|The Final Sunset's Lessons
Author: hippiechick2112 PM
The former Colonel Sherman Potter of the 4077th MASH broods upon his life and the lessons he learned. After all, life is well spent fully with no regrets and with some piece of sanity inside of you. After "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen".Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Hurt/Comfort - S. Potter - Words: 2,149 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 04-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7979077
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Final Sunset's Lessons
Note and Disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own M*A*S*H and its characters and storylines (CBS and 20th Century Fox do). This is another one of my one-shots, based off of Goodbye, Farewell and Amen. Finally, I can present my very belated tribute to the late, great Harry Morgan.
I've been too bored with retirement and sitting around in this here bed. Despite my weariness of war and the dusting bones of this body, I've learned three lessons from my life before I told myself that enough was enough, this Father Time had barely anything left on this Earth. It's time to go now, in this two hundredth anniversary of our great country's birth.
Oh, for almost forty years, from World War One to Korea, I've been in every war and made this Man's Army my career over my own family. From the muddy trenches out in Europe to the maze jungles of Asia to those dusty roads in Korea, I've seen and experienced it all. There had been the accepting kinds of people, the brooding, crazy, delusional and even the forgiving and the defeated. Hell, I've been at the sides of all kinds of men and women over the years, but none had been more satisfying, nor as fulfilling, as the people I've served with in Korea.
As I look back at the years in Korea, all those many years ago, I remember the horse hockey silliness that went on. Knowing that the previous C.O. before me, Henry Blake, let it go on because it relieved tension, I tried to coral it in. These boys and girls were good with working with each other in the O.R., but didn't play well on the school grounds, where they played. They were constantly drinking off-duty, playing very ridiculous pranks on each other and name-calling was rampant. However, the morale ground was often taken and it clashed with the Army Force I held.
There were times when the real and the practical had to be balanced, when Army procedures and rules had to be followed. Other times, I tried my hardest to please everybody or make a fair compromise because it seemed the better opinion than the Army. It was a life and death situation sometimes, but it was mind over matter: what a good C.O. is all about.
Today, though, it's a final sunset, I'm guessing. I get to look back at years and years of good and bad decisions, of missing my family, and remember those good times. I was a young man when World War One started, an experienced father and soldier when World War Two started. I was old when Korea started and older when it ended. The life lessons didn't end there. They usually don't, I know. But, with that in mind, I learn from those mistakes and those of everybody else and take into mind that most others won't get those lessons and make the same judgments over and over again. We all can't learn from a war, after all.
Mildred has been gone for more than a few years now, so I am laying here in bed, Margaret scurrying somewhere in the house, trying to make this ancient life more comfortable. I know that I'm dying soon and that there is nothing I can do about it, but set down those things I seem to dimly keep in this forgetful mind. It's not as if everyone I know will forget it, either. They will pass it on, just as I have, long ago, and those lessons will keep alive and spread.
My first lesson is more like advice, but a lesson to me still.
You try to keep a small piece of sanity with you. In an insane place, you would want to grab onto that first thing that keeps the bad things from getting to you.
I remember those times when Hawkeye and B.J. would invite me over for a drink or a laugh or three or four. It was part of their forgetting, too, but also an extended hand to friendship and kinship. Their giggles had gotten me out of many depressions, even though I had to be stern with them. Oh, hells, I smiled behind that white mask many a time. I admit it. I couldn't help it, either. They were the best doctors I ever worked with, despite the way they went about their business sometimes.
Without those boys, though, were the letters and pictures from Mildred and the girls. Both of my daughters, Effe and Jeanine, grew up without me and had weddings and children of their own while I was gone. They shared everything with me, though, and it kept the blues at bay. I kept my sanity through my family. It was like a rock I was tethered to. I could not leave them. And I don't think I ever will.
Other than painting on occasion, there was Sophie, my horse. She's been long gone and well loved by those Korea orphans, for sure, but she was one of the greatest gifts I ever had in the gloom of Korea. Like the silliness in the camp, I kept her corralled in a small space and controlled her because of how wild she was. Like the people who cause the silliness, though, we became the best of friends and had to leave each other. Sophie had to stay in Korea and we all had to go home to our families and to the lives we put behind us, although, for me, I had left behind me that and a patient woman that only stayed alive for just over ten years before dying in my arms.
This cannot be a regret, though. That is my next lesson.
There should be no regrets in your life. Mistakes will be made, but there is always time to amend them.
I do feel sadness at the time I spent with my beloved Mildred and the family we made, but it kept us afloat financially and helped pay off that mortgage while I was in Korea. Without me being in the Army, we would have no home, no food and maybe, no family, most likely. I saved up all that money from that first war in Europe to marry Mildred, but she knew what she was getting into. She knew that, because I made the Army, and then medicine, my career, she and our children will not have much time with me.
To give them credit, I was a grouchy man. I came home barking at my wife and children, which I wish I could have changed. They could never please me. Our children would be too loud or would not sit still. Mildred would not cook dinner fast enough or clean the house good enough. They would cower in corners sometimes and never bother me as I read or walked out for the day or went fishing. But, I knew that they respected me more than feared me, so it gave me more comfort to go back to my post, ready to do my duty.
That would be the time my family had with me: an angry man, a gentle one at heart, who never showed his family how much he loved them. Eventually, though, it changed because I learned from it and all three came to know a more humbled man, home from Korea.
Then again, they could never have imagined what I saw on a daily basis that made me angry. They just knew that I was working with sick and wounded people and did what the Army told me to do. It was dirty work most of the time, but there should be no regrets. I did what I was told to do for my country and I was proud of everything: past, present and future.
The final lesson is something everybody should know, but never seem to do.
Live your life to the fullest and happiest. Any day might be your last, so never sleep angry and depressed.
Even in war, this is hard to achieve. Every night, all personnel think that every night might be their last and pray for their lives to be spared. They want to see the next day. Then, when their wish is granted at sunrise, after throwing so much begging and pleading to their prayers, they begin a new day by using the new ways to kill the enemy. They don't think of the consequences of their actions and carry on with their orders. They don't think of the anger they lived with each day and the depression they give into at night. It turns into one and the same and it carries on with them, even after they leave the battlefield. It's almost like a grudge.
Postwar, to be happy and to live each day fully, is difficult. You can't forget what you saw and did. You can't even sleep without dreaming of a life without war in it. Everybody around you is always different and everything that meant a lot to you doesn't seem so important anymore. The war is still in your mind and you can't adjust right away.
Some do eventually turn their lives back to normal. Others, sadly, do not.
That's because we always think of ways to start and keep fighting wars and killing each other, but we can never think of ways to end them, keep the peace and help those who came out of war physically alive.
After the Korean War, I worked in a V.A. Hospital in River Bend, Missouri. Everyday there, I saw soldiers coming from back Korea or those who've stayed there many years, and either saw death in their eyes or something alive in there. Those who see death constantly will, most likely, never see the light of day again. Others will try to make the best of what they have and live their lives once more, trying desperately to take back what was theirs to begin with. They try to take each day at a time, live it to the fullest they could, and start anew when another is given to them.
However, I think, after several years on this here planet, my time is up. I've grabbed upon every piece of sanity I could hold onto, lived with no regret and walked through this life fully. I've helped to give life to many people and held onto many men's souls in my hands. I can't play God, of course, but with his help, I kept many on this planet so that their families could have them again.
And almost twenty-three years after the Korean War ended, I still receive letters and pictures of thanks, knowing that each soldier whose life I touched made a difference. I made a difference and that was all that counts.
"Sherm? Sherman, I'll have those pillows for you soon, to make you more comfortable. Now, where did I leave them…?"
Margaret's voice grows more distant everyday. I know it's not my hearing, but finally, death coming closer and closer to me. She's been a dear ever since Mildred passed away, but the thought of leaving Margaret, as well as Effe and Jeanine and my grandchildren, saddens me, but I accept it. Like my two daughters, she's been akin to another child to me, as well as her husband and children, and to have her lose me is regretful, but a part of life. And no war didn't need to destroy me.
Outside of this window, fireworks are going off and children are shouting and running amok in the celebrations. The sun is finally setting and the festivities are underway again. It's a beautiful sight to see, but with these tears in my eyes, I can hardly watch them. I've been through twenty-two postwar years of these parties, thirteen with Mildred, so my wet face is hardly one of sorrow, but joy.
I closed my eyes and folded my hands carefully. Without thinking and drawing in fewer breaths, I knew I heard a horse's hooves faraway, and then coming closer if I thought of it more and more. As I opened my eyes, though, I saw no horse, but the steps kept coming towards me, as if one was arriving to take me home.
Right then and there, I knew that this final sunset was almost upon me. The lessons had been learned. It's time for this man to put away his saddle and ride away.
R.I.P. Harry Morgan, 1915-2011.