A selection of weird “it’s been in the back of my head for a while now” posts about trying to find my biological father: Looking for Tom Coates (Jan 2002), On searching for ‘father’ (Nov 2001), Ring random people with my father’s name (Sept 2001), Pictures of my father (Jan 2001). This might be the time to acknowledge publically that – in fact – I have been using Google adwords to try and get information about my father, which I know is a bit weird, but hey – it makes my brain hurt a bit when I think about it, so what do you expect? Rational behaviour? If you want to see the Google Ad, then it’s here. Please don’t click on it, as it costs me money and it just goes to one of the pages above.
My position on finding my father has always been a bit vague. I really really didn’t want to talk about it with my mother. I didn’t want to ask her any information or anything. And – of course – this would have made the whole process of finding him nigh-on impossible, assuming that I actually started looking for him seriously, which I never really have. And why? I think the reason I haven’t is because I’m scared – scared of whether he’d like me, scared of whether he’d be appalled of me being gay, scared of whether when I find him he’ll be already in the ground and that then I’ll have only the certainty that I’ll never know either way if he’d be proud or ashamed of me.
This all sounds a bit cheap-airport-novel to me, but no doubt in some way it’s true enough.
So what have I done? In possibly the most half-hearted campaign ever, I’ve looked his name up on a few online directories (his name is the same as mine – go figure), and I’ve sent several dozen e-mails to complete strangers around the world with the same name. I’ve stuck up a Google Ad.
But that’s all the trivial stuff. More importantly I’ve made myself very visible. My father worked in computers for crap’s sake, back when you debugged machine code with ball-point-pens on big stacks of paper with perforated strips down the side punched with holes. If he was still alive today he must have been on the internet at least once, right? He must – sometime in the last ten years or so – have typed his own name into a bloody search engine? Right? And I’ve been here – the most internet-visible “Tom Coates” in the world – owning something like seven of the top-ten “Tom Coates” spots on Google. I’m like a bloody massive flashing beacon of findableness. I’m the fucking atom bomb on a dark night. And has he seen me? Has he arse.
I feel a bit like the SETI Project to be honest. Lighting up the darkness with a seeming infinity of radio waves and broadcasts. Radio, TV, Web, Print… I’m here! Anyone who wanted to could find me a moment! So why don’t they come?
Anyway – now I know more than I ever have before because – dear god – I’ve finally had that conversation with my mother. I now know that the invisible parent was born in August 1940. I know that he went to the same school as Dudley Moore (which I think was Dagenham County High School). This was a surprise – in the back of my head I’d always assumed he was from Norfolk like my mum. This makes me more city-folk industrial by history than I’d expected. Apparently he worked for Honeywell computers and then ‘Digital Computers’ in America for a while. My mother said they chose him because he had a funny brain. And he evidently had a fair share of personal issues with his family. Apparently his mother died and his father remarried. He didn’t like the new woman much it seems…
So what now? I know that you’re supposed to take information like that to St Catherine’s House and that they’re supposed to tell you all about whether he’s alive or dead or not or where he’s living now – or if he’s even in the country (or alive, which I’m beginning to doubt). But while I know what you do with the information cerebrally, emotionally I don’t think I have a clue what to make of the whole thing. Just learning all this stuff was a strange and disconcerting experience – I could feel my brain squirrelling the information out of my conscious mind as quickly as possible, out of sight, out of the way. But I can feel it lurking, like an irritating piece of meat stuck in your back teeth that you keep tonguing but can’t get out. And if you did get it out there would be no certainty that it wouldn’t explode to massive inconceivable size, sprout tooth and scale and claw and take my bloody head off. “You’ve gone way off the map, Sonny,” my mind seems to say in full Geoffrey Rush Pirates of the Caribbean style. “Here be monsters”.