So my long protracted semi-attempt to work up the courage to find my father has moved on one more tiny little step step with a couple of nerve-wracking and unsettling conversations with (1) the Salvation Army and (2) Traceline. The Salvation Army conversation really freaked me out – they give you some kind of random caseworker, ask you questions about your relative and then tell you what they’ll do for you. Here’s the disturbing bit: if you decide to find the relative through them, there are almost no circumstances where they won’t give out your home address. I was really uncomfortable with this – I haven’t seen my father in thirty years and – from the impression I get of him – he wasn’t the most reliable and together of people in the early seventies. I have no idea whatsoever of what he’s like in person today but I’m pretty much certain that I don’t want him turning up on my doorstep out of the blue. Their service is free, but I can’t see any circumstance where I’ll be using it. I kept getting a feeling that there was some kind of near-cultish agenda or dogma in the work they do that’s more about them than it is about the people who go to them for help, and I came away from the phonecall shaken and feeling really exposed and weirded out.
Traceline seemed (on first impressions) to be a much more plausible option. You have to pay them for the trace, but it’s not an enormous amount of money, and they do it by checking GPs records. They’ll tell you if your relative is dead and – if you want to get in contact with them – you can get them to forward a letter to the person concerned. They’ll contact that person first to see if they want the letter. If not, no harm no foul. That seems like an entirely more controllable and less alarming way of going around the whole thing – if for no other reason that you could probably just put a work address in any eventual correspondence until you’d got more comfortable with the whole idea. The only thing that creeps me out about them is that although they said they were a government department, I can’t really find a presence for them online. This does not instill me with an enormous amount of faith…
The more I think about my father, the more convinced I am that the guy is dead. As I understand it from my mother (who to be honest I don’t think knew that much about his background) both of his parents died relatively young of cancer. He’d be 65 today and I can’t really believe that he wouldn’t have looked online and seen that I’m here and looking for him. If he is still alive, I guess his lack of response to everything I’ve done is a bit of a gentle kick in the netherparts, but it wouldn’t be too gutting. I’m just interested now in just getting some of the mystery out of the way. Is he alive? Is he dead? Does he at least know that I’m interested in meeting him (at least once, before one of us dies)? I don’t need – I don’t want – much more than that…
While I’m on the subject: wow does writing about it all in public make it easier to deal with. Starting a conversation with people about this stuff at work or with friends feels really weird and awkward and not particularly appealing. Who wants to spring that on someone in the middle of their day? Who wants to have to deal with people’s awkward reactions when you’re already feeling a bit random. Not me. But somehow putting it on the site keeps it at arms length. Making it public – but through the site – seems to ring-fence how awkward people can feel about the whole thing and limits how much they feel the need to be sympathetic or whatever. Realistically, sure it’s scary but who needs sympathy? What does it do but make you more aware of the stuff you’re trying to avoid thinking about? Yay weblogs. Yay websites. Life-saving little things. Very much approve.
Anyway, for anyone else in the same situation, here are the contact detail of the two organisations that I contacted today during my lunch break
- Salvation Army support
Fee for tracing someone £35
Phone: 0845 6344747 mon-fri – 8.15-3.45pm
Father needs to be named on Birth Certificate
£30 required to make search. £25 to forward a letter.
Phone: 0151 471 4811