It was early before work on a Monday morning. I was busy with my routine as a single mom, getting myself and my young daughter ready for the day. The phone rang, and I scurried to pick it up. I noticed my parent’s number on the display, and my pulse quickened as I wondered about the possible reason for the much-too-early call.
“Hi,” I answered as I picked up the phone. Immediately, the sound of heavy breaths could be heard over the line, and then a deep voice replied: “I just can’t handle it. I just can’t handle it.”
“Dad?” I questioned. “What are you talking about?”
“If you decide to date Eddie, I just can’t handle it. You will no longer be my daughter.”
The world around me slowed down in that moment. I thought perhaps my ears had malfunctioned because my dad could not have just told me that if I decided to date this man, I would be disowned. For what seemed like several minutes, all I heard on the other end of the phone was shaky broken breathing. I’m not sure what occurred during these stretched out seconds but something switched in me and my shock turned to anger.
I replied, “You know you’d better think about what you are doing because there are consequences to this decision.”
“I just can’t handle it,” he responded. The heat in my body grew, and I lashed out, “If that’s what you want to do than fine!” I hung up.
This response from my dad was a complete shock because I had been over to his house already to tell him I had started to date Eddie. At that time, Eddie was a friend from a previous job, and we stayed in touch after I left the company. I knew when I initially told my dad he would likely have some questions about the relationship. Eddie was about 20 years older and African American, while I am Caucasian. However, to call me in the early morning hours and tell me if I decided to date Eddie I would be no longer his daughter shook me to my core.
I knew in my heart I couldn’t let my dad’s unwarranted prejudice against Eddie prevent me from being with a man who always treated me with respect and love.
Moving Through Grief
I realize parents want the best for their children, and I expect no less from mine. Yet to act as if my decision to date Eddie was beyond comprehension put me on the defense.
My dad and I didn’t talk for almost a year after that early morning phone call.
During those months, I went through an array of emotions that led to a personal transformation. Looking back on that time, I realize I went through the stages of grief as if my dad had passed away. Through the process, I also found out about self-love and forgiveness.
At first I felt betrayed by my dad. I was almost 30 years old, and this was the man who literally brought me into this world: My dad delivered me in the backseat of a taxi on the way to the hospital. He was the man who read me bedtime stories and told funny jokes. He was the person who woke his kids up in the wee hours on Christmas morning because his anticipation of us opening our gifts overwhelmed him. He rarely raised his voice and gave most people the benefit of the doubt. Now, he was the one person who turned his back on me because I made a decision he didn’t agree with.
The next emotion was doubt. I was faced with many questions about why he would do this to me? How could he do this to me? What happened in his past that would make him harshly judge Eddie and then me for wanting to be with this man? I wanted the answers to these questions, but I couldn’t get them. Then I realized the answers to these questions didn’t matter. The answers wouldn’t help my dad change his mind, and the answers probably would not make me feel any better about what my dad had said to me.
So I started questioning why I was with Eddie. I began creating issues and problems in our relationship that weren’t even there because there had to be something wrong with me if my dad didn’t want to be in my life. Why would anyone want to be in my life? The self sabotage spread into my relationship with Eddie.
Then I got angry, and I blamed my dad for being miserable and unhappy. Everything was his fault. I stayed angry because it served a purpose for me. It gave me the false permission to not have to look to see if I could have done something different in the situation. The problem with anger is it will keep its grip on us until we decide to let it go. It took me a long time to understand this point. I got sick and tired of being angry so I decided not to be angry anymore. I didn’t have to hang up on my dad that morning, but I did. I could have called my parent’s house after that phone call, but I didn’t.
The Healing Process
Over several months, I began to let go of the anger and started to take time to look inside. Whether or not I agreed with my dad’s decision to disown me, there was a relationship I could mend and make better. I began to heal the relationship with myself. I went back and analyzed my past relationships—what made them tick and what made them dissolve. Before dating Eddie, I had already been married twice. It was time for some self-discovery, self-reflection and forgiveness. I examined my past relationships and the part I played in their demise. I then had to forgive myself for what I did, said or thought within those relationships. I had to realize that the dissolution of each was not all the other person’s fault.
Ultimately, I came to a place where I forgave myself for those things I had done or said in my previous relationships. Then I further examined the relationship I had within myself. I always blamed others for “not loving me enough,” but I realized I could choose to love who I was in the moment, not always being so hard on myself or trying to be something or someone that I was not. I can’t be someone else because I am me! I was brought onto this earth to be me. I chose to love who I was, flaws and everything else.
Once I began to love myself, my relationship with Eddie bloomed.
I was able to allow him to love me fully because I could accept the love freely without thinking there was some type of restrictions around it. I realized that what had happened in my past relationships and between my father and me didn’t need to be brought into my relationship with Eddie. As I continued to work on healing myself, I got to a place where I surrendered and let go of trying to change my dad’s mind regarding my decision to be with Eddie. During that time, my dad also seemed to have been healing and growing within himself around our situation. In the end, there was light after the fight.
Thanksgiving was approaching, and as I courtesy I invited my parents, even though we weren’t at a good place in our relationship. When I offered initially, it was met with hesitation and no affirmation. About six weeks later, as the holiday was approaching, my dad called. He told me that while he was at church the minister talked about how nobody has the right to sit in judgment of another. It resonated with him!
“I want to apologize to you and Eddie about the way I’ve acted. If the offer still stands, we would be honored to come to your house and have Thanksgiving with you.”
My heart melted, my eyes watered and I replied, “We would love to have you here.”
Teresa Morrow began her life as a symbol of inspiration, born weighing a little over one pound with severe heart issues. Her writing career began in her teens, when she submitted a poem for creative writing class that was featured in the school yearbook. Teresa’s professional background has expanded from working for a family-owned business to Fortune 500 companies as an executive assistant. This led her to start her own virtual administrative business, Key Business Partners, LLC, in 2007. She turned that enterprise into an online book promotional company that has helped numerous authors share their personal messages. Now an inspirational speaker and coach, Teresa‘s books Life Lessons from the Heart and, most recently, DISOWNED: A Journey of Transformation from Abandonment to Healing have established her as an advocate for people who want to realize and celebrate their own uniqueness. Learn more at TeresaMorrow.com.