Almost exactly a month ago today I sent off a form to an organisation called Traceline to ask them to help me find my father. Three days later I wrote a little post about my uncertainty about what would happen next. Two and a half weeks later, I briefly alluded to the fact that I’d not heard anything yet. A week further on, and we’re back to today, and is there any news? Unfortunately, no.
Of course, I honestly don’t know what to expect. This process could take a month, it could take two months, it could take six. I think I assumed I’d have heard something by now because the expedited process (where you know their date of birth) is supposed to only take a week. But time just keeps passing with very little to show for it. At the moment I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re not just torturing me, but give it another month or so and I might rename them in slightly more colourful language.
So how have I been dealing with it? Difficult question. Thanks for asking. I guess the most honest answer would probably that I’m kind of confused about the whole thing. About two weeks ago, in the middle of a particularly stressful time at work, I was in a meeting and my phone rang. The caller’s number was withheld. I couldn’t answer the phone in the room. I hung up on them. They rang again, so I turned my phone off. They didn’t leave a message. After the meeting I started asking all the people I thought who might have called me, but none of them had done. And gradually I started to wonder to myself – who could have been at the other end of the line? Who had I hung up on? What did it mean? What had I done? Had I just lost my chance forever? These thoughts stayed with me for days.
In retrospect, what this situation means is simply that this whole process clearly means an awful lot to me – much much more than I had been expecting. This was probably not a pivotal moment – in fact it was almost certainly a trivial moment – no more or less nerve-wracking that the rest of the month has been. I just momentarily had something in particular I could focus on. Or at least so I tell myself. Patience, Tom. Be patient.
One development that has happened is that I decided to talk to my mother about the whole thing. For some reason, I had decided originally that I was going to do this completely on my own without getting the rest of my family involved. I don’t think I can explain why particularly except to say that there are things in the world that I find hard to look at directly and family don’t tend to let you keep things in your peripheral vision. There’s probably some other stuff going on too – I’ve wanted independence from my family and from restrictive encompassing structures like families for years as well. This could have been another attempt to assert that. But that’s a whole other industrial-sized can of worms that I think I should probably avoid opening right now.
Anyway, I don’t think my mother realises how strange and difficult this whole absent father thing is for me, or how much bluster and brashness I’ve had to cultivate to be even vaguely able to approach it head on. So when I said that I had something that I wanted to tell her (and when I obviously had trouble getting it out), my liberal mother (with so much faith in me, evidently) immediately assumed that I had contracted some fatal gay disease. When I explained instead that I’d decided to look for my father, she seemed totally cool about the whole thing, almost a little surprised that I found the whole thing so emotionally charged. Typically she was also terribly – aggravatingly – efficient about it too. She kept trying to tell me what I should be doing next, even though I repeatedly pointed out that it had taken me twenty odd years to get to this stage and that maybe I wasn’t quite ready to treat the whole thing like a crusade quite yet.
I think I finally got through to her when I talked about my biggest concern – that I would find my father only for him to be repulsed by me because I’m gay. I’m not ashamed of being gay – in fact I’m proud of myself for having the nerve to be publically gay and not hiding it. And normally, I’m not terribly interested whether other people have issues with me being gay or not. But with your own father… I don’t know… I think I’m looking for him in part to help me understand where I came from and why I am the way I am. He seems to be the closest in the family to sharing my passions and interests. I kind of want him to be proud of what i’ve accomplished – i don’t want to be a let-down or an embarrassment. I certainly don’t want to be ahborent to him. I don’t want him to find me disgusting. And I have to face the possibility that he might. He’s in his sixties. There’s no guarantee that he’s of a liberal mindset, no way of knowing what his reaction might be at all. It’s a concern. It’s a big concern.
So what now? I’m in the States. I’m going to conferences. I’m keeping myself busy and thinking about wider and more disparate material. When I get home in a week’s time, if there’s still no word from Traceline, then I guess I have to ring them up. I need to know what’s been happening. I need to know what progress has been made. And in the meantime, I have to hope that if we ever do meet that he’s prepared to be non-judgemental and engage with me in some way. What more can I hope for? What more can I do?