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A Not So Random Reunion

It would take a little divine guidance to see my long-lost cousin again.

A cruise to Canada with a rainbow in the background
Credit: Olga_Anourina

I gripped the ship’s wooden railing and breathed in the salty ocean air. My husband Jeremy and I were on a week-long cruise of the St. Lawrence Seaway with several stops in Nova Scotia. Next up: Sydney, a bustling port city. Maybe Ian still lives in the area, I thought. Maybe I’ll finally see him again.

Wishful thinking. I pulled out a folded paper printout from my pocket. There was only one “Ian Vance” in Nova Scotia, according to Canada’s national directory. But was it my cousin? I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t seen him in more than 45 years.

Our family, originally from Scotland, lived all over the globe. After World War II, my dad and I moved to New York. Ian joined the British Navy, and whenever his fleet visited the U.S., he stopped by to see us. We’d lost touch over the years, but the last I’d heard, he’d settled in Nova Scotia with his Canadian wife, Gertie.

I stared at the paper in my hands. My online search for “Ian Vance” hadn’t led anywhere, so I’d asked a hotel clerk in Montreal for help searching the directory. All we’d come up with was a street address in Halifax, listed on the printout. Even if this was my cousin, was the address current? I didn’t have the nerve to traipse through a strange city without knowing for sure.

An hour later our ship docked in Sydney. Jeremy and I walked to the tourist information booth to gather sightseeing ideas. A man in a royal blue windbreaker greeted us. He seemed so easygoing, I showed him the printout on a whim. How many millions of people lived in Canada anyway?

“I’m looking for my cousin,” I said. “Do you know this address?”

He took the sheet of paper and studied it. “I sure do,” he said. “That’s where my sister Gertie lives. Ian is my brother-in-law!”


With his help, Ian and Gertie met us the next morning when we docked in Halifax—a joyful reunion that became the hands-down highlight of our trip.

“Good thing you came when you did,” Gertie’s brother told us. “I only volunteer at the tourism booth two mornings a month.”

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