When last we heard from Yitzchak, he was bound on a mountain-top and very nearly a burnt offering to God. A divine messenger intervened and Avraham went home, but Yitzchak is not mentioned.
When last we heard from Sarah, she had told Avraham to banish Hagar and their son, Yishmael, which Avraham reluctantly did. The torah does not tell us that Avraham ever saw his older son again. Then Avraham and Yitzchak leave for Mount Moriah, and when we next encounter Sarah it is to learn of her death, which the midrash tells us happened during the Akeidah.
And then there is Avraham. Having done what God told him to do, he now has a wife to bury and two estranged sons, and even God does not talk to him again. The torah doesn't tell us how all of this is affecting him, but I think we can infer that.
What strikes me in the early part of this portion is how Avraham reacts. First he must procure a burial place for Sarah (apparently they were no better than most of us are about making advance arrangements). For this he negotiates with Efron. This makes sense; it is an urgent matter that he must tend to immediately. The other thing we are told he does is to find a wife for Yitzchak. This is not what I would have expected the next episode of Avraham's life to be.
While the torah reports this right after Sarah's burial, we don't actually know how much time has passed. (If you're counting chronologies in this part of the torah you already have other challenges...) We get a hint from the way the rabbis assembled the aliyot in this portion, with no break at all between the two episodes, but that, like the timing of Sarah's death, is interpretation.
Let us suppose that Avraham did immediately turn to this task, even while still mourning Sarah. He nearly killed his son; if Yitzchak is still living in his father's house, as an unwed son might well be, relations are surely uncomfortable. There are a couple ways Avraham could respond to that. One would be to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Yitzchak and try to repair the damage. This is very hard. Another way would be to try to get him out of the house sooner rather than later. Avraham, it appears, took the second option, and even sent a servant to do the work instead of doing it personally. Instead of drawing closer to his remaining family, Avraham appears to be disengaging from them. He cares about the outcome, as we can see from his instructions to his servant, but he does not involve himself in a matter that will be very important to his son, and it appears that Yitzchak, once the jewel of his father's eye, is no longer an active part of his life.
It's easy to see how this happens. Avraham feels terrible about what happened to Yitzchak, and has never confronted the tension between his allegiance to God and his allegiance to family. As for Yitzchak, he is terrified of getting close to the man who hurt him so badly. Neither is all that excited about being around the other. But it's not just a short-term problem; scars like these last a long time, and the longer you let them remain without acting, the harder it becomes to set things right.
And Avraham has this problem with his older son too; he probably feels bad about expelling Yishmael, but he makes no effort to reconcile after the death of the person who asked him to do it. He avoids the two sons he has wronged, and they are all too ready to avoid him too. Later in this parsha Avraham goes on to remarry and have unremarkable sons, and then he dies. It's understandable, but what a sad end to a family that was so eagerly anticipated.
It doesn't have to be this way, but fighting it is hard. When we wrong others or become estranged from those who have wronged us, it is natural to protect ourselves from further hurt and awkwardness. I find it all too easy to write off people who have hurt me, and none of them have done anything nearly as bad as what happened to Avraham's sons. And I find it all too easy to avoid facing up to the wrongs I have done; even the annual prod of the Yamim Nora'im is not always enough to compel me to heal old wounds. It is easier to sweep them under the carpet for another year, thinking that maybe next year I will be stronger and better able to deal with them. But if I haven't been able to in the last several years, what makes me think next year will be different? In the end I, like Avraham, will probably go to my grave with rifts unresolved.
Some rifts may be insurmountable. It is hard to imagine Yitzchak, or any victim of parental abuse, being able to initiate a reconciliation. (And I am not suggesting that victims of abuse try without seeking professional advice first.) Avraham might have been able to mend that rift; it's not clear. But some rifts are repairable; either Yishmael or Avraham could conceivably decide to try again, now that Sarah's jealousy is not a factor. The rifts in my life are not even Yishmael-class, let alone Yitzchak-class; I could repair them if I wanted to. Why don't I want to? What am I waiting for? Am I still hurting, or have I just allowed the habit to form? I think this parsha calls me to face that question. After consideration the outcome might still be the same, or it might not, but I think the torah here is telling us not to just ignore it and abandon relationships by default.