I asked myself often “Terrell are you strong, silent, or depressed?”
A legitimate question to ask when you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to feel.
Growing up without my biological dad did more damage to me than I realized. Let me explain… Growing up my father wasn’t in the picture as he went off to the Navy. I had an amazing stepfather who stepped in and went above and beyond for me too. However, the fact remained that I felt a certain level of EMPTINESS because he wasn’t MY FATHER.
As a young man all you want to do is “be like your father” and for me that wasn’t the case. I was stripped of my opportunity to even make that decision. I was often left to wonder what he was even like. Having people say things like “you look just like your dad” or “you act just like your dad” and here I am thinking to myself “well I act like someone I’ve never even met.” which was difficult to understand as a kid.
I was involved in sports like basketball, football, and baseball. I played extremely well in baseball as I received all types of accolades such as 1st place, all-star, or most valuable player. The hardest part of it all was at the end of the games when someone else’s dad would congratulate me on a good game and ask if my dad seen the game.
The level of sadness that brought to me each time just made me want to cry.
It didn’t make me feel like I was an all-star son or the most valuable son at that moment. I hated banquet dinners for sports because I knew that despite all the support I was going to receive that one person I wanted there wasn’t going to be there at all.
I believe when I was eleven or twelve I was able to take a trip to see him. To my surprise “I really did look like him, act like him, and I really did enjoy being around him. That ONE WEEK was probably one of the best weeks ever at that point of my life. However, it got to a point when I was about thirteen years old and I started exploring the thoughts of how come he doesn’t reach out to me often if he knows I exist. I mean I was his first born and he had another child whom was living with him, yet I would only hear from him every so often.
Speaking on the phone no longer was enough for me.
I felt like he just didn’t care about me, so I built a wall up and had a vendetta against him out of anger and sadness. I allowed my emotions to let me build that wall that would protect my feelings from ever being hurt again by someone. Due to me feeling that level of rejection from him anytime from that point on I would be very short and brief with him through any phone conversation he initiated because I was afraid to let him get close to me. As bad as I wanted the relationship I also knew I would never get it in the capacity that I wanted it.
He came to visit a hand full of times in my life time and I was continuously on guard to ensure he didn’t hurt me anymore than he already did. People never understood why I wouldn’t be excited about his visits or calls. I was just not interested in being vulnerable when it came to him. He missed so much of my life. Moments like my birthdays, holidays, sporting events, 8th grade graduation, college graduation, and just the opportunity to know me.
As I got older I would constantly say I wouldn’t have children until I knew I was going to stay with the mother of my children. I would repeatedly think to myself I wouldn’t leave my kids behind like he left me. I knew I wanted to be a better dad than that. I think the protection mechanism I discovered due to our relationship spilled over into my actual personal relationships with women. I would be very cautious with how quickly I opened up emotionally and selective on how much information I would share. I tried to break that habit once I graduated high school and me letting my guards down resulted in a few bad relationships that ruined me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually even more.
As a man we are already expected to be tough, strong, courageous, providers, and dominating. We are not to show pain, fear, and emotions with the exception of anger. I learned in my adult years that fear, pain, and anger are all honest emotions. Yet we tell men it’s not deemed “manly” and yes, I am a victim of that. For the longest I was the guy who turned his emotions off when I felt I was at jeopardy of being emotionally hurt. It was just so much easier to hide behind my anger. If I’m being honest being that way prevents authentic relationships from being created. Going even further into it not being able to express my thoughts, struggles, and feelings brought up anxiety that I battle often due to just feeling like I’m alone in most situations. Going through life and having a feeling of not being understood or heard makes it hard to speak up and express yourself. Not being able to trust people because of your fear of being let down is hard.
I’ve been working on my relationship with God and I’ve learned that we are forgiven daily and if we can be forgiven daily then we too shall be able to forgive. Understanding the reality that no one on earth is perfect and it is more about the follow up.
That put things into perspective and allowed me to speak with my father this past thanksgiving. We were able to sit down, and I asked questions about the past that I felt weren’t answered and he gave me the unadulterated truth. I must say being able to get that closure has had me just overwhelmed these past few days. It was a true blessing to allow him to share his side and give me understanding to his actions. I can honestly say I have forgiven my dad.
Currently our focus is no longer the past but to manage how we go forward in the future. God has been working on me these past few months. I’m a different man than I was last year. All I can say is when you decide to let go and allow him to work the number of things that change right before your eyes are endless.