On writing to my father?

01/09/2005

I’m still trying to get the Apple piece together into some kind of useful form which of course means that my mind keeps wandering and I keep writing other stuff instead. In a way, I’m quite enjoying it. Somehow it feels easier to write right now than at any time for the last several months. It’s really cathartic.

Well anyway, all of this preamble is kind of just here to stick some kind of frivolous emotional padding around one of the bigger things that is going on in my head at the moment. I hadn’t really decided whether or not I was going to talk about it online – indeed, I’ve only really mentioned it to about three people in the real world so far. And that includes no members of my family. But somehow the time is right and I want to make it slightly more real, so here we go.

Those of you who have been reading this site for a while might be vaguely familiar with the whole biological father narrative that I touch on very very infrequently, but the story in a nutshell is that I haven’t seen him or communicated with him since I was four or five. I’ve written about it more here:

So there’s the context… Now, a couple of days ago I was going through some old e-mail and came across a note from someone who mentioned a service you could use to search through the electoral roll. So on the spur of the moment I did a search on the site for my biological father’s name. I came up with about 18 candidates either called “Tom Coates”, or “Thomas J Coates”. And clearly because I was high on Getting Things Done or getting impatient with work or something, I just decided to write all of these potential fathers a letter straight away and send it out. So I wrote a letter that read very bluntly and strangely – like something that an a totally emotionally stunted person might write when his cat died or something. I guess it was pretty matter of fact. It just basically said that I was looking for some kind of limited contact with my father – just to know really whether he was alive or dead and to know some small amount about him – but that I wasn’t sure that I was looking for any kind of emotional committment or ongoing relationship or anything. I asked the recipient of the letter to pass on any information they might have, and – if they were my father – to please send some form of limited response. A few lines in a letter explaining what he was up to now and a photo would do very nicely.

So the thing about sending all these letters out is that I did it on the spur of the moment after almost thirty years and to be honest, each day I go into work I completely forget that I’ve done it. My brain’s always a complete blank – it’s thinking about Amazon or weblogs or home entertainment appliances or what happened on Alias last night. At least it is until someone around me gets some post. Then I start thinking about whether I’ll have got a reply of some kind and what kind of reply it might be. But the rest of the time, the whole thing seems like something someone else did. That’s why I thought I might write about it online. I thought maybe it would make it stick in my head better, make it more real. Maybe it won’t. Who knows.

Since I’ve started the whole palaver, I may as well carry it forward. If anyone out there knows a man called Tom Coates who worked for Honeywell computers in the 1970s who is in his early sixties – or indeed if you are this person – if you could send me even the most limited amount of information you might have that would be really good. I guess at this moment in time, I just want to know for sure whether or not my father is alive. No more than that. That’s about it. Hm.

This whole thing is all very strange and I don’t really know what I think about it. I’m certainly not looking for sympathy and I’m not trying to make a big drama about anything. This isn’t about some epic voyage of personal discovery, it’s about the pragmatics of the future. I’m 32 now. My father is likely to be 63. If I wanted to know something about him in ten years time, then it’s quite conceivable that it would be too late. It might be too late now. And while I don’t really know that the whole issue preys on my mind too much now, maybe it will later.

PS. You always write these things thinking they’re going to be so simple and easy and clean and then you get to the end and what you’ve got is a bloody disorganised mess of words slapped onto a page. I’m keeping the comments closed on this post because on previous occasions in the past I’ve had people gaming them – writing supposed comments from my father that I can’t substantiate. This does nothing but make me feel worse about the whole thing. If you want to contact me directly, the e-mail address remains the same – tom [at] plasticbag [dot] org. If you want to forward the post to anyone who might have worked at Honeywell or ICL, then that would be great. But please – don’t take the piss.