Reflecting back on different people who’ve come in and out of my life recently stirred in me the feeling that I’ve left so many words unsaid and that meaningful conversations have slipped right through my fingers. In most cases, I can’t go back and have these talks at this point, but in an attempt to make up for those missed opportunities I thought I’d revisit a few of those conversations I wish I could’ve had here. Whether trivial or serious, they all share the common thread of words that I left unsaid.
Cathy & Vanessa – In junior high the most sought after accessory someone could have was a Starter jacket, the glossy sports team coat with whichever team you followed displayed brightly for all to see. These jackets were everywhere and they were expensive, far more than anything that my family could afford. I wasn’t even interested in sports, but I wanted that status symbol that would give me the acceptance I so desperately craved at that age. I begged my parents to no avail. Then one day, my step dad brought home a shiny red San Francisco 49ers Starter jacket and I lit up like it was Christmas morning. The jacket had been left behind at my dad’s shop and after waiting for someone to come back and claim it, he decided to bring it home to me. Finally I had it, the golden ticket! The next day at school I strutted around in my new jacket like a proud little peacock and felt like I was floating on air. A couple friends asked where I’d gotten it and I was honest, telling them the whole story. At lunch time, two of the most popular girls walked up to me and I thought “this is it, this is how I become part of the popular crowd!” I smiled as the stopped before me and Vanessa said “Nice jacket.” “Thank you!”, I replied, as calm and cool as I possibly could. Then Cathy sniffed and said “Yeah we heard your dad found it in the trash and brought it home to you. No wonder it smells so bad!” They both giggled snidely then turned and sashayed away, leaving me in a humiliated puddle behind them. I said nothing, of course. But I wish I’d said this: “Was that really necessary? Why would you feel the need to destroy someone like that? What difference did crushing little old nothing me make in your perfect world? Why do girls like you always behave the way you do? Is it because you have evil souls or are you just doing what’s expected of you? You have no idea the power you hold over every little girl in this school, none whatsoever. You could do something so much more meaningful with that power than to spew mean spirited venom at everyone not in your immediate popular little circle. Every girl in this school is desperately seeking your approval and why? You’re not particularly pretty or stylish, you have bad acne and you’re certainly not a nice person. You have no redeeming qualities at all other than popularity. I hope you enjoy your time here in junior high, it might be the best your life will ever get.”
My Father – “I haven’t spoken to you since I was 7 years old and that was the only time that I ever met you. I know you and my mom were young but how could you just walk out on me as a baby? Were you ever concerned about me? Did you think about me at all, wonder if I was safe or fed or warm? I don’t understand how it’s possible to have a child and then just walk away, never knowing where they are or how they’re doing. I know that you went on to get remarried and have two daughters that you didn’t walk out on. Did you ever think of me when you looked at them, when you hugged them and watched them grow up? Did you ever want to reach out to me? I went through a couple of months in my early 20’s when I sought out your phone number and I called your home. Several times I hung up before anyone answered but once you picked up the phone and said hello. I froze, unsure exactly how to start the conversation and then I hung up. Why was I the one contacting you when you should be contacting me! Your daughters reached out to me a few years ago and I talked to them for hours on the phone. I wish I could’ve gotten to know them all along and had real sisters instead of being an only child. I don’t really know if I still have the desire to have you in my life at this point. I feel like I’m still a little girl and just begging for you to love me when your love for me as your child should be a given, should be unconditional and should be known and felt. Your abandonment early on caused me to follow a path in my life that was filled with more of the same – abandonment, heartache and feeling like I was worthless and would never be good enough or worthy of love. I imagine that my feeling this way was never your intention but your immaturity and complete lack of concern was more damaging than you’ll ever know. But you didn’t care then, you haven’t cared for over 40 years so why would I think you’ll care now?”
My Two Stepbrothers and Two Stepsisters – “The five of us were thrown together as kids because our collective parents made some choices. Our thoughts and feelings were not taken into consideration whatsoever, our parents were selfish in that way. None of us chose to have our families and homes thrown into chaos. I know that the four of you resented me for ‘stealing your dad’ from you and I get that. I didn’t want to be in the situation we were in any more than you did, I didn’t want your dad. We played and got along some of the time but we also fought and built up tons of animosity toward each other. You were jealous that I got to stay with your dad after your weekend visits but I was jealous at your ability to leave the situation that I was stuck in every day. I didn’t have another parent’s house to visit, this was my home. I wish we’d been able to become some sort of real family, I’d always longed for brothers and sisters of my own. Our parents and their life choices did not allow for that, though. I don’t think it’s fair that the four of you ganged up on me, I was only a kid and had nothing to do with the demise of your parents’ marriage. I was only along for the ride. I think of you all sometimes, I wonder how you’re doing and hope you’re well. I hope that you’ve gotten over your resentment and moved on. I forgive you for all of your acting out against me when we were young and I hope you forgive me, too. Life’s too short to hold onto bitterness and toxicity.”
Jason – “You were my first love and I was yours and even though we were young, I believe it was a real, if immature love. We had plans for after we graduated high school, plans to travel and keep loving each other. When I told you that I was pregnant you were so excited! I was scared and concerned but you were thrilled. For a solid month or two we were happy together and making plans but then one day a switch flipped and you turned cold and uncaring. You decided that this was my problem and that it was best to just move on with your life without us. You broke my heart, refusing to take my calls or even discuss anything with me. I was absolutely crushed. I came to your house once to pick up a baby swing and some clothes that your mom picked up at a yard sale and you sat on the couch quietly, not making eye contact. You blocked my calls and left me all alone to deal with what we had created together. Why did you do that? Labor and delivery was so scary and bringing home our beautiful baby girl all by myself absolutely crushed me. I held out hope all along that you’d come to your senses and pick up the phone or come to the door, but you never did. Our daughter’s birth certificate has a blank space in the father’s name section. I called you about once a year to ask you if you were interested in being a part of her life and you told me the same thing every time: No, you’re doing a great job. You met Ciara once at my prompting, even changed her diaper and I allowed myself to believe once more that this was finally going to make you see the light and decide to be a part of her life. But you didn’t, you just walked away again. I wish more than anything that I’d gotten at least one picture of the two of you together. Then I got the call one summer afternoon when Ciara was getting ready to start kindergarten that you’d passed away. What was left of my fragile heart was completely shattered at that point. Ciara would never get the chance to know you now and all hope that I had for that relationship between you and her was demolished. I wonder if you understood how much you missed out on and what a terrible decision that you made. Our daughter is the smartest, funniest, most beautiful young woman in the whole world. She has your goofy personality, your skin tone, and looks more and more like you every day. I will never understand why you did what you did, what caused that switch to flip and you to abandon us completely. You and I were young and the chances of us working out in the long run were slim but you missed out on the honor of being Ciara’s dad and having her in your life. I met my husband, Ron when she was 10 and we’ve been together ever since. He’s a wonderful dad to Ciara and for that I’m more grateful than anyone will ever know. They love and laugh and joke together and he takes care of her as if she is his own because in his eyes, she is. I know you’re looking down on us all now and I talk to you often in prayer. Do you ever hear me? I’m so very sorry that you weren’t a part of her life, that you’ll never be able to know her and her you. I miss you and though she never knew you, your daughter misses you, too.”
What do you wish you could say to someone that you aren’t able to speak to? What conversations have you let slip through your fingers?
Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. Image taken by Ron Edgington.
One thought on “Words Left Unsaid”
It’s heartbreaking how many opportunities we miss in life to say what we truly feel. Great write.