My mother: Hi Danielle. I have something I want to talk to you about, but I can’t talk right now so I’ll call you later…
Me: So why did you call? (I hate when people do that!)
My mother: …
Me: Are you moving to Georgia?
My mother: Yes and I want you to come.
Me: I don’t want to go. I’m fine right where I am.
My mother: Atlanta is the land of opportunity! I think you’ll really like it.
Me: Why are you moving… to follow daddy?
My mother: I don’t have time to talk about it right now. I’ll call you later so we can talk.
It was May of my junior year in college at NC A&T SU (Aggie pride!), I was working 2 part-time jobs, loving my newfound freedom in life, and growing into my own woman. I really liked Greensboro, and I was putting a lot of thought into staying there after I graduated. The lease to my townhouse was due to expire in August, and I planned to renew it and stay there until I graduated the following May.
I guess you can say I grew up living the American dream for a little brown girl. My parents were married and living together in our family home. Outside my family home and in public, everyone seemed to see a soldier who took care of his family, and a sweet Christian wife and mother, and I saw a raging mean monster and a mother who did nothing to protect me from him. The life I knew inside my family home was kept secret. I hated living there! There was no peace or love in it. My experiences with my father were saturated with fear. He always seemed to be angry, and any little thing would set him off into an angry rage.
He taught me early in life that I couldn’t trust him to protect me. I remember one incident like it happened yesterday. I can see it so clearly, it’s as if the experience has been etched in my soul. I was walking home from my friend’s house and as I was walking past a group of boys with super soaker water guns, they decided to use me as target practice and spray me with so much water my clothes and hair were soaking wet! So much water was dripping from my body, it looked like I had just jumped into a pool. I was only a few minutes from my house and scared to go inside. My mother saw me come in the house first. With concern and shock, she asked, “What happened?! Why are all your clothes and hair wet?” I said, “Some boys wet me with their water guns.” She walked me over to my father in the next room, and as she started to tell him what happened to me, he cut her off and began yelling in a fit of rage. “I don’t want to hear it!! She shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!! Go take your shower!!” My father’s daughter wanted him to say, “Show me who did this to you Danielle…” so he could go over there to those boys and let them know they better not ever touch me again, and if they see me coming, they better look the other direction. BUT something in me already knew that would never happen, and somehow this whole situation would be my fault. My mother would have nothing to say about my father’s reaction or to me to let me know it really wasn’t my fault.
I didn’t understand why my father was so angry all the time… about nothing. The things he should have been angry about- like a group of boys attacking his baby girl, didn’t seem to faze him. I didn’t like being around him and I counted the years until my high school graduation, when I would be able to move out and be free!
My mother called me that evening. All she wanted to talk about was the new start I could have by moving to Georgia, and all I needed to understand was why. Why she felt the need to uproot her life to be with a man, even if he was my father and still her husband. I was really trying to understand what it was, and she was avoiding my concern and focused on the move. She told me my father was having a house built and it would be ready in August. I remember her last words as we were getting off the phone: “Just think about it. Atlanta is the land of opportunity. You can finish school in Georgia. Aren’t you tired of North Carolina?”
Our conversation stayed on my mind. It was all I thought about all day, every day for the next couple of weeks, and I knew I needed to make a decision so I could get my focus back. I had 3 months to decide what I wanted to do. I started researching Atlanta, the colleges, places to live, if I would be able to transfer my job, and a new start seemed cool, but I wasn’t in love with it. All I could think about was I would have to live with them- meaning my dad and family, until I was able to get my own place. I knew nothing had changed with my father, and I didn’t want to re-live my childhood experiences with him as an adult.
It was now July, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do- stay or move, but the crazy thing is everything was aligning for me to move without taking any losses. My supervisor at work told me she would approve an internal transfer so I wouldn’t have to go thru the application process as a new applicant. There was even a full-time position in Atlanta beginning in September. She even offered to submit an employee review to put me in a “highly recommended” status for the position, and since it would be an internal transfer, I would have priority over an outside applicant. I could go to school at night, and I would still be on track to graduate the following year.
August 1, I decided I would make the move to Atlanta! The next time I spoke to my mother I let her know I had finally made a decision, and I would move with her! After all the conversations she had with me about Atlanta, she didn’t seem so happy about my decision or moving any more. All she had to say was, “ooh…” It felt like my heart stopped as I waited for her to speak. She let me know the house wouldn’t be ready until October, so she wouldn’t be moving until then. I didn’t know what to say. All I could think about was how I had already put everything in motion to move by the end of the month. I had a job to start in September and now she’s telling me the house won’t be ready until October. When I finally did speak, I asked her why she didn’t tell me, and I remember thinking how nonchalant her reply seemed: “Oh, I didn’t think you wanted to move. You can stay with your dad until the house is ready.”
We got off the phone and 1,000 thoughts began racing thru my mind. I didn’t know if I should stay, wait or go. I went to sleep that night and when I woke in the morning I was at peace. I realized this whole situation may just be a blessing in disguise! I could proceed with my plans and move to Georgia in September and stay with my father. I started thinking… maybe this could be a new start for us. I could go there, start my job and spend time with my dad! I was in my early 20’s, and I realized I had a void in my life that only a relationship with my father could fill. I was ready to go! I remember feeling so much better after that moment. I was happy for my new start, not only with my life, but my dad as well. I called my mother to tell her I decided to proceed with my plans even though the house wouldn’t be ready until October, because I realized it would be an opportunity for me to bond with my dad. I moved out of my townhouse, packed all my belongings and drove down to Georgia. Life was good the first few weeks! I was spending time with my dad, going out to eat and he was showing me around Atlanta. I saw a different side of my dad. He wasn’t angry, he was laughing and smiling. He was real chill. He wasn’t losing his temper over minor things… he was just different, and I was the happiest little girl in the world living in a 20-year-old woman’s body!
Toward the end of the month, my dad started planning to go back to North Carolina to visit my mom and siblings and to help them prepare for the move to Georgia. He told me he wanted to leave at 4:00pm on Friday, so Thursday I packed a bag, made plans with my friends to see them while I was there and went to sleep on cloud 9. Friday, I decided to go to the mall until it was close to the time to leave. I noticed my cell phone minutes were low (this was before unlimited calling plans existed and you had to purchase a minutes plan, and calls were free after 7pm and all weekend), so I turned my phone off to avoid incurring any overages as a result of people calling to talk to me. I left the mall at about 2:30pm and when I got in the car, I turned my phone on to see if I had any messages. I had a few text messages and before I could read them my phone rang and it was my dad, so I answered thinking he was checking on me to make sure I was ready to go when he got off work, and instead I heard the total opposite. He was yelling and angry! All I remember him saying was: “If you’re not here in 5 minutes, I’m leaving” and he hung the phone up. I completely shut down. I don’t even remember driving back to his apartment. All I remember is realizing I had drove past his apartment because his car wasn’t there. That man had really left me! I couldn’t believe it. I was so hurt by his actions, I literally sat in the car just staring out the window. It seemed like everybody was calling me… my mother, sister, friends, and I just let the phone ring. That evening I finally answered my sister’s call. She asked me why I didn’t answer the phone when daddy was calling me and why didn’t I come back to North Carolina with him, so I explained to her what happened. She was livid! I spoke to her the next day and she told me she told my dad and mom what happened, and no one had anything to say.
Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.] Colossians 3:21
My dad came back early Monday morning and left out soon after to go to work. He didn’t say much to me over the next few days and toward the end of the week he brought the situation up as he was handing me a package from my mother, “…yea I got off work early that day and I was calling and calling, and you weren’t answering so I said I’m leaving!” and he started laughing. I just stood there in silence. There was nothing to laugh about within the situation. I know he wasn’t laughing because it was funny, but because he was embarrassed about his actions and too full of pride to apologize. I don’t know. Something within his actions broke my spirit that day and I didn’t have it in me to try to have a relationship with him anymore. What kind of father just leaves his daughter?
Fast forward about twenty years, nothing had changed between my father and me. I forgave him for all the hurt he caused my heart. I would speak to him on occasion and one day recently I bought him a lemonade from Chick Fil A. He loves their lemonade, so I bought him one as I was buying food for my children. I gave it to him, and he started telling me why he loved lemonade so much and then he started telling me about an accident he had when he first joined the military…
I worked in engineering, and I was driving a forklift down a hill to deliver some supplies for a job my unit was doing, and as I’m going downhill, I’m tapping the brakes trying to slow down some, and that’s when I realized the brakes didn’t work. The only thing that stopped that forklift from going over the cliff was a metal barrier. When the forklift hit the metal barrier, the impact caused it to flip upside down, it landed on top of me, and I was pinned underneath it! I heard someone calling my name, “Marine! Marine!” and that’s when I woke up and answered him. He called back to the others, “He’s Alive!” Next thing I know the jaws of life where there and they were lifting that big machine off me and pulled me out from underneath it. The ambulance came. I couldn’t walk. I was in a lot of pain, so they put me on a gurney and took me to the emergency room. Some of the guys from my unit came with me and they called your mother to let her know what happened. The doctors examined me and took x-rays. I was still in a lot of pain. I would just be laying in the hospital bed day after day. The nurses and doctors kept giving me pain medication. I don’t think they knew what they were doing. One day the guys from my unit came to visit me and one of them told me, “Ah you know Sarg knew the brakes didn’t work on that forklift and he sent you down the hill anyway…” I asked him how he knew, and he said he heard him talking about it earlier that day.
He told me about all the hardships he had during his time in the military as a result of the accident and his injuries, and at one point he even cried for a quick minute as he was telling the story of what happened to him, and how he endured until it was time for him to retire. It was at that point I realized his heart had not healed from the trauma and pain he was carrying because of that accident. Furthermore, he had not forgiven the man, “who almost killed him.”
I was a little girl when he had that accident and had no idea of all the physical pain he was in daily all those years I was growing up, because he never spoke about it to me, until that day a couple of weeks ago. After our conversation, I began to wonder if the pain is what made him so angry all that time, and what else was he holding on to that he had yet to even express or verbalize was still burdening his heart? That day I saw my dad as simply a man who had his own unresolved issues and a wounded heart that needed to be healed. I saw him as his mother’s son. I saw him as a man who only knew how to be a provider (financially) to his wife and children. I saw him as a black man in America. I saw him for him that day, and I understood why he didn’t have it in him to be a daddy to me.
When I began my healing journey years ago, I forgave my father for all the emotional pain and trauma he caused me during my lifetime, but it wasn’t until I began to reflect on that conversation with him, that I took off the expectation I still had in my mind, even as a grown woman with her own children, of who he should be as a daddy to me, and I simply let him be who he is.
A father’s role in his children’s lives is vital to who they know themselves to be. For a daughter, the father tells her who she is thru his words, deeds and actions. How he talks to her, what he calls her, how he handles her heart and emotions, how he loves her, how he treats her mother, and how he cares for her as the protector and provider. Every moment a father has with his children is a teachable moment, and it’s vital to the relationship that he understands the most profound lessons are the ones they see. Furthermore, being a provider goes beyond the physical and financial realm. It also encompasses providing support that will foster a healthy spiritual, emotional and soul relationship for his children.
What happened to my dream?
It definitely didn’t go away simply because I’m not a little girl anymore, however I found its fulfillment within my relationship with the uncreated God. God has been a father and a husband to me. God is my source for everything! There is absolutely nothing I lack within my relationship with God the father, and the more I trust him to be exactly who he said he is in his word, the more I experience his unconditional love for me. I can’t explain this love, but He shows me every day.
My relationship with my father has taught me so much about myself. The most profound lesson I carry with me is this: My father is a man first, who was once a little boy with his own unresolved issues as a result of his time with his parents and life experiences, and placing an expectation on him to be the father I think he should be to me is unfair and is a setup for me to be disappointed when he doesn’t live up to my expectations, because he can’t. It doesn’t make him a bad person. It simply means he was never given the life tools to be who God created him to be as my daddy. The revelation of this life lesson has literally saved my relationship with my earthy father and has allowed me to accept and love him unconditionally. My dream (and prayer) for my father is that he develops a true relationship with God, to trust Him to heal his heart, to turn every stony area to flesh and help him forgive the man “he still knows by his full name, and even after all these years will never forget his face, who almost killed him.”
I am so grateful for my life’s journey and all the experiences that have shaped me into the woman I am today! For without them I wouldn’t be me. I love you daddy. Happy Father’s Day.
More blessings, light & love to you, forever and always,
Danielle, Life Coach & Mentor💜
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