This blog is part 3 of a 4-part series I’m calling My Rad Life: Life Changing Moments in Being Rad. It came out of me being very focused right now on the ways in which my life suddenly changed for the better. Very often through challenges that later proved themselves to be blessings. If you missed Parts 1 & 2 you can find them here. Today, I’m going to share with you how my “daddy issues” with my father started on the path towards healing and restarted a dialogue between us… even though he’s in spirit.
I was not the son my dad expected. I don’t think I was anything he expected. And he just simply didn’t know how to deal with that. Very early as a kid I loved to sing and that was basically what I cared about. Period. In going through my mother’s things after she died, I found pictures of me as 4 or 5 year old posing in my mother’s pumps. I was surprised to find the picture and of course, we all laughed at it. But I can’t imagine such a thing made my dad very happy.
My father was a somewhat tortured man. I think of my upbringing as being very poor. We lived in an old farm house (quite literally) on the wrong side of the tracks. My parents’ cars were vehicles that had been totaled by insurance companies that my dad would buy and patch back together. That being said, my father’s upbringing was flat out poverty.
But, he was good at football. And as a high school senior, he was so talented that he had hopes of going to college and maybe even taking that to a professional career. That dream ended when during a game, an opposing team decided to “get him” and they piled on top of him, breaking his back.
Many vertebrae had to be fused and his hopes for the future ended just like that. It would be foreshadowing of deeper tragedies that were to come that he couldn’t ever have seen coming. I don’t think he ever got over that. And I think when life consequently disappointed him, his temper would get the best of him and he would lash out.
The earliest memories I have of disappointing my father was probably around 4 years old. He had arranged for me to get a train set for Christmas. Plus some other traditional little boy things. They weren’t the toys I had asked for and I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in the train set. The emotional and occasional physical violence started not too soon afterwards. I stopped being the extroverted little boy I had been, and started hiding. And trying desperately to please him.
But I didn’t really have what it took. I tried baseball and basketball, but I was awful at them. To give you a clue as to how important these things would be to him, I was once standing WAAYYY out in the outfield on a baseball field. I was just bored. I had my arms intertwined together with my baseball mitt facing upwards. I wasn’t paying attention to anything. Someone swung their bat and the ball came flying my way. I didn’t notice, but the ball just landed in my mitt. I had caught the ball and my team won the game.
My dad took me straight to Kmart and bought me a bike as a reward. Something that probably didn’t go well with my mom since I’m sure they couldn’t afford that little luxury.
The story of the relationships between my dad, his children, and particularly me is a long one. And we don’t have that kind of time in the blog. Suffice it to say that at the time of my father’s suicide, he was completely estranged from all of us. To be honest, we were terrified of him. My perception of his exit from this life was that it was a blessing. Like I said, he was tortured.
Many years later I was doing therapy work to try to get past my “daddy issues” because… well, because I was just tired of carrying them around. I wanted to be free of it. My therapist was native American – something I liked since I am part Cherokee. This gave her the energy of being part therapist and part shaman. As I relayed to her the very, very long story of my father’s and my relationship with one another, her response to it all shocked me.
She looked at me straight in the eyes and I could almost see tears welling there. Here’s what she said:
“Wow, Radleigh. Your father must have loved you so incredibly much to choose to incarnate on earth and play the villain in your life just so that you could grow up to be such a hero.”
Just typing that makes tears come to my eyes.
That was a life-changing moment for me. Right there. I suddenly saw all of the violence and abuse in another light. I saw it from a spiritual perspective. I saw who I was as a person and where I was heading and realized that I almost certainly wouldn’t have been that person without my history with my father. The very next time I was in Knoxville, I drove to his gravesite and stood there and said “I forgive you. And I’m grateful for your sacrifice. We’re good, dude.”
Yes, I really said “dude.”
That wasn’t the end of the healing though. I still would bump into things from the past that were determining my actions in ways I didn’t like.
Until Mother’s Day in 2021. I went to my mother’s memorial in Denver to bring her pink flowers as I always do. I sat near her memorial and talked to her. To my utter shock, my mom was there but she was looking a little sheepishly at me. She said “Um… I brought him.”
I slowly turned around and there was my dad. Standing there. Young and strong again, just like my mom always presented herself. He was so beyond humble to be there. So quick to apologize, so desperate to be a part of my adult life.
To help out anyway he could.
I was so startled and so shocked that I didn’t know how to react. I was kind in my responses, but I needed a minute to process that.
On my bookshelf in my office was a picture of my mom when she was about 22 years old. It was the way she presented herself to me when I would visit her. My mom kept unbelievably detailed photo albums of her romance with my father. For some reason, I took them when she died because no-one else wanted them.
I decided it was time to put out a matching photo of my father. I had just taught a class the day before where I spoke of my metaphor of our experiences as children of the Divine. I likened it to a fountain that sprays water up into the air. Those droplets of water represent our incarnations into life. But the water goes up and then it comes back down to the water which I likened to the Divine. We leave the space of Source but we always return because there is nowhere else to go. Nor nowhere would we want to go.
In my mother’s photos I found a picture of my father as a young man posing in front of a fountain that looked exactly like the one I had envisioned for my class.
This time I both laughed and cried.
I had the pictured copied and cropped to match my mother’s picture. I got them matching silver frames and placed them together on my bookshelves.
That… for me… was the completion of the healing. Now, who knows? Maybe there are still other daddy issues lingering that I will need to deal with. And if there are, I will face them head on.
I will also face them directly with my father who I now see as my friend in spirit. The co-creator of my reality.
With you on the journey,
P.S. Speaking of life changing experiences, one of the best things that ever happened to my business was re-meeting Muni Syed. He took my flailing social media game and turned it in to a home run! Now, I’m teaching a class with him on how you can up your game and launch your spiritual business to the next level. Check it out here!
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