Don’t Tell Me I Have ‘Daddy Issues’

Don’t Tell Me I Have ‘Daddy Issues’

My Grandfather was the lighthouse in the middle of the ocean on a dark, foggy night: steadfast and spearhead.

I recently realized that I have shared a lot about my Grandmother but only limited amounts about my Grandfather. This isn’t because I didn’t have a good relationship with him. He just happened to pass away during some of my most impressionable years. I was 12 when he passed away.

My GrandDad was the son of sharecroppers and was built for hard labor. He was a carpenter–a builder. His hands were large and calloused from years of construction but he was always gentle with his family. He was a big man–standing at 6 foot 2, 250 lbs–but his heart was bigger than his frame. He was secure in his manhood and put his faith in God. He was a provider for his family in more ways than money could buy. He had a 6th grade education but he was the smartest man I have ever known. Most of all, he loved my Grandmother unequivocally.

When I was a youngin’,  I was very much a Daddy’s girl. As a small child, I spent a lot of time sitting at the kitchen table–or on the porch–with my GrandDad. Besides fishing, this was literally his favorite thing to do. “Turn on the news,” he would say. It always had to be Channel 12 WPRI. When I was in preschool, my bus would leave early in the morning. My Grandfather got up every single day around 5:00am like clockwork. By the time I was up and ready–by 6:00am–he had a fresh pot of coffee brewed with the tv tuned into the news. He would sit me in his lap and I would steal sips of his coffee (a Maxwell House blend with milk and sugar). I would watch along with him and shout “look Daddy, I’m on tv!” whenever our local Meteorologist Tony Petrarca would predict warm and breezy weather. Breezy is a family/childhood nickname of mine.

My Grandfather was very hard on me and was strict in his guidance–but with good intention. As I grew older, we would bump heads when I tried to push his limits. I wouldn’t push too hard. It wasn’t his judgement I was afraid of–it was his disappointment that terrified me.

My favorite memories of my Grandfather are those of love and laughter. He was never afraid to get dirty with the kids, and he was never afraid to stand up for his family. He could hold a grudge, but still he loved his family unconditionally. Because of my Grandfather, I know what love from a Dad should feel like. I know what love from a husband looks like. I am spoiled with the fact that my Grandparents loved each other unconditionally and fearfully. Because of them, I know love. Because of them, I know what I want my marriage (if I should be blessed) will look like.

My last memory of my GrandDad is the morning that would ultimately lead to his hospitalization and shortly after, his death. It was before 6am and I was getting ready for school. He was waiting for his ride to bring him to dialysis. He seemed to be disoriented and out of it.  He didn’t really know where he was or where he was actually supposed to be going. He was stumbling and slurring his words. My Grandmother was already in the hospital at the time, so I couldn’t go to her for help. So I called my aunt, who then directed me to call 911. But I was 12 and confused. So my aunt called. My Grandfather had fallen on his way out the door to meet his ride and I remember becoming hysterical. I couldn’t help him get up and he was completely out of it. The paramedics arrived and I told my Grandfather I loved him as they wheeled him out of the house. Then I went to school. A few days later, I came home from school and my Grandmother told me with tears in her eyes that GrandDad was gone. I didn’t cry then. I didn’t cry at his memorial service. I willed myself to cry. Because that’s what you should do when someone you love dies, right? I was sad, and I missed him. But those tears never came. It wasn’t until my Grandmother passed away that I would cry for my Grandfather. 12 years later. I’d like to think that somewhere–deep inside my soul– I knew that I would be okay. Because I still had my Grandmother. And she was every bit of him as she was herself.

I think it was about a year after my GrandDad passed that I began looking for my biological father. I was unsuccessful. I wrote a lot of poetry during my middle school years, and most of my poems were about feeling lost and out-of-place. In hindsight, a lot of this had to do with the loss of my Grandfather–I didn’t have Dad around anymore. But once I couldn’t find my biological father, I realized that my GrandDad had given me all that I needed–he was more than enough.

And then a few years later, my biological father found me on Myspace. A part of me was excited. Because, in theory, I should have been able to make up for all that lost time. But there was an even bigger part of me that wanted to (and still does) push him away. I had a vision of what he was supposed to look like in my head from stories my family told me-but he didn’t live up to those expectations. I had dreams of he and I immediately clicking and bonding over funny stories–but again, he couldn’t deliver.

When my Grandmother passed, my father didn’t call to check on me, or pay his respects at her memorial service. The woman who essentially (in my eyes) did what he should have done as a parent had just passed away and he did not even have the decency to attend her service. Despite the many differences my father and I  have, some part of me was willing to sacrifice my comfort in exchange for knowing him. This was not one of those things–this was the ultimate disrespect. How could he care about me–his only child– when he didn’t care enough to be there during those crucial moments? I still don’t understand. A part of me doesn’t want to. So I cut him off. Entirely. But life has taught me that people don’t always learn from silence–especially men. So now, when he calls, I don’t send him straight to voicemail. I answer the phone. I don’t have much to say, but I indulge him.

I may never have a “normal” relationship with my biological father, but at least I know that I possess the ability to forgive the people who have hurt me most. Every time I answer his call–that’s my growth and forgiveness. I will probably never be the one to pick up the phone and call him. At this point, I don’t feel that I am the one with something to prove. I am now at a point in my life where I can finally see things from someone else’s perspective. Who knows what he thinks of this whole situation? But I am at peace with my feelings. Finally.

So, no, I don’t have “daddy issues.” I have people issues. I have trusting issues. I had a Dad–my GrandDad. And he was the light of my life. There are bits of him engrained in the darkest parts of my soul. And those pieces of him I carry with me each day, are the very pieces that have helped me grow into the woman I am today.


Finding Family

Finding Family

For the last few years– since my Grandmother’s passing–I have struggled to find where I fit in the world. A major part of who I am–or rather, who I was– depended on her. She was the Matriarch, and I was her dutiful right hand. With her being gone, I felt like I didn’t have any family that I knew inherently that I could count on. I’m an only child but I grew up surrounded by my aunts, uncle, and cousins. I never felt alone. Even after my family had issues, I still had my G-Ma. But with her gone, and my family members dealing with their own grief in the best way they knew how, I felt alone again. Whether it was true or not.

I wrote letters to my family a year after my Grandmother passed explaining my feelings of loneliness and the depression I suffered from. Not a single family member responded to my letters. It would be months before I learned about the apparent issues some of my family members had with me. For a while, I let my pride get the best of me and I had made up in mind  that it was their problem. I decided that it wasn’t even about me. I decided that I didn’t need them. But then the depression started to seep in around the holidays I spent alone.

It wouldn’t be until last Spring that one of my older cousins called me out on my hypocrisy. How can we want to be a family when ridicule each other? How can we even begin to build a relationship with each other if we are all afraid of hearing what the other person has to say? I will admit, what my cousin said to me initially pissed me off. But as the year went on, I realized that he was right. And I decided that even if some of my family members weren’t ready to confront their own egos, I was ready to confront mine in an effort to rebuild the relationships I used to have with my family.

I celebrated Easter with two of my older cousins and we reminisced about the times that used to be. I was still cautious, but I began to feel more comfortable with the idea that we could all be connected again. I craved more. I spent a lot of time asking my Grandmother for guidance. I’d like to think that she has helped me knock down all those walls I used to keep stacked high because I was so terrified of being hurt by the ones I loved the most. Fast forward to Thanksgiving and my oldest cousin tells me that we’re all celebrating at his house this year. He tells me that the very cousin that told me about myself only months before would be flying in with his family.

I contemplated not going. A part of me was still angry–or maybe more ashamed about our last interaction. But something told me to go. Be with the people I love. In all honesty, I love my family despite our shortcomings. I will always strive to remain connected to the frayed edges of fabric because we are all cut from the same cloth. And it takes strong fabric to build a garment. So I decided that I wanted to mend the pieces that had come undone.

I went to Thanksgiving dinner not knowing what to expect. I tried not to anticipate any arguments or any sort of drama at all. I got dressed, I slayed my makeup and I showed up. And it was beautiful. I was beautiful. We were beautiful. Magical. I can’t properly express the love and familiarity I felt in the presence of my cousins and their children. I’m not even sure they understand how much one day made up for all the lost time we wasted. I don’t even know if they felt the same. For me, seeing my cousins’ kids play together the way we used to restored my faith that we could do this. If not for us, but for our children. And if not for the kids, then for my Grandparents. Because all they ever wanted for us all to get along.

Fast forward to Christmas. I had this excitement inside me that I hadn’t had maybe since I was a kid. I was giddy for Christmas. Not because I would receive gifts, but because I would spend it with my family, and this new, enriched version of myself. And again, it was magical. And it felt it right.

Shortly after the New Year began, I received a message from the same cousin that helped me realize the flaws in my perception of family. I was snowed in at work, and had just come in from shoveling 14.5 inches of snow when I looked at my phone. To say that I was humbled is an understatement. His words were those of appreciation, admiration, and love. It felt good–deep in my soul– to know that he could see the changes I have been making and how hard I am trying to break through the walls that we have all built over the years. To know that he saw my strength, and that it gave him hope for people, and the future is so incredibly beautiful.

Although I have mended relationships with the majority of my family, there are still a few people I haven’t been able to reach. I have tried, but I suppose it isn’t the right time for them. I’ll keep trying, though. And when they are finally ready to let me back in, those moments will be beautiful, too. I have faith.

I share this story because I know there is someone out there with a family that isn’t perfect. The truth is, no family is. We all have our issues. I remember writing about being able to choose your friends but not being able to choose your family. The truth is, you CAN choose your family. Just because you are related, doesn’t mean that you are a family. Being a family takes work. It’s about love, loyalty, and honesty. All of these are choices that you can make. I choose Family over that dark abyss of loneliness. I choose love. I choose hope. But most of all, I choose to strive to continue to a better person each day so that one day the rest of my family can see what I see. So they can feel what I feel.

For a long time, I struggled with my close friends referring to me as family. But, I get it now. They were the family I had when I felt that my blood family wasn’t around. I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to see that. But again, I’m learning.

Since my Grandmother’s death, I have been searching for the type of wisdom she had that you can only find in the older generation. Little did I know, I would find it in a Monday night knitting group in a cafe. I didn’t know that you could feel so connected to strangers. I didn’t know that I would ever feel the love and wisdom my Grandmother shared with me. But I’ve found it. And it is beautiful. These two little ladies–now known as Gram and Auntie–have given me the pieces of my Grandmother that I couldn’t experience anymore. They each remind me of her in their own ways. And I love them for it.

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. My depression and loneliness served a purpose and I am stronger for having experienced. I have no regrets because now I truly appreciate the concept of Family and all the many shades, shapes, and sizes it manifests as.

You don’t have to be alone. I encourage you to have faith and choose love. It’s true what they say: Love conquers all.

My family is bigger than I could have imagined. Love ya’ll. Always. ❤