Friday, April 8, 2016

"The Un-Daughter: The Legacy of a Non-Father" by Guest Author, Buddhika Arcia

By Guest Author: Buddhika Arcia

The cause of my adoption is essentially akin to the dominant scenario within the Baby Scoop Era, but set in Sri Lanka in the early 80s. My birth parents were not married, and my father, not wanting any responsibility, heard about me and ran for the hills. He was completely absent, not even present during the time that I was in utero. The epitome of the non-father. What really is there to say about a birth father like mine? If something is absent, can it have any effect on you? If a person has no name, look, voice or reference point, does that mean they have no impact?

Yet absence most certainly has an effect. Absence is felt and seen and it can shape you. How many adoptees have been shaped by the actions of their birth parents though they have never met them; maybe because of the fact that they have never met them? And of course, without even knowing the whys and wherefores of our birth parents, we are shaped, at least partially, by their DNA.

NON: Expressing negation or absence

There are many views floated in the world about who constitutes a father and what it means to be a father (and likewise; a mother). People have said it takes more than making a baby to be a father, however that is a purely social interpretation which imports within its definition a value judgement about a good father. That is not a biological definition. Whatever heartfelt notions the word ‘father’ certainly brings up for me in reference to my (adoptive) dad… the man who gave me his DNA, following the biological definition, cannot stop being my father. I am his daughter whether he likes it or not and whether I like it or not.
He is in me, and is a part of me as the blood in my veins, whether I like it or not. 

And whether he likes it or not.

Whether we know each other or not.

It is difficult to fully comprehend the knowledge that I had a father who would have known what would happen to me and my mother if he did not take any responsibility for me. He essentially left me to, at best, be a disadvantaged outcast excluded from society, and at worse, die (no financial support for my mother or care for me while my mother worked = no food for me). It is difficult to reconcile his actions with the fact that I carry his DNA.

Since I reunited with my mother, I can see more and more of my mother in me. I look in the mirror and see me, and I see my mother, in my face, looking back at me.

But what I also see is the features that do not seem to come from my mother, that do not seem to come from relatives on my mother’s side. The features that must have come from him: my non-father. The one who ran away. The one who caused my adoption. I see him in my face in the features that have no ancestry or home. For me as an adoptee, absence has a presence. It is visible.

When I look at my son, I can see his father in him. I had never seen biology at work before. This is the first time I have been up close and personal with it. I am kind of in awe of it. My son not only has the physical appearance and expressions that his father has, but there is this quirky mannerism, too. He has had this mannerism since he was an infant. When I pointed it out to my husband, he did not even know that he had the mannerism so he had never noticed that our son also had it. I do not think our son has learnt it. It is such a minor thing. Our son has a passionate personality. He takes great delight in doing things with gusto. If he knew about it, he would draw attention to it. No, it seems to be entirely unconscious behaviour on both their parts. My son is my husband’s flesh. He is in him. They are linked, consciously and unconsciously. I saw it with my own eyes. Biologically speaking, half of my son is me and half of my son is his father. 

And so it occurred to me. My biological father – he is in me and in my son. Finally I know my biological mother. But, who is the other half of me? Who is the other part of my son?

I do have some facts about him – his name, age, race and religion. That his actions caused me to lose my mother and my mother to lose her daughter is the one single tangible thing I know about his character. Unsurprisingly, it brings little peace. My middle name is partly his name and partly my mother’s name. My mother purposefully chose it. So I feel that there was, at least, the briefest of brief periods where he was not utterly the worst person in the world. For some reason, that my parents were not complete ships in the night, gives me some comfort.

Within the cultural and social context in which I was born, my biological father most certainly knew things would be difficult for me, impossible even, if he disappeared. However, I do sometimes wonder whether he fully understood the severity of his actions and how far-reaching the ramifications of those actions would be for me and my mother and all of our families, still decades passed.

In amongst the best and craziest highs of the ‘rollercoaster’ of reunion (as it is often so aptly described) sits this mess of my non-father. This person whom I do not want, but about whose actions I feel I must reach a point of acceptance, for part of him and part of me is the same, whether I like it or not. Yet even reaching that acceptance seems difficult, not simply due to the enormity of the task of forgiving someone who separated you from your mother, but because of how conceptually difficult it is to accept the actions of someone that has no shape or face and who therefore seems entirely fictional.

The biggest fear that I have about my biological father relates not to the young man who was absent then nor the older man who is absent now, but to my mother, whom I do love in the most of ways…When my mother looks at me, does she see him? In her eyes, is my face more like his? Am I a living, breathing, walking, talking, bad memento of a life that she once had, and a life that she never went on to have, all at the same time?

Even though I am, I expect, merely a loose end from years passed, in a time and place and life that my biological father has likely blocked out entirely, nothing changes the fact that I am his legacy. It is a legacy that lasts a life time. For his selfish choice drastically changed the course of my whole life. Whilst I cannot escape him, but he did escape me, his legacy includes the story of me: The Daughter That Was Not. 

Whether he likes it or not.

Buddhika is a reunited Sri Lankan-Australian adoptee. She is a mother, lawyer, chocolate addict and lover of sunshine. Buddhika holds a Master of Laws, a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Psychology with First Class Honours. She blogs about being an intercountry adoptee at East-West of the Bodhi Tree to provide a comfort zone of shared reality for intercountry adoptees with similar experiences and outlook and to allow the broader society a window into the intercountry adoptee and ethnic minority experience.