So it’s been four days since I had the conversations with the people at the various finding-family agencies. It’s been three days since I filled in the Traceline form and sent it off. I think it’s only been two days since the form from the stroppy self-involved Salvation Army people arrived and I tore it up into little pieces. It’s probably now in one of the many take-out boxes around my sitting room. So it’s only then really been one day since I last made a decision about this whole finding father project, and already it feels like an eternity. And how weird is that – after all I’ve only been circling these decisions for the last fifteen years.
When you fast-track an application with Traceline they’ll let you know if the person is alive very quickly – within five days, I think. But you need to have a full date of birth for that, and unfortunately I don’t have it. They don’t tell you how long the process takes otherwise, so it could be anything up to a month. And when a conclusion comes, it’s quite possible that it won’t be one I’m happy with. Traceline (weirdly for government) don’t have access to an enormous amount of data – just births, deaths and GP registrations. I don’t know how I’ll react to an abortive search. The prospect slightly scares me, even though there’s data even in that scenario. After all, if they can’t find him that means that he’s not registered at a GP or died within England or Wales. In that circumstance, I’d have to work on the principle that he’s probably still alive, just somewhere else in the world.
Of course it’s questionable that I’ll have the energy to take it much further if this particular search fails. Each step towards this point over the last five years has been incremental, difficult and slow to reach. That’s not to say that the mind has been willing but the system weak – quite the opposite. The inertia is all self-inflicted. In some ways, the whole process feels like tonguing a bad tooth when you’re too scared of going to the dentist. Your solution for years? You just don’t eat on that side of your mouth. But the tooth doesn’t get any better and it never will.
On the other hand, I don’t know what the hell I’ll do with any information I do get. What’s the next stage if the guy has been dead for years? Will it be worse if he died last week or ten years ago? Will there be anyone else I can contact? What effect will it have on them if I do so? And if he’s alive – what the hell do I have to say to him? I have one question which I tell myself is the reason for doing all of this. It’s a simple, blunt question for a person who felt like a changeling in someone else’s family. It is: why am I the way I am? But as I think about it, it seems like it’s just the tip of the iceberg.