My dad’s birthday was last Thursday. He would have been 64 years old. The Los Angeles Rams couldn’t have received a better gift from Mr. Football, as I attribute their success to angels – obviously, than a trip to the Super Bowl.
For those of you who know me, I didn’t grow up very close to my dad, #daddyissues. He was physically around for the most part so I guess I can’t complain too much, but he certainly lacked the ability to genuinely connect with the four women in his life (his wife and daughters). I remember seeing my friend’s relationships with their fathers. Super close, total “Daddy’s little girl” complex, which always made me feel both uncomfortable and envious. It’s was an interaction that was very foreign and, admittedly, definitely impacted my romantic relationships – but we will save that full dive for February.
Looking back on my childhood, I spent a lot of time being upset, specifically at my dad. The discontent in my parents’ relationship had an energy that trickled down into our everyday experience as a family. Lots of empty conversations and time spent trying to escape the off energy that lived in our house. I guess that’s why, as an adult, I love to engage in deep conversations but am also an introverted extrovert. We, as humans, are constantly searching for what we lack…we’re hungry to fill the holes. Woah, talk about a moment of clarity.
It’s been almost three years since my dad passed and I find myself missing him a lot more as I get older. As I mentioned, we didn’t have the best relationship for many reasons. Of which, I never had a strong sense of who my dad really was which fed into the distrust and negative feelings I carried for him. Little did I understand, my dad was fighting his own battles, every day. A fight I’m just now starting to grasp, but I was completely blind and innocently naive to growing up. I was young, things happened as they did and as a result, my one-sided, ignorant perspective continue to be shaped. Always painting him as the villain. It wasn’t until I found myself having consistent relationship issues did I start to ask him questions, digging into his emotional history in hopes of finding the source of the lack of connection that seemed to live in me.
To be honest, I always felt my dad wasn’t supposed to have kids, let alone father four bossy girls – Jeter Girls in this bihhh. That type of love and compassion he did not know and never would – at least outwardly express – until the very end. And I say this not in a non-deserving way but, let’s unpack this a bit. My father was most widely known, respected and loved his athletic achievements and FULLY embraced that blessing. Football was his everything. BUT after football, he began life that requires a strong sense of self and selflessness. Two components I personally don’t think my dad fully developed when he became a parent and continued to battle. He hadn’t reached the point where he was strong enough to distance himself from the strongest identity he knew. The version of himself he had found so much pride and fulfillment as a direct result of incredible dedication and sacrifice. He was Mr. Football. To be honest, as a former student-athlete, I get it. And I can’t even imagine it on a professional NFL scale. You’re adored and loved by strangers for what YOU’VE BUILT which is way easier to uphold than having to face your loved ones and live in fear of not being accepted because of your imperfections. Because none of us are perfect…not even Dad’s.
Much of the emotional and spiritual growth I’ve experienced has been from being aware of where the energy behind my emotions stems from and a lot of the anger that use to live inside of me came from the disappointment in the relationship, or lack thereof, with my dad. For years I carried SO much resentment towards him but I’ve come to realize that wasn’t his burden to bare. In order to better understand my Daddy Issues, I had learn from heartbreak and being told “it’s not me, it’s you.” To recognize my behavioral patterns and partner choices reflected the emotional history of my childhood and own the power of changing the outcome.
So dad, I know you are sorry. I know you are proud of me. I know you loved us with everything you had but didn’t know how to show it. I just hope you know I recognized you as Gary Jeter but always loved you as my dad…even when I was a brat. Miss you, Big Guy. <3