Of course I didn’t know she was pregnant. You couldn’t be much dumber than twenty-five-year-old me. I thought she left for an adventure, that New York had somehow restricted her wild spirit. I even had thoughts of rekindling our romance (delete romance, insert sex life) when I called and asked if I could stop by her apartment in San Francisco. I was on my first bona fide business trip, had taken my first cross-country flight. What could be cooler or more sophisticated than a brief fling (delete brief fling, insert one-night-stand) with an old flame? So Sinatra-esque.
An old guy answered the door. “You’re the father,” he said. “I’m the grandfather. Follow me.” She was in a rocking chair in the tiny living room, breast-feeding.
“I wasn’t going to tell you,” she said. “But you called. This is your son, Billy.”
Billy died in Operation Desert Storm in 1992 in a fluke accident at an air base. I’m glad his mother didn’t keep her secret. I would never have known him, known how much better a young man he was than I had been, a better man than I’ll ever be, period. That’s my secret, or was until now.