Unspoken Words


Recently I arrived at my sons’ school to do the usual afternoon lift when he storms through the gate, a white note waving in his hand. “Mom, I’m playing a chess match on Monday! At Fanie Theron Primary school.”

I suck in my breath and with a smile I reply: “Wow, that’s exciting. Granddad used to teach at that school for many years.”

“Really mom, I didn’t know that!” Excitement shines bright through his heaven-blue eyes.

Monday arrives, through a strange turn of events we arrive a few minutes late for the chess match. First we have to drop another friend at home, this is slightly out of our way. Then we get lost and really struggle to find the school - even though as a child I must have gone there with my dad on many occasions. Finally we arrive and as we run toward the entrance to the building my car alarm starts blaring – right next to a netball match. I turn back to the parking lot where the alarm is screaming, echoing the screams of my heart  – I can feel the cold stares of irritated parents burning holes in my back, some of them familiar faces from our own school.

I return to the school building and start to walk slowly down the passage, driven forward by a need inside me so fierce nothing will be able to stop me. I’m on a mission to find my dad.  I know there was a time when my dad walked this same passage, many times, every day. I imagine that sometimes his voice could be heard down the passages as he was explaining geography to his pupils. I imagine that sometimes, when he thought no one was watching, he would walk down this same passage singing – maybe even adding one or two of his spontaneous dance steps before entering his next class.

I don’t know where I will find him today but I know that I have to. I look around me, searching and then I’m looking into the most familiar smile in the world. Dad.

In that moment, all the frustration, sadness, fear, loneliness, longing, tears, horror and love inside me is unleashed. It is real. It is mine. By now I know it well. It’s been there every day for one year, 5 months and 18 days.

As I stand there, staring at a picture of my dad, I lift my hand to touch the face of the man I’ve loved since the moment I entered this life. I stand alone, still choked by grief, caught in a moment that holds a thousand words. A moment where nothing else matters. Dad and me. A need to acknowledge that Dad was here. His footprints forever engraved in the memories caught between the walls of this school, his voice still an echo in the heart of every pupil he taught as it will continue to echo through the journey of my life.

My dad is dead. I am alive.  A thousand unspoken words are held in between.