IT'S A BOY!
(A missing scene from the 8th season aired episode Simon And Simon Jr.)
I had just finished dressing when the chime of the doorbell echoed throughout the house. I quickly glanced at the clock that sat on the bedside table. As I made my way downstairs I wondered who could possibly be hailing me at eight o'clock on a Thursday morning.
I strained on tiptoes to see out the peephole. I immediately recognized the Panama hat that came into view.
I greeted my eldest with a warm smile as I opened the door. "Good morning, honey."
Rick bent to receive the kiss I bestowed on his cheek. He gave me one of his own in return. "Morning, Mom."
Once the greetings had come to an end Rick remained standing in the foyer, uncomfortably shifting from foot to foot. I immediately took note of this uncharacteristic behavior.
"Rick? Honey?" I questioned with concern. " Are you okay?"
His eyes darted nervously about the room. "Yeah, Mom...I'm fine. Just...fine."
Rick's uneasiness began to rub off on me. My heart flip-flopped in my chest and my words spewed forth in a frantic rush. "Is A.J. okay? Did something happen you need to tell me abo--"
"No...no, Mom. Nothing's happened," Rick quickly assured with a small smile. "A.J.'s fine. We're both fine. As a matter of fact I just left his place."
Relief washed over me like an ocean wave.
“Thank heavens. You had me frightened there for a minute. It's not very often you stop by the house this early of a morning unless something's wrong."
My contrite son reached out and pulled me against his chest.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I just...I just came by to...well I need to..."
I pulled away from my stammering offspring. Again, another action that was completely out of character for my oldest.
Gently I prompted, "What did you need, Rick?"
Rick worried his lower lip a moment before finally managing to get out, "I need to talk to you for a few minutes."
I was stymied as to what type of talk Rick needed to have with me that would cause him to be this unnerved. In an attempt to bring some levity to the situation I jokingly offered, "Don't tell me, let me guess. You came by to announce that you're getting married."
Rick let forth that familiar high pitched laugh that is as much a part of him as his moustache.
"No, Mom...that's not it. As a matter of fact it's about fifteen years too late for that."
My eyebrows etched together in puzzlement. "What do you mean?"
lightly laid a hand on my back. "I
think we'd both better sit down. It's
kind of a long story."
Rather than letting Rick usher me to the sofa, I headed for the kitchen. I indicated to my oldest to seat himself at the table while I poured coffee for us.
I placed a steaming mug in front of him. "Have you had breakfast yet?"
"No," Rick shook his head while taking a sip of the hot black liquid. "But I'm not hungry."
I joined Rick at the table, sitting across from him.
"If you're not hungry, then I know it must be serious."
He gave a small reflective smile as he stared into his coffee mug. "Yeah...I guess it is kinda serious."
fear I had felt earlier returned with full force. "Rick--"
He cleared his throat before finally looking over to meet my eyes.
"Mom...Mom...well, I really don't know how to put this but...well I...well--"
"You what, sweetheart?" I attempted to help.
He took a deep breath before plunging on. "Mom...you're a grandmother."
"I'm a what?" I shrieked as though a mouse had just run between my feet.
With an abundance of trepidation Rick repeated, "You're a grandmother."
For just a moment I forgot that the son sitting across from me was a forty five year old man. The mother in me spoke to him as if he were sixteen. "Richard Lawrence Simon, just how did this happen?"
Rick's moustache twitched as he fought to hide his smile. "Well...you know...the same way it happens to everyone I suppose."
"That's not what I mean and you know it," I informed him sternly. "How old is this child? Is it a boy or a girl? Do I know the mother? Have I met--"
Rick held up his hand. "Slow down, Mom. Slow down." He rubbed that same hand over his eyes. For the first time I noticed the dark circles that was a clear indication of his weariness. Quietly he told me, "Her name was Melissa. Melissa Kay Stanton."
The wistful smile that touched the corners of his mouth told me how much this Melissa had once meant to him.
"I don't believe I know her," was all I said in a tone no louder than my son's.
Rick shook his head. "You don't. Neither does A.J. I met her a few months after I got out of the service. In April of '72. Remember when I worked in Taos, New Mexico?"
I thought a moment. Rick had traveled so many places right after he'd come home from Vietnam that I could no longer recall them all. Half the time neither A.J. nor I had known where he was. I had been so relieved when he'd finally settled in Florida in 1973.
"No, Rick, I don't remember that," I was forced to confess.
He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "It doesn't matter. I wasn't there very long. A month and a half...eight weeks at the outside. Anyway, it was there that I met Melissa."
His eyes seemed to look right through me as his mind transported him to somewhere in the distant past. The tenderness that touched his features told me that place held good memories.
"She was...everything, Mom. Everything I could have asked for in a woman. She worked on one of the Indian Reservations. She was really into natural living and helping those less fortunate than herself. She was my sunshine...and my rain as well. We had some great times together." He smiled ruefully, "And we fought like cats and dogs. But most importantly she helped me...heal a little bit."
Without asking I knew Rick was referring to Vietnam when he talked of healing. How well I remembered the ghost of a son that had been returned to me from the jungles of Southeast Asia.
I focused back in on Rick's words as he said, "One morning we got in a hell of a fight...over what I can't remember. She kicked me out. Which really didn't matter much to me at the time 'cause I was ready to move on. I was far from ready to commit myself permanently to any one woman. I never heard from her again until two days ago."
Gently I asked, "What happened two days ago, Rick?"
fifteen year old kid shows up at the office with a letter from Melissa. It turns out he...the boy, is our son. My son."
"And you never knew?"
Rick's response was so quiet I had to strain to hear him.
"No. In all these years she's never once tried to contact me."
"Why did she feel the need to do so now?"
"The boy...Matt's his name...Matthew...anyway, he's in trouble."
Rick nodded. "Serious. Very serious. He's involved in a burglary ring that uses teenagers to do its dirty work. Matt saw the guy who's the head of this ring...a man named Sinclair, beat to death a friend of his."
"A friend of Matt's?" I asked for clarification. "Another teenager?"
"Yes," Rick nodded again. "Evidently Melissa's kept tabs on me over the years. She lives up in L.A. now. She knew A.J. and I were in the P.I. business together. She sent Matt to me with the hope that I could offer him the protection she can't."
"Does the boy know you're his...?”
"Father?" Rick finished. "No. Not yet. I wanna tell him when the time's right. He thinks his father is dead. He thinks he was killed in Nam. Matt thinks his dad died a war hero."
"I see," I nodded, getting a clearer picture of what Melissa had told her son about his father throughout the years. I didn't think it was right, that she hadn't told the boy the truth. I also wondered why she'd never let Rick know that Matt was his son. If she knew Rick half as well I did, then she'd have known without a doubt that Rick would have wanted to be a part of Matt's life. I carefully broached what I asked next.
“And you're sure, Rick? That this boy is your son?"
"I'm sure," Rick nodded. "He was born in March of '73."
I did some quick mental calculations. Based on when Rick said he was with Melissa, the possibility of the boy being his was a good one. Still, she could have been seeing someone else at the same time without Rick being aware of it. Or she could have taken up with someone else immediately after Rick left. Either assumption was a possibility. I decided that when this case was over, when things settled down somewhat surrounding Matt's sudden arrival, I'd advise Rick to have a paternity test taken. Somehow I knew though, that right then was not the time to make such a suggestion.
"The kid sure eats a lot," Rick was saying with a fond smile. "It's gonna cost me a fortune to feed him. Not to mention the fact that he blew my stereo speakers. He's gonna have to get an after-school job to pay that little mishap off. I'm gonna have to work on his mouth some too. He's a real wise guy. A smart aleck to the core."
"He certainly sounds like he's yours," I confirmed with a smile of my own.
Rick laughed. His eyes twinkled. "Remember how you always told me that you hoped someday I'd have one just like me?"
"I sure do."
"Well, I think your wish has finally come true," he sheepishly confessed. "This kid's a chip off the old block if I do say so myself."
The pride in his voice was plain to hear. Now I was curious to learn more about this grandson I had yet to meet.
"Does he look like you?"
"No," Rick shook his head. "Not really. Around the eyes a little bit maybe. A.J. thinks so, too. Otherwise he looks like his mother. And he's got A.J.'s fair coloring and blond hair. But then Melissa's fair and blond as well."
"Where is Matt now, Rick?"
"He's with Uncle A.J.," he said with a smile. "They were going out to breakfast. A.J. seems to...well, he can talk to the kid better than I can for some reason. Every time Matt and I try to communicate we end up yellin' at each other." With just the slightest hint of envy to his tone he finished with, " For some reason it's not like that with him and A.J."
"You sound like your father," I told him.
"You sound just like your father when he used to voice his frustrations over the lack of serene communication between the two of you. He never could understand why it was so easy for you to talk to Ray, and so hard for you to talk to him."
"Well...because Uncle Ray didn't have the same expectations of me Dad did. Because he was satisfied to let me be who I was. Because he didn't put any pressure on me to...change," Rick hesitantly concluded, as he realized those were the exact same problems that were occurring between him and Matt.
"And that's why it's so much easier for A.J.," I pointed out. "Because the boy isn't his son, but rather his nephew. He can be more relaxed with him...be a friend to him, in a way that you can't. Just like it was easier for you and Ray, as opposed to you and your father."
"Yeah," Rick nodded thoughtfully. "I guess you're right. Man, this parenting stuff isn't easy."
I couldn't help it. I laughed at him and the hangdog expression on his face.
"No, Rick, it's not. But in the end I think you'll find it does have its rewards."
"Yeah," he smiled at some private thought he didn't reveal to me. "I've already found that out on a couple of occasions in recent days."
He went on, gushing like a kid with a new toy.
"I want to make it up to him, Mom. Make up for all the years I wasn't there. I've got some money put away. Not a lot...but enough to help Melissa put him through college. And I want to pay her something every month from now on until he's of age. You know...to help her out and all. And maybe she should consider sending him to a private high school. What do you think? The public school system just isn't what it was when A.J. and I went. Kids seem to get in so much trouble now days. Especially an active boy like Matt. I think he needs more supervision than Melissa is able to give him. I'm gonna see if I can get her to move down here. Then I can share the parenting responsibilities with her. He can come by the office after school while she's still at work. And maybe he can stay with me every other weekend and on school vacations. And I know both you and A.J. will help me out with him. I think it would be good for him to have a family close by that cares about him. To have a father close by to lay the law down to him now and then."
"I think all those things are good ideas, Rick," I agreed, warmed by my oldest's ever generous heart when it comes to the needs of his family. "Why don't you give it some time and see how the next few days go," I went on to suggest. "Don't rush into anything until you've had a chance to talk to the boy's mother."
And have had a chance to have a paternity test taken, were the remainder of my thoughts.
"I won't," he promised. "I'm still tryin' to get a hold of Melissa as it is." He rose. "I'd better get goin'. I need to go talk to Abby about some things concernin' Matt. Then I'm supposed to meet him and A.J. at the office."
I rose from the table as well, rounding it to give my oldest a parting hug. I looked up into his eyes.
"When enough time has passed and Matt has had a chance to adjust to the news of being your son, I have some things of your father's I'd like to give him."
"I thought you had given all the personal things of Dad's you didn't want to keep for yourself to A.J. and me."
I shook my head. "I've saved
various items to pass along to each of my grandchildren. I'm glad I'll finally have that
Rick smiled through the tears that suddenly filled his eyes as he hugged me tighter.
"I'm glad you will too, Mom."
He left shortly after that. That night he told Matt he was his father. Within a few short days after that, an incredibly strong bond began to form between them. And, within a few days after that, Melissa showed up to tell both Rick and Matt that she had lied. That Matt wasn't Rick's son.
Rick was heartbroken. As was Matt.
It's taken me a long time to forgive Melissa for hurting Rick that way. Yet a part of me, the part that will always and forever be the mother of two sons, understands what compelled her to go to any length to keep her boy safe. It's something every mother would do.
And with help from A.J. and me, Rick seems to be putting the whole painful experience behind him. He's kept in touch with Matt. He even took him on a fishing trip last month. Seeing him with the boy has only reaffirmed the conclusion I came to many years ago. That Rick would be a wonderful father. That any boy or girl would be lucky to call him Dad.
And who knows? Maybe someday the opportunity for fatherhood will yet present itself to Rick. Although he keeps assuring me he's a confirmed bachelor, I smile wisely and tell him that none of us knows for certain what twists and turns are ahead for us on the road of life.
As I finger the remainder of Jack's war medals, tie clasps, and cuff links, I still allow myself to dream of the day when there will be grandchildren for me to pass these treasured keepsakes on to.