My dad and I have come a long way.
I was not always so receptive to be around him until I was able to drive and I wanted to be closer to him and his side of my family.
He wasn't around much, if at all, when I was growing up. I had to deal with teasing from my cousins who knew him and knew who he was (they grew up in his church along with my older brother; I was 2 when we left) always saying he was gay & other cousins asking why my uncles did so much for us, where was our daddy, stuff like that. It was hard. My mother never said anything bad about him or anything period about him for that matter. There was no defense of him, but no praise for him, it's hard to grow up like he was this enigma that existed, but seldom seen. So yes, I had a lot of resentment growing up in that environment and then having to be in his face from time to time.
I remember once when I was about 8 or 9 and I went to the church he pastors. His church to be precise. I wasn't aware of any of my relatives really. My dad's youngest sister looked at me and made a face at me. I had no idea who this person was making faces at me and I wanted to make one back at her, but I thought better of it and just looked away, bothered by the experience. I thought my great aunt was my grandmother for a while just because she didn't have any teeth and was older. The thought still makes me laugh when I think about it. This day after church, I didn't want to go up and say hi to him. I remember that. I remember he hugged me with one arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer to him. I didn't hug him, but he hugged me and I remember being angry in my yellow dress with this scowl on my face because I didn't want to say hi to my father and I did anyway and I wanted to cry if I wasn't. He said something to those around us, and they laughed, and then I was able to walk away and then started being greeted by my other relatives. I had been away from them since I was young. I really didn't know who these people were.
Fast forward to my teenaged, high school years. I don't know how I came to the decision that I wanted to spend more time with him. Maybe it was because he came to my graduation. As we marched in, he was in the very back, at the top of the bleachers. I remember he turned around & smiled and waved. I was so happy. I almost shed tears then. I waved and lipped the words, "Hi daddy!" very excitedly. I think that is what made my graduation so memorable.
Also during these teen years, I was seemingly always at my grandmother's house. I used to walk over all the time. I would call her regularly. As a teenager I went to visit her a lot. How could I be close to her, but not have a decent relationship with my dad? I started going to his church. One of my oldest friends, her grandmother was one of the co pastors at his church. That was one of the ways I got in with him. I would go to church with them all the time. That's how I met one of my older brothers, Jermaine and how I met my baby brother and sister as well as my step siblings and got to know them fairly well.
I then stopped going to his church tocould attend my grandfather's church with him. My grandfather was my favorite person in the whole world so this was not an uneasy choice. This was for the remainder of my teenage years until my grandfather started getting sick. He wasn't going to church, and I was home with him, watching over him.
I had gotten pregnant with my daughter and I was working a catering job with my my uncle (dad's brother) and cousins. One of them asked me if I was pregnant. I denied it, but it spread through the family. One day I was summoned to give him a call, which I did. We small talked briefly before he got to the poing. "Are you pregnant?" I was pregnant and I told the truth. No need to hide it. And that was that. I never let him see me pregnant though. Either time.
I got older, started working, got a car and I visited more, came to the church more. That was until I was about to lose my first car and I asked him for help and he said he would. During a night service at church, he said something to me that caused me to read between the lines. I realized a few moments after his statement; he wasn't going to help me. The point became more and more clear when he kept telling me to call him and when I did, he never took my call, he was always out or busy. So that hurt. A lot. It took me back to the years he wasn't there. I didn't talk to him for a year.
Fast foward more time, I got over it. I got other cars, I visited the church sparingly. I visited with the kids at his house. He started having these get togethers close to Christmas time with all the kids and the grandchildren and we'd sit around have pizza and just chill. I always ended up with someone's baby in my lap. They were good times.
One day, I had been through a very trying time at work. About 4 years ago, I hated my job, my then supervisor, my life. So I went to his house after work just to talk about my direction in life. I spoke on how unhappy I was but I didn't know what I wanted to do and I couldn't really afford to go to school and didn't really have a support system to do anything else. He listened. He made an attempt to say he would help me in anyway he coul. I just wanted some guidence. He tried with that too. That's when I fell in love with my father. Not like that. It's one thing to be around someone and reactionarily say I love you. Now when I say it, I mean it. I never had his cell phone number when he first got his cell phone, but now I do. He tells me to call him anytime on that number when I want to talk or say hello.
Before my grandmother passed away, I always made sure I would visit her and at least call him. They would talk to each other about seeing me or hearing from me. My dad gave my sister the blues with "You heard from your sister?" And she'd call me, "You need to call your daddy cuz I'm tired of him asking me about you." He always was concerned about me because I always reached out and didn't want anything. Not many of my other siblings are like that. "Daddy I need," "Daddy can i live with you again," "Daddy can I have..." I have never been like that because I know he is already dealing with that. I only ask when I really need, but, truth be told, I would rather walk on my lips than to ask anyone anything.
So now we are pretty cool. He called me a couple of times. He says I love you sometimes before I say it. I love my dad. If my sister saw this she'd say, "Awwww that's so sweeet...Terri luvs her daddy." We always mess with each other about that. On top of the ongoing competition on who the favorite is. She's always saying, "I'm number one, you're number two." I rebut with, "You're number one, but I'm the favorite." I like it when I can make him laugh too. Something about dad's approval. I also look just like him. I hear that a lot. I keep saying all I have to do is grow a moustache and I got it on lock.
I recently posted some pictures on Facebook of me when I was younger and he said he had no idea how much I looked like him. (Let my mother tell it, I act just like him too by way of a junky bedroom.) I almost went there and said to him, if you were around you would have known, but old knife wounds don't need to be reopened. He knows he could have done better. He's said & admitted that and I like to think he's trying to make up for it. So all is well and we shall keep it well.