Charleston, South Carolina ‚?? June 20, 2007
‚??There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.‚?Ě
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274)
Macie made the revelation with the calm conviction of someone who was certain of the truth.
J.P. folded his hands and looked at her.¬† ‚??I learned a lot from his buddies.¬† I know they were both back in the States in September of forty-three and they stayed in my parents‚?? apartment for one night.‚?Ě¬† He hesitated, trying not to contradict this nice old lady.¬† ‚??Are you telling me my mother had an affair with Jake that night?‚?Ě¬† The words sounded foreign, like they were coming from someone else.¬† ‚??And I‚??m the result?‚?Ě¬† He pondered the unlikely thought for a moment.¬† ‚??Because I already know the man who raised me is not my biological father and if I were Jake‚??s son, that would explain it.¬† Is that the big secret everyone was trying so hard to keep from me?‚?Ě
‚??No, silly!‚?Ě she admonished.¬† ‚??You have it all backwards.‚?Ě
‚??Well, that‚??s a relief,‚?Ě he exhaled.¬† ‚??And Frank said the same thing, that I had it upside down.¬† But you said Jake was my father?‚?Ě
‚??No, John, I didn‚??t say Jake was your real father.¬† What I said was the father you knew, the father you grew up with, that man was Jake Kilroy.¬† John Patrick Kilroy was your biological father but he never made it home.¬† Jake raised you.‚?Ě
J.P. nodded.¬† He considered that possibility when he realized the name on the tombstone had no middle initial.¬† That was either a mistake or the person lying there was John NMI Kilroy.¬† However, there were too many unanswered questions to arrive at that conclusion.¬† ‚??This makes no sense, Macie.¬† How can that be?‚?Ě
‚??Let me explain,‚?Ě she took another sip of her tea.¬† ‚??It gets complicated so try to keep up.‚?Ě¬† She smiled her disarming smile.¬† ‚??Johnny, your biological father, was killed in France in 1945, right after the War ended.¬† Unfortunately, a drunken American soldier killed him.¬† On his deathbed he asked Jake to promise to take care of you and your mother.¬† Jake gave his word.¬† And once Jake gave his word, it was written in stone!¬† Besides, Jake always blamed himself for Johnny being killed over there.¬† It was a guilt he never got over.‚?Ě
J.P. contemplated what Macie just told him.¬† ‚??So, that‚??s why he failed the paternity test,‚?Ě he mumbled aloud.¬† ‚??So, why did he pretend to be my real father?¬† Why didn‚??t he ever tell me who he was or who my real father was?‚?Ě
‚??Jake was too modest to tell anyone what he was doing.¬† That he was giving up his own life to raise his friend‚??s son.¬† He didn‚??t want anyone else to know.¬† It was Jake who made everyone promise to keep the secret, even your mother.¬† He certainly didn‚??t want your mother embarrassed.¬† Neither of them had any family.¬† It was an easy ruse to pull off.¬† So he stayed with you and your mother until you were grown and on your way in life and then he came home to Bedford and back to me.¬† Then the Medal of Honor thing came up and he figured if he went back to Washington, he was likely to run into you, with the publicity and all.¬† He was trying to avoid that.¬† With Harley‚??s help Jake pretended to be dead to avoid the ceremony.¬† He wanted you to have the Medal.¬† Harley just reminded everyone involved they made a pledge to keep Jake‚??s secret.¬† They didn‚??t realize until later that your mother had sent you on the mission to reconcile with your father and find out the secret.¬† It wouldn‚??t have mattered.¬† Even after your mother passed, it was a matter of honor for them to keep their promise.‚?Ě¬† She touched his hand.¬† ‚??Jake always had your best interest in mind.‚?Ě
‚??But to do that?¬† Give up his own life and dreams to keep a promise?‚?Ě
‚??Let me explain.¬† Jake and I were engaged when I sent him a Dear John letter.¬† I was a confused kid,‚?Ě she smiled again.¬† ‚??When he got the letter he went a little crazy and wound up punching an officer.¬† A few months later, when they each missed rotation back to the States by a few points, they went to appeal.¬† The appeals officer was the one Jake hit.¬† Of course, the officer denied them on the spot.‚?Ě
‚??The point is?‚?Ě he aked.
‚??The point is Jake felt totally responsible for his friend not making it home.¬† He never got over that guilt.¬† They would have gotten the needed points on appeal but for Jake hitting that officer.¬† Then the night your father was killed, Jake got into an argument with an armed sentry who was drunk.¬† Your father tried to break it up and stepped in front of Jake and was shot and killed.‚?Ě¬† She paused, her eyes welling up.¬† ‚??Jake was overwhelmed with guilt.¬† In his own mind and heart, Jake caused your father‚??s death and was honor-bound to keep his last request.¬† For Jake, it was also a small piece of redemption.‚?Ě
‚??Unbelievable,‚?Ě J.P. shook his head.
‚??And your father believed Jake had no one to go home to anyway.¬† He was wrong.¬† Jake had me but he could never tell Johnny we had reconciled.‚?Ě