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If I read these words, they sound so simple. But years of missing your son is more than just a few short words.
A sentence spanning years since the day he left Johannesburg in his little red Ford. Those bitter years of an almost unfamiliar voice on the phone on birthdays, Christmas with an incomplete family.
Now, he’s coming back. There are several men who have played a major role in shaping my life, but only three have a special place in the deepest, most secret rooms on the invisible side of my heart.
And all of them left. First my father left to go and live in Cape Town and play bowls in Milnerton. He never came back – and never will, as I realised that terrible day at his funeral in Blouberg.
Then my dear, soft little brother left to raise children in the boring safety of Australia. He, too, never returned.
My son decided to move to Cape Town and I supported him. I told him no young man should stay in Jozi for too long – he has to move away before this city makes him hard.
Now, he’s coming back before the fairest Cape makes him soft.
I have spent many an hour on my stoep over the past years, wondering if my child is happy.
Wondering if he has enough to eat; if he copes at work; if he gets enough sleep; and whether he hasn’t developed bad habits.
It’s painful for a parent to realise that your child doesn’t need you any more; that he needs to test his wings and fly on his own.
I want to go to his new home and wash his carpets before he moves in. But the place doesn’t have carpets. I want to paint the walls in a fresh, new white… but the walls have recently been painted.
But it doesn’t matter. An involved father whose help isn’t needed is much better than an uninvolved one who is needed.
When I returned home after being away for two years as a young man, my father was in the front garden watering the plants.
Today, I realise he was waiting for me.
When my son’s little red car stops at my house next Friday, I’ll be watering our little garden. And one day, he’ll know I was waiting for him. For four long years.