Growing up my father and I spent much of our time in silence together. We would read for hours on end – he would have a Stephen King novel, and I had a Nancy Drew novel. We were content in the silences and never needed to fill the space. There was one silence that needed to be filled, though.
I can only remember seeing my father cry twice in my life, and this was one of those times. I had just told him that I wasn’t going to speak to him for a month. I needed to prioritize my life and figure things out. I was thirteen – in retrospect, it was going to take more than a month for all that to happen (if it has even happened by now, twenty years later). My counselor at the time had suggested that I take a break from talking with my dad because too much was happening at once and I was having a difficult time with the stress. My father had just remarried and it seemed sudden to me. My parents had been divorced since I was four or five, and my mother had remarried, but his marriage seemed really sudden because I had just met the woman weeks before the wedding. As a thirteen year old girl, my life was turned upside down. Life seemed to be in a downward spiral, and I didn’t know what else to do. So I followed my counselor’s advice. When I told my father the plan, I was stoic and unemotional on the outside, but I crumbled into pieces as he cried. He said he understood and would respect my wishes, but he was clearly hurting. I was, too, but I was a stubborn child and didn’t know how else to express my emotions.
We didn’t talk for that entire time. It was difficult for me – up until that point I had spoken with him every day and filled him in on the details of my life (almost all details – I was thirteen, after all). We had been quite close, but this was a sudden change.
Now, I don’t remember how the silence was broken. I don’t remember if I picked up the phone or went to his door. I don’t remember my first words to him again. I don’t remember if the silence even solved anything. I remember becoming closer to my father (because of the silence, or in spite of it, I don’t know). I still talk to him today and still tell him nearly everything that happens in my life (at least of importance, and some unimportant, like doing laundry and washing dishes). I’m probably as close to him now as I have ever been. I can tell him anything and trust that it stays with him, and that he won’t judge me. He might lecture me a bit, but I can handle that (and expect and hope for that).
This past Tuesday he was visiting briefly and we had just a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee. The kitchen fully done (but not unpacked) I felt “adult” in this space. Funny how spaces can make us feel a certain way – as if I wasn’t an adult three weeks ago when the kitchen wasn’t done. I don’t remember all we talked about – but I don’t have the sense that it mattered. This wasn’t a heart to heart – it was a casually conversation over coffee. It was a connection. Not all conversations have to be deep and meaningful, because if all were intense those of us who are introverts would never leave our rooms. We listened, we laughed, we drank coffee. We can sit and talk about anything, but we also can sit in silence, not needing to fill the space.