just leave? Did my grandfather have any idea that he had great Aunts and Uncles in the Maritimes? Did my grandfather have any clue about his grandfather? My grandpa Brennan was a great guy. I was old enough to clearly remember him before he died. He always had time for a five year old. He taught me how to draw a straight line using a ruler. He had incredible patience. There were thousands of people at his funeral.  Where did those characteristics come from? His dad died/left when he was about 11.  Did the successful John P Brennan even know about his brother’s family?

There is a certain satisfaction in knowing something that was previously unknown. It is also sad that the information to whom it would be most important, are no longer here. I feel that I could fit in, in Tignish, but . . . .

It was a lovely warm day, and I accomplished more than I expected, less than I intended, so I went back to the campground, filled the tank with water, positioned the RV for tomorrow’s sunrise and read a book. Some mysteries just might stay that way.