The disappearance of Frank D. Stetson
I started my volunteer position at St. Mary’s Court at the beginning of the semester of my senior year of college as part of a service project. My job was for one hour every Wednesday to trek to the senior assisted living home and help out the residents with their computers, their phones, and their Facebooks. This is how I met Ms. Stetson.
Susana Stetson is 83 years old and was born in Ecuador and moved to the United States when she was a young woman to work for a phone company. Her accent and her aged voice make it difficult to understand her complete timeline for how she ended up thousands of miles away from her family in a rent controlled elderly home all alone, but here she is. I got to know Ms. Stetson on her terms. She decided on the first day that her and I would become friends.
Ms. Stetson is a beautiful old woman. Her face is young and her hair has been dyed red and when she holds me to say hello or goodbye I feel warm and happy and loved. Since meeting her I’ve made her a Facebook and an email and I have never seen someone so joyed to learn how to use the internet. It was when I made her an email that she asked me to find her son.
Next to Ms. Stetson’s bed are three aged photos that she keeps in a single square frame. Her son, she told me, is the little boy in the photo and the man with her is her former lover, Frank H. Stetson. He was 20 years her senior and he died in 2002. He was a very wealthy man and she loved him very much. They had one child together, Frank Junior.
I was in Ms. Stetson’s leather recliner when she told me the story of her son. Back in 2001, Frank got angry at her. They were on vacation in Equador and got into a fight. That is when Ms. Stetson’s son took off and disappeared for good.
Searching for someone on the internet is a task I have taken upon myself as a valued skill I have learned over time. I’ve pretty much been able to find anyone I’ve ever looked for on the internet. My mom’s high school friends. Old camp counselors. I even managed to find all of Ms. Stetson’s extended family on Facebook, despite their barren profiles and lack of searchable information. I have had no such luck finding her son.
Ms. Stetson’s photo of Frank jr. is from 2000. He is a sandy haired, blue eyed young man. She speaks of him like she saw him yesterday, she tells me that there isn’t a night where she does not pray for him. All of this and he has not seen his mother in fifteen years.
There is a Frank Stetson, around the age her son would be now, who lives in England and is a food critic. He shares his eye color but Ms. Stetson insists that is not him. She insists that could not be him. He’s in Italy, she says. All these years and he’s still in Italy.
I called my own mother after my first extensive search, frustrated and angry.
“Maybe he’s dead,” I told my mother.
“Don’t you dare suggest that to her.”
“Maybe he was gay and didn’t want to come out to his mother. Maybe he got into drugs.” My mother was silent on the other end of the phone for a few seconds.
“Maybe he’s alive, and he’s just not a good person.”
I haven’t found Frank Stetson yet.
I will keep looking.