It was a surprise to Renee, but not us viewers, yet it didn’t make it any less touching for us to witness. When it really counted, Renee’s dad showed up.
For some reason not explained to us, Renee’s graduation is being held inside. There are poinsettias decorating the room, so it must have been filmed close to Christmas time. Even in California I imagine it can sometimes get quite cold at night in December.
Iyanla instructs the women to light a candle and make a wish for graduate Renee. Somehow the magic of this part of the ceremony is lost without the beauty of the candles and lights of nighttime Los Angeles reflecting on the water.
Cassie’s wish for Renee is that she will see the wonder of herself inside and out. Candy’s wish is that all of Renee’s dreams come true. Bethany is no less philosophical, saying she hopes she seizes the day and all other opportunities, while Dr. Stan’s wish is that she never lets her fears stop her. Iyanla wants her to remember what she brings to the table, and to always give selflessly.
Renee is ready for her graduation, and just before Iyanla comes to get her, she says the only thing missing form this great moment is her dad. Iyanla leads her into a separate room before the actual ceremony, and Renee sees her dad there waiting. She runs across the room to him for a long-awaited hug and says, “Oh Daddy!”
Renee’s dad says he never got to see her High School graduation, and now that he has another shot at a graduation, he figures he won’t let it slip by gain. When he had heard Renee was graduating the night before, he just knew he had to come. He tells Renee she is beautiful and that he is here to support her in her new beginning.
Renee walks in to the ceremony with her father. Vanessa calls this the most heartwarming thing she has ever witnessed. In a voiceover, Renee’s dad speaks of the time lost, and says his biggest regret was losing out on ten years with his daughter.
Iyanla takes the podium, and says if she had one wish, it would be for her daddy to show up for her, but she will never be able to experience that. As a part of the sisterhood, when a father finally shows up, Iyanla says her heart weeps for joy.
Summarizing Renee’s time in the Starting Over house, Iyanla says she came to the house to transform her relationships, especially the one with her dad. She says it was a joy to see that all unfold. Renee came to the house blaming others, and her father was at the top of her list. She was a lost and angry child and didn’t now why, but was ready to step into greatness as an adult.
Iyanla speaks of Renee’s day locked in a cage, and how it showed she was stuck in certain patterns in her life. Renee was so closed off to others, and trust was the root of of her evil. Through the work to resolve this, a painful memory was unearthed. Renee had been molested by someone she trusted when she was very young. In a voiceover, her dad sys he hadn’t known about it, but understands show devastating that can be on a young woman.
Eventually Iyanla came to realize what held Rachael out of college was not her dad spending her tuition, but because Renee was afraid she was stupid. Looking into this more fully, a learning disability was found.
Renee showed great courage bringing her mother to the house and working through their issues. But her biggest moment was overcoming her seven year separation from her father and cold-calling him. Renee has transformed into adulthood and is ready to start over. Iyanla tells Renee she is an incredible gift to the Starting Over house and the planet.
Rhonda steps up and says even on Renee’s first day in the house, she tried to convince Rhonda it was her dad’s fault that she didn’t go to college. Rhonda didn’t believe it and she doesn’t think Renee did either. She was so afraid to stand on her own two feet, she had to blame others. Before and today, Rhonda knows Renee is a woman of substance.
Dr. Stan, speaking as the father figure of the house, says he is grateful to see Renee’s dad. The relationship between a father and daughter can’t be replicated, and he knows Renee’s dad will be there for her in the future. Dr. Stan tells Renee she is a great role model for all in the house, as no matter your issues, you can always start over.
Rachael takes the podium and I am already readying the Kleenex box, not that it has been unused since the very first moment Renee laid eyes on her father. First she would like to acknowledge how beautiful and grown up Renee looks. She acknowledges as well they didn’t connect at first and had to work on it during their fierce conversation. She adds that Renee taught her that a heart keeps reaching out. Rachel tells Renee she gave her the courage to call her biological dad. She felt so close to her, and can honestly say she loves her and will miss her.
In her down-home North Carolinian style, Bethany brings the honesty with laughter and tears. She tells Renee as her roommate, from the first day, they didn’t talk much. Then they learned that Bethany had problems opening up and Renee had problems listening, so it made for some pretty interesting conversations. Eventually they became closer, close enough for Bethany to see the woman that Renee has become. She tells Renee she has become her best friend and confidante, and her wish is that Renee will seize all opportunities.
Iyanla steps to the podium again and says although Renee’s intention was to step into adulthood, she still needs to know someone has her back. She looks at Renee and tells her, “Daddy’s got your back,” and invites him to come up and say a few things.
The first thing Renee’s father wants to say is that there is a lot of love in the Starting Over house. He thinks of Renee going through a metamorphosis. The first stage was when she was six years old and he and Renee’s mom divorced. The second stage was when she was a young teen and would visit him in California frequently. For the past ten years, he believes Renee has been living in a cocoon, and he adds this cocoon was not his choice. “Renee was in my prayers every day,” he says.
But tonight, Renee’s father is experiencing her cocoon opening up. From it, he sees a new adult, a butterfly read to leave the house and flap her wings. He adds that just because a butterfly flies away, doesn’t mean it won’t came back. He ends by thanking Starting Over for giving him his daughter back.
As a graduation gift, Renee is receiving $3000 in tuition at the Art Institute of Phoenix to begin her career in fashion. This is, of course, along with the trophy stating she has Started Over.
Renee makes a speech, and to Rachael says, she feels their relationship started with their fierce conversation. She believes their original troubles were because they were too much alike. She adds she is happy to know she now inspires Rachael. To Candy, whom she calls Mama, she says she thought she was the crier and the emotional one until she met Mama. She passes off her emotional crown to her. She tells Bethany she’s like a little sister to her, and she’ll miss her, and also thanks Iyanla for supporting her and notes Iyanla never gave up on her once. The Starting Over house would not be he same without Iyanla, she says.
It’s time for the good-byes and Renee’s dad hugs her and says, “You did really good, Baby.” Iyanla tells Renee she wants to buy the first dress Renee designs … wholesale.
As she leaves, Renee says she’ll miss her housemates the most, as they are five women she has grown to love and trust. She says you walk into the Starting Over house with your tail between your legs, but walk out with your head held high. How true for Renee. She walked in angry at her dad, and with everyone calling her a spoiled brat. She walks out being called compassionate and an inspiration, and with her dad by her side.
I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com