I hadn’t seen my father in five years.
He wasn’t even in town for the entire week I was back home in South Africa, so together with my brother and sister, we drove to where he was camping with his friends.
I had gone over the upcoming moment in my head countless times. We were surprising him; he didn't know I was coming. I imagined a warm reunion, a day filled with talking and catching up, and hopefully even bringing up and reconciling the prickly issues that had been swept under the carpet between us.
The reunion was indeed a happy one. He was thoroughly surprised, and had to take a few minutes to gather his bearings.
Then, as is his custom, he got the braai going and made boerewors rolls for everyone. (Which is a South African way of saying he busted out the barbecue and made hot dogs). He asked a few questions about San Francisco, about my son Hosea, about my work and where I was living - to make sure I was good and healthy and had everything I needed.
But that was it. No other conversation took place.
We all walked to the beach and put our feet in the ocean, snapped a few pics for latergrams. But in silence.
I met his friends, and they and I chatted for a long time about many things. I brought a crossword puzzle book and did some by the table while snacking on whatever was put out on the table, moving my chair to follow the shade so I didn’t get burned by the blazing summer sun.
And then the day came to a close. We hugged goodbye, said our final well wishes, and filed into the car. My dad waved us off as the sun began lowering on the horizon.
But there were so many things left unsaid.
All the conversations I had imagined myself having with him, all the questions I had hoped he’d ask me, all the questions I had for him - unspoken, disappearing like the sun behind the ocean.
Don’t get me wrong - it was a lovely day. The food, the slow pace, the surroundings, just being present. And I know my father’s heart was full to have all three of his kids visit him at the same time. The day meant something - to each of us.
But why didn’t he speak more with me? Why didn’t I speak more? Why didn’t I bring up any of the things I wanted to say? We spent an entire day together, but nothing shared beyond basic pleasantries.
Sometimes silence is good. Sometimes it’s all we need. Sometimes being in the presence of someone with no word spoken is enough. But this wasn’t one of those times. Perhaps for him it was, but not for me.
And I thought of other moments in my life when I let the moment pass by without sharing what was on my heart. Like when my sister came to visit me in San Francisco and I had planned to share some of my struggles and problems with her, but her whole vacation had come and gone without me saying anything. Those things still remain unsaid.
I thought of past friends and coworkers who I still have unresolved conflict with. All it will take - along with the Lord’s grace - is a few words to say, “Hey, can we talk? I want to share safely from my heart if you’ll allow it.” But those moments still float around inside me, waiting to land.
There are many reasons we might not want to have the conversations we hold in our hearts - and many times we shouldn’t - but that’s not what I want to explore today.
Instead, are there things you have left unsaid? Words that could heal a rift between you and someone? Words that could lift a loved one up, give them hope and security?
Much unhappiness has come from things left unsaid.” - Leo Tolstoy