A Life Unlived: A Father Laments

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Enclosed is a short story, titled “A Life Unlived: A Father Laments”, (approx. 1140 words) about a father’s thoughts as he holds his three week old son who has just died, having never escaped the ICU of the hospital in which he was born.


A Life Unlived: A Father Laments



I stood in the ICU and cradled the dead body of my 3 week old son.


The hovering nurses seemed unconcerned that my tears were leaping from my cheeks onto his chest which, now disconnected from machinery, no longer rose and fell.


My wife Rebecca had left, weeping, a moment ago, falling into the consoling arms of her mother.


I stood still, looking down at him. Steven Delaney Garrett would never have his life.


I would never watch him take my wife’s nourishing nipple into his mouth.


I would never exchange that glance with Becky that says, simply, ‘he’s ours’.


I would never watch him take his first, awkward lurching step.


I would never watch the glorious sight of his family fawning over him, surrounding him literally in a corral of love.



The tears continued. The nurses had faded from view.



I would never see the glow on my wife’s face as she dressed him for his first day of preschool.


I would never see him use any of the various sporting goods that now filled his crib.


I would never hold him again.


I would never, ever be able to exchange the same look of both innocence and joy with my wife that we shared when she told me she was pregnant; no matter how many more times she is with child. It will never be the same.


I will never have to leave work and go pick him up from 1st grade, because he’s scared and only wanted his daddy.


I will never see the ear to ear grin develop on his little face as he gets his very first base hit and runs to first base.


And I will never see him stand proudly on that base, hands on hips, and seek ME out for approval.


I will never get to lift my wide-eyed 10 year old son onto my lap as I drive him around our town, letting him steer, and showing him all the reasons to be proud from where he came.


I will never get to walk into the kitchen and be met with the sudden vision of his back and my wife’s, facing the sink, doing dishes, sharing a quiet private moment; just watching them, their shoulders touching, looking out the window.


I will never get that grin, the solid confident gaze, that he would have given his mom and me from the stage as he graduated 8th grade.


I will never get to have the talk with him about what high school might entail, and what to be on the lookout for.


I will never get to experience that look, for the first time, where he questions what I say, challenging me with his eyes, but remaining respectful.


I will never get to watch him excel at sports, to become GOOD at something, all based on his own effort.


I will never get the odd, queasy feeling when his friends come over to the house and I am, suddenly, a 2nd class citizen.


I will never get to experience the two looks of love that would spread across my wife’s face as she watched Steve and me walk toward her. Adoration for him, and something altogether more R-rated for me.


I will never get to experience the feeling of pride and vulnerability when, as we walk off the golf course together, sharing an umbrella, I realize for the first time my son’s shoulders are equal to mine. He is as tall as I am.


I will never get to experience, even vicariously, his utter thrill when I buy him his first car, and watch as his sneaker toe bounces off the tires and he glances at me, his look saying ‘I like it’.


I will never get to see the tears on my wife’s face as Steve leaves for college, her fears much more about his well-being than her suddenly empty nest.


I will never get to see my often dreamed about sequence of watching him pull into the driveway the day before Thanksgiving, home from college, the top down, Thorogood blaring from his 6 speakers, his head bobbing, those Wayfarers propped on his nose, his broad shoulders and bushy blonde hair making him look just like me.


I will never get to hear him, finally, tell me the story of his first kiss, his first make-out session, and his first sex. A bond only a father and son could ever truly appreciate.


I will never get to see him hug his mom, picking her up and swinging her around, while they both quietly heave a sigh of relief, unabashedly acknowledging their need for one another..


I will never feel him fall in love.


I will never see him get married.


I will never be able to pull him into my study on the day his first child is born, close the heavy oak door, light his cigar and pour a snifter of single malt scotch, put on Sinatra, and tell how I felt the day HE was born.


I will never get the opportunity to welcome him to fatherhood by playing ‘Cats in the Cradle’, and telling him “This used to be my song. Now it’s our song’.


I will never get the opportunity to welcome him into manhood; a place I’d prepared him for since birth.


I will never get the opportunity for him to help me up from the basketball court, grinning good naturedly in derision, but glad to be able to assist the old man.


I will never get to have the overwhelming feeling of pride as I watch his broad shoulders walk away from me, his stride a confident one, his gait that of a true athlete, his smile sure, his eyes always seeking, his trust in me undying.

I will never be able to provide counsel over such life-altering matters as buying a house, changing jobs, or simply how to keep things fresh with his wife.


I will never hear his toast at our 30th Anniversary, where in a short 5 minutes, he touches on every single significant moment; presented with poignancy, poise and love. Making his mother cry and his father beam.


I will never be reduced to a sweaty, fearful figure at the thought of my son possibly having to take care of me as I grow old.


I will never be able to forget these past few moments, holding the lifeless body of my first born, realizing what lay ahead for my wife and me to heal, and never again trusting in the just outcome of what life has to offer.


I will never hear that incredible laugh from my wife when something strikes her as perfect. Perfection has left our lives forever.


I will never be able to tell Steve that I love him, and have him hear it.


I will never.







Submitted: April 02, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:



I cried reading this... The fear of all parents!

Tue, May 8th, 2012 1:21am


Thanks for reading and commenting. It is a moving piece....I'm glad you were moved.


Mon, May 7th, 2012 7:27pm


You know me, Bill - never one to respect another writer's sensibilities: this litany of losses strikes me would be more likely to be the musings of the man - father - years and years later, of a hot summer's late late night, with gin and cigar, thinking of the living children and drawing from his experience in and with their lives - thinking back to the small body he held, before he and his wife made it through the barbed wire of sudden death - child, hopes, expectations, dreams - to heal and have and raise their other children. I couldn't suspend disbelief that a new father - in all respects - would be able to do more than find tears running down to soak both the dead newborn and himself and to be lost in pain and shock.
But that's me. -- written out as a kind of telling of the beads of an oldish man, alone, thinking - then all those flash images would have weight and reality.
Moving on, to read and read and read...
Wait for it. Warm regards, Connie

Sun, June 24th, 2012 6:05pm


As a man/father...Iwould have behaved EXACTLY as this man did....I would want the still warm feel of my dead son in my arms as I extrapolated everything I would never have....that is how I roll

Thu, September 6th, 2012 6:35pm


Sometimes I need a kick in the head. This could've been you, thinking of all the steps along the way of your life that your father missed. It could be your litany of losses. -- I am an oaf and an idiot. --- Just delete my previous babbling, mi amigo.

Mon, June 25th, 2012 6:00pm


I will use this as my "universal" response to your very generous efforts at reading my pablum.

I am flattered you would take the time both plow through, and then so thoughtfully respond. In that respect, we are eerily alike. I remain baffled to this day, and likely to the pine box, how people can claim "too busy", when afforded the opportunity for some substantive, in depth conversation/dialogue/exchange. I never, repeat never pass up such an opportunity. I normally, with a modicum of effort, can see the other side of the coin when in disagreement, but in this case, I have never figured it out. So, I lapse or fall back on the obvious fact that so many people (and virtually everyone in my family and extended family) lead such unexamined lives that they find even IRregualr correspondence with me to be daunting and intimidating. THAT side of the coin I see and have seen for years. Even understand it. If you are fear-based, lengthy discourse with me is probably not a good career move, for I will swing that elbow lamp across the light table and shine it on those fears without exception. Leaving the subject of fears aside for the moment (one LAST recommendation: FEAR, an essay), you are one of a handful of folks in the past year, since I have put myself (writing) so out there, nakedly, practically SEEKING out that shining light to illuminate things, to have responded to me with genuine interest in both what I write, and what my writing PROMPTS. Veritable breaths of fresh air, these folks are. And you are able to do so at a (rather) late age, when time has, for most people, closed off all desire or interest in new things, especially viewpoints. If I might suggest something that may simply be impossible to do, is to read, or maybe even re-read, some of the more intense pieces of mine withOUT trying to also piece together the very unfinished puzzle in your mind that is me.

I know I have dealt with this particular issue with friends and family who (think they) know me, so they are constantly trying to read between my lines to decipher some hidden meaning, or reveal that THIS character is actually my first wife Susie, or THAT character is really my friend Brian, when my lines are baldly revealing in and of themselves.

Anyway, to make a long story insufferably lengthy, (am I gonna run out of character space here?) your comments and observations and surmises you made do NOT suffer by this inclination, in my opinion.

To be continued...500 word limit it says....

Mon, June 25th, 2012 11:30am

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