Finding Oliver

Alan, Oliver, and “Beauty,” circa winter, 2000

The following collects my diary entries this year regarding my attempt to find and make contact with my son.  I last saw Oliver when he was eleven, fifteen years ago, which is when I was arrested for possession of child pornography.  He was staying with my wife’s relatives at the time.  While I was in prison my letters to him were intercepted by those relatives, his mother divorced me, and she lost custody of him to her relatives.  He petitioned to have his last name changed to that of his new family.  Subsequently, his mother died.  When I got out after almost ten years in prison, I did not have an address for him.  Internet searches were only partially successful—I found his old, inactive accounts on Twitter and Facebook—until 2019, when I turned up an address.  I wrote to that address, then a couple of months later wrote again.  Both letters were marked “return to sender” and arrived together.

I continued the search sporadically, but with no greater success until this year.  The following describes what happened this year, when I found my son and talked to him, and some related thoughts.  I have deleted irrelevant material; comments in brackets are from today.

{1/27/21} …repeated efforts online to find Oliver have proved fruitless.  The last thing I can think of to try is to send a letter “c/o” some relative of his.  I should try all of them.  [I never tried this.]

{2/9/21} Quoting George Sand: “Guard within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness; know how to replace in your heart, by the happiness of those you love, the happiness you may be wanting for yourself.” p. 55.  Good advice, probably; I am inconsistent in these habits, because, for one, I regret the loss of some of the books and photographs I had before prison, such as Thoreau’s Journal and pictures of Oliver as a child.

{2/13/21}  I found Oliver on Facebook!  There’s no doubt that it’s him.  I (as “Alan Survivor”) put in a “friend request” and left him a short note, asking that he “drop me a line.”  He wrote a fairly long rave review of The Three Musketeers, a book I also loved at around his age, and some others, but nothing since 2018.  His writing is very mature.  O frabjous day!

Alas, it could be years, if ever, before he even sees my note.  But I now know that he graduated from high school, attended Monterey Peninsula College, worked as a Customer Service Representative at Amador Steel and Supply (a place to which I can send a letter), and lived in Jackson, CA.  From Twitter, it seems he was an Eagle Scout.

He posted reviews of Animal Farm and The Lord of the Rings.  The oddest thing about his Facebook account is that he has Peter [name deleted] as a “friend.”  [Peter was a “friend of the family” during Oliver’s childhood.]

If I’d been more diligent about trying to find him, I could have succeeded in 2018.

{2/21/21} So, I have an address for Oliver, yet I haven’t written.  When I approach the thought, I feel anxiety.  I don’t really need to think about it, I have two previous letters (returned) that I could copy; all I need to do is to copy one of them and send it off, and see what happens.  It would be a nag off my mind.  I am afraid.

{2/22/21}  I have been doing a lot of dictation lately, and a good thing it is, too, because without it, I have to think about what I want to do every day.  Now, the theory goes, since I’m not doing what I really want to do—write to Oliver—then nothing (else) appeals to me.  Once that is taken care of, I will have cleared the channel (from id to ego?) and can perceive what I want; the new gestalt can form, as Fritz [Perls, father of gestalt therapy] might say.

In other words, I might say that the huge object in the (back)ground draws all eyes to itself, away from whatever it is that might otherwise emerge.  But the metaphor seems flawed, because the “huge object” remains invisible (unconscious) while being the only object that can be seen.  All that is seen is the pain of conflict—to see or not to see?  The huge object provokes both longing and fear, leading to an “endless” cycle of approach and avoidance.

Yet seemingly nothing could be easier than to write the letter and send it off; I had no significant hesitation about sending a message to Oliver on Facebook.

So, what does this analysis do for me?  Does it make easier the writing of the letter?  Not that I’ve noticed.  If I take a clue from [author Muriel] Schiffman, I must examine this fear and find out “what it really is,” what I’m afraid of.  I suppose I could say, “I’m afraid that he will reject me, that he despises me—a thing that cannot hurt me until I become aware of it.  Writing the letter might provoke a devastating response.”

Everything that I know of Oliver urges in the opposite direction—that he couldn’t possibly despise me, despicable though I am.  It is, I must admit, more likely that he would welcome hearing from me and would respond with love.

And at this point, I see that more “analysis” would simply be a way of avoiding taking action.  Easier to write here than write the letter.

{3/2/21} I’m sending a letter to Oliver as follows, omitting [here] normal salutation & signature (slashes indicate line breaks):

“I am completely uncertain about how you feel or what you might want or expect regarding me. I am writing to you now because you deserve a chance to tell me how you feel./Obviously, I owe you an apology. I did a very bad thing, betraying you and your mother. I am sorry for what I did and no apology can make that better, but I apologize anyway. I am very sorry./Also, you need to know, whether you care or not, that I love you and will always love you, unconditionally./Please write or call and let me know what you think./With love,” etc.

I’m just sending him the letter that I sent him on 9/2/2019, seeing no need to write it again.  It seems to me that it gets the job done as efficiently as I could desire.

{4/18/21}  Kick Me is as close as I’m ever likely to come to “bleeding on the page.”  I should get it out there ASAP, since I have no plans to work on it again (though an update covering the last five years would be appropriate).  My current thinking is to, first, print it out and reread it to see if any last-minute changes are needed; second, to give it to “Nog” to read and wait for his feedback if he’s willing; finally, to publish on Amazon as an eBook and on the blog with a request for donations.  If I’m going to do all this, I should also do a reading, i.e., turn it into a “book on tape” for Amazon.

Of course I’ll want Oliver’s blessing on this project, which means that I need to find him; if necessary, through a private investigator.  There’s no point now in trying to decide what to do if I get no such blessing.  I’ve thought and thought about this; it’s time and more than time to get it done.

{5/2/21} Now, about Oliver—I really don’t want to spend the money for a private detective!  It practically amounts to a choice between finding him and buying a car.  Buying a car would be a really, really big deal in my life [It would allow me to drive to natural areas where doing my usual botanizing and bird watching leads to “painless” exercise, which I’m currently not getting].  I think that finding Oliver is likely to lead either to heartbreak or nothing much, in the sense that we will maintain a relatively cool and infrequent relationship (which seems the most likely outcome).  I guess there’s really no point in considering this further—I need to find him and meet him once to find out how he feels.  That he will want me permanently and frequently in his life seems inconceivable, but it is the outcome I want very much.  I will take steps tomorrow, cost be damned.

It’s conceivable, of course, that he will spit venom or refuse to have any contact with me.  It’s no more than I deserve, unfortunately.

{5/8/21}

Also that month [January, 2011], I was bitter with grief over the loss of my father 64 [incorrect; it was 54] years earlier, and I have not seen the last of that mood, I’m sure.  How, then, can I continue to deny whatever Oliver might want from me?

{5/18/21} Oops.  Called [text omitted], Oliver’s place of business.  To my astonishment, he answered the phone.  A gut punch.  I said, “This is embarrassing.  I didn’t expect you to answer the phone,” which was gauche.  He said, “I’m the phone answerer.”  I said, “I’m your biological father.  I sent you a letter.”  He received the letter, which I wrote a couple of months ago, and didn’t answer it, thus following in my footsteps.  I said, “Then I guess you have no particular desire to talk to me.”  He said, “No, not really.”  So I rang off, and now I want to hang myself.  Once I knew it was him, I could have saved us both by just hanging up; but, as usual, I hadn’t thought about the unpleasant possibilities, and so was unprepared.

Our mutual (or my) embarrassment can better be imagined than described.  So he hates me, or perhaps I am an unperson to him.  I can’t really expect him to leave it at this, but neither can I expect him to change his mind; there’s no reason for hope.  So that door to happiness is firmly closed, and I can “get on with my life.”  At least I didn’t have to spend money unnecessarily on a private detective.  I am disappointed, that he has no curiosity about me. That’s very sad.

This has happened twice already:  when I think of Oliver, my shoulder shrugs without my conscious intent.  So my body is telling me, “shrug it off.”  Good advice.  There’s nothing to obsess about, nothing to do.  Shrug it off.

Do I send him a birthday present?  It’s three months away, lots of time to decide.  First thought:  send him a copy of Kick Me.  I think it’s inevitable that I’ll maintain a minimal level of one-way contact with him, i.e., send him a birthday card yearly.  Hope springs eternal.  [Kick Me: A Lifetime of Blunders, Humiliations, and Crimes is my tell-all, dirty-laundry-only autobiography, my apology for being alive and a cautionary tale for other assholes who don’t know what they are.  A couple of chapters have been published here.]

Talked with Dr. Hill for fifty-five minutes, mostly about Oliver.  Meh.  She talked about “self-care,” which, to me, means “go on as you have been.”  I don’t generally change my activities in response to, say, traumatic events.

I suppose it’s unreasonable for me to resent Oliver’s and my brother’s total lack of interest in me, but I do.

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