The Son I Never Had (Nov-Dec 1997)

By Matt Dabbs

by Anonymous
November – December, 1997

29When my wife and I were awaiting the birth of our first son almost a year ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about the son I never had. He would have been 16 if he hadn’t died in 1981. I have recently reflected on all the events which might have occurred in my first son’s life if he had lived:

  • His first smile,
  • His first steps,
  • Hearing him say Dada,
  • Potty training,
  • Waiting expectantly in the doctor’s office to see if the 103o temperature could be broken,
  • Washing his mouth out with soap for repeating something I had said,
  • The “terrible twos,”
  • Finding a daycare center,
  • Building sand castles on the beach,
  • Teaching the new puppy not to bite him,
  • Saying prayers on our knees with him at night,
  • His first “I love you” and first “I hate you,”
  • Dropping him off at school and having him cry because he doesn’t want me to leave,
  • Talking to him after his first black eye,
  • Cheering as he crosses the goal line for a touchdown in his peewee football game,
  • Eating rocky road ice cream as a reward for good grades,
  • His first broken heart from a crush not returned,
  • Making s’mores by a campfire in the Smoky Mountains,
  • His declaration of his love for Christ as he is dunked in the waters of baptism,
  • Trying to remember the Pythagorean theorem,
  • Having him teach me how to use the Internet,
  • Yelling, “turn that thing down,” “cut your hair,” and “get rid of that earring!”
  • Being awakened at 2:00 a.m. as he crawls into my bed during a thunderstorm,
  • Being awake at 2:00 a.m. because he’s not home yet,
  • Crying as he tells me he’s gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Probably the same way I did 16 years ago when I got my girlfriend pregnant. After all, that’s how he came to be … and not to be.

A junior at a state college, I had come back early from Christmas break because the kitchen in the second-floor apartment in the house nine of us shared had somehow caught on fire. At 0 miles away, I was the closest one of us to check on everything. My girlfriend who had stayed in town came over and, after having too much to drink, we had unprotected sex.

I sat in the waiting room with all the other pathetic males. Staring at the floor, flipping through a magazine, looking out of the corner of my eyes lest I would have to share an awkward glance or, worse yet, say something. Without even Musak playing in the background, those four sterile white walls were as quiet as a morgue … perhaps because it was a morgue.

A jolt of conscience ran through me as I fantasized about running into the operating room and stopping the butchering. Leaving with my girlfriend in my arms as other girls cheered and cried, wishing their impregnators would do the same. But I sat still. Frozen by my own self-centeredness, my own self-indulgence.

“After all,” I rationalized, “what kind of life would the kid have anyway?” With two college dropouts for providers … With parents who were still kids themselves … With a father who was realizing that, if he didn’t love and care for the baby’s mother enough to have a child with her, that, even if they did get married, they’d probably get divorced anyway … That it’s what the mother wanted after all, and I shouldn’t take responsibility for her getting an abortion … That, “hey, I have no proof that it’s my child, anyway!”

Well, needles to say, I never moved. When my girlfriend walked slowly out of the recovery room, I could see in her eyes the hurt, the humiliation, and the despair of what had just happened. We drove away in silence. In fact, we didn’t speak until late the next day, and then only because we had to.

Our relationship drifted on for a few months, but ended with the end of the semester. She never forgave me; I never forgave myself.

I tried to call her a few times over the years, but her family would just hang up when they found out who was calling. An unlisted phone number ended my attempts.

I know that if my father had done to me what I did to my son, I never would have forgiven him. I don’t know if in heaven my son is a fetus, a baby, or 16 years old, but I hope Jesus has taught him what Jesus knows best – forgiveness. Forgiveness, not for missed birthday parties, or ball games, or camping trips, but forgiveness for not taking responsibility, for not being a man, for not being a father, for not giving him a chance to be a son.

There are some of you who have been in the same situation. Some of you chose my path, the one of rationalization and selfishness. You’ve lived with the sense of failure that has sabotaged other relationships, careers,and the taking of responsible action. Hopefully you’ve given your broken life to jesus so he can put it back together again.

Others of you chose to have your child … To get married … To raise the child on your own … To quit school … To finish school … To work two jobs to get by or to work one job and learn to get by with less … To be a mother, to be a father, to take responsibility.

If you haven’t, there is no time like the present. Get on your knees and ask Jesus to forgive you. He will!Wineskins Magazine

The author of this true story is known to Wineskins editors. Though he has given us permission to use his name, we prefer to protect him by withholding it. He has shared the story with his wife and with his church family. He knows the joy of forgiveness, but continues to live in the sadness of remembrance.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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