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                                                            An Unseen Friend


              What men feel about fatherhood is hard to ascertain.  Most often, only half the picture is described.  Yes, they say, it’s a great experience.


             “When are you gonna have one?” they inquire, patting you heartily on the back.


            “I don’t know,” you reply, unsure of what else to say.  “I’m just not sure if I want children.”


            Uncomfortable silence.  Darting glances.  You venture a question. “Do you like being a father?”


            They look at each other, eyebrows raised. “Yeah, we love it,” they reply, shuffling uncomfortably. “Changed our lives…best thing ever happened to us.”


            Well, partly they’re right.  But that’s not the whole story.


            My son, Owen James Ridgewood III, is a dear addition to my life.  He was born early morning in a New York City hospital on what would promise to be a steamy July day. Glancing out the window fifteen stories up, minutes before his head was visible, I remember thinking: how come there are cars on the road?  Why are people going about their day as if nothing is happening?  Shouldn’t everybody be home waiting expectantly for my offspring?


            Then, Owen was born.  With barely a second to catch my breath, the doctor handed me a reddish pink being, tightly wrapped, and said, “Congratulations, you’re a father!”


What did that mean?  What do I do now?  I looked about me, waiting for someone to come explain that strange thing I had heard much about, but never really experienced—parenthood!  I sat in the delivery room with Owen in my arms waiting for the mighty rush of joy.  Instead, I felt nervous, a little nauseous, and in need of an ice pack for my hand—my wife has some grip!


 Looking at Owen through the glass partition in the neonatal ward later that night, I did feel wonder, the quiet kind; the type you feel looking up at the stars on a clear night.  I was glad Owen was here.


            My life since Owen’s arrival has been very busy.  When I am not consumed by the duties of being a dad, I happen to write every now and then.


For a long time now I simply could not—I was just too tired.  I thought, at first, I contracted some sort of strange disease.  I’ve learned since through speaking to other fathers, that we share a common ailment known as chronic fatigue: a condition where one is so exhausted by the duties of being a parent that the merest pause in one’s activity leads to instantaneous sleep.


It happened one sleep deprived morning, when, concerned with the results of the digestive functions of my offspring, I thought pleasantly of the free time I would enjoy that day.   My wife, Laurel, had told me that she planned to take our boy to visit her mother and would be out the whole day.


Happy day!  Finally, I had a chance to get some writing done.  I walked around that morning humming, anticipating that fortunate time when I could encourage the literary muse out of hiding.


I was the picture of beneficence, asking my wife if I could help her prepare in any way.  No task was too great! No job was too insignificant!   I immediately went into action, dressing Owen for the upcoming day, happily anticipating my impending freedom.


Sadly, it was not to be.  Shortly before Laurel and Owen were to begin their journey, cruel fate intervened and delivered a crushing blow.  To read more click here