A few years ago I discovered details about my birth father, though searching on the net, the most significant that he had died. In the process of discovery, I learned more from his surviving wife who generously supplied details through kind letters, photos and, obliquely, sending me his wedding ring from their marriage – an unusual artefact – that I had a half-sister with whom I am now in contact but also another brother or sister though I haven’t been able to find out any information about this sibling, two years younger than me.
It is in searching for any information about my unknown brother or sister that I bought limited access to the Omaha World-Herald newspaper online archives, hoping that there would be relevant detail in the ‘Births’ section at the very least. There wasn’t. I did, however, find a selection of references to my birth father, Olin Stanfield, and it was the increasing amount of purely numerical rather than personal details that struck me as an impersonal acquisition of precious material, though, excusing the pun, amounting to little.
Most of those references were quite simply about his existence as a teacher in an Omaha school as the paper made annual statements about employment in these city establishments. I did, however, find the following, and wrote the poem that follows this:
$9.95 and Other Numbers
For 5 cents short of 10 bucks, all I actually buy are numbers,
30 downloads in 24 hours and yet little of any revelation
in these newspaper archives about my history: the
unknown father; brother or sister too – my sibling still with us,
possibly. 2 years younger than me, there are no mentions in
Births for that May in ’56, nor me, surprisingly, in an
otherwise documented March of ’54. Nearly 60 years ago and
none the wiser. But another sister is announced in 1960 with
our new dad, 6 years further down but in another Omaha road.
I find the pictures of that home, number 1406 on North 40th,
the duplex’s concrete porch still staring out at the passing cars
as the years rolled by. Thousands and thousands, some still in
primer grey. Olin is mentioned 13 different times, only 1 quote
of ‘his boys work hard’ – students with him in 1961, Oct 29.