Everything I Wish I’d Said

Matt Shaner
4 min readDec 9, 2021

We went to the playground once.

In the summer. I watched you run across the sea of grass to the monkey bars. I watched you cross them a hundred times, blonde hair reflecting the sun back at me like we’d grasped a shard of the universe and found it embodied in this child, this little boy in a ball of fusion energy.

You were our sunshine in a world we’d battled so hard to keep from the darkness.

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

I’d grown up in the halls of a Methodist church speaking about just being good enough. As if that would shield us. As if politeness stopped medical bills, opening a door prevented job termination, and returning the lost would keep disaster away.

Suffering shines on both the good and bad. The matter at hand is how you deal with it.

I remember sitting in the lounge of Main Hall, senior year, about to graduate college and take steps into the world. A group of us throwing around ideas.

“Maybe I’ll write the program descriptions for cable,” one said.

I thought about my second day as a freshman, spilling a soda on myself in the midst of a morning Intro to Psych lecture hall and wondering if the depths of hell had any deeper scorn.

It does.

You and your brother were not easy deliveries. Both of you ended up in NICU for different reasons. The fear of loss feels like a nail driven deep into the bottom of your core and no matter how hard you fight, it will not go away.

Fear has no respect for time.

The hours meant nothing. We waited for both of you and, eventually, you healed.

I feared telling you that you would be having a brother, something I never experienced as an only child, and wondering if you’d see it as betrayal.

You two loved, laughed, and battled like brothers. You still do.

You have grown. Still, we’ve kept you from the darkness. You are still our sunlight. Your brother, a shadow of his red-headed grandfather, is our flame. Together you burn against the tide that threatens.

So now I hope you understand why I’m going to say what I need to say right now…

I’m sorry.

I knew, from the moment I locked eyes with both of you, that I’d die for you. Your mother and I aren’t the teens we were when we met, fresh-eyed and filled with hope, when our biggest worries were what mix CDs to create for the Friday night drive around our small town.

We are tired. Sleep is fleeting. Provision is tight. Choices we’ve made at midnight are some I’d never wish on either of you and I’d like to say you won’t experience them, but I can’t promise that. I can’t promise that Being Good will save you.

Because it will not.

You need to become men of character, driven by dreams and chasing passion that might call you to the opposite end of this world, into galaxies far way, across oceans, or maybe to a small town like ours, in a single home with a yard and a dog running laps as it chases a tennis ball.

Whatever you do, do it well and with your whole hearts. For they will be broken by the glance of blue eyes over long hair that seems to float in the summer wind, skin the color of the sand at your feet and the faint smell of salt water that you can taste on her lips, as she takes your hand as says it is time to see other people and you’ll come home and you’ll find us waiting, your mother and I.

You’ll find the sun still rises.

For now we will stand here and face the onslaught. We will face the tide. We will face the disease, the restrictions. We will face the emotions and the awkwardness. We will stand on the rocks and be battered by the waves and we will stand here for you.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

We stand here wet and cold, tired and shaking, seeing ghosts of ourselves in the mirror, yet we will not move, your mother and I.

We will stand here for you until the day we can do it no longer.

For now, I will be content watching you grow into men. I will steal the moments you sleep in rooms still under my watch. I will catch the way Christmas lights reflect on your face. I will lean in to every hug because I know, like time, they will lesson.

Your stories have just begun. It may not feel that way, but years are coming both good and bad. I hope these days will bring memories you treasure, victories that uphold you in your own dark nights, strength to meet fears, answers to your own questions, and a chance to embrace the mystery.

The mystery of life. The one I’ve found the answer for in your eyes, your laughter, and the moments you’ve made me complete.

Thank you.



Matt Shaner

Matt Shaner is a writer, husband, father, and believer living outside Reading, PA. You can find his blog and other writings at matthewdshaner.com.