Chapter Notes: When I wrote "Closer than a Brother" I did not include many father/daughter moments, they story just did not go in that direction. However, when I realized that Erin would have been in High School during those fragmented days of the Vietnam War this story begged to be told.
I also wanted to make sure that people knew that BJ's problems were long from over, a complete psychotic break is a damage you deal with the rest of your life. I also wanted to show what having an uncle like Hawkeye Pierce must have been like.
So yeah, this is a little fluffier than I usually write, but I had to get it out so I could move to other projects.
thanks for reading in advanced!
Fathers and Daughters
He's kind, considerate, loves his family, is successful at work, helps little old ladies across the street then gives them free medical advice, is so handsome that it embarrasses his daughter when she is told her dad is cute by her friends, and their mothers…ewwww!
Yep, thought Erin Hunnicutt, I hate my father.
Of course she did not really hate him, I mean how lame and crazy would that be?
He was just so easy going, sweet hearted, and had those damned blue eyes and smile that lit up the whole room, how many other daughters had to inform their teacher after parent teacher conference day "Why yes, my parents are VERY happily married."
It was embarrassing!
She also had trouble identifying with her friends.
"My father doesn't understand me," they would lament.
My father lets me tell him anything…
"My dad hates my music and is down on what I read!"
My dad and Uncle Hawk play Beatles records in the den, and both encouraged me to read Catcher in the Rye…and laughed that I was a fuddy when I hated it.
"My dad is just so totally unhip, and have you seen what he wears?"
My dad and mom are at the cusp of Bay Area fashion, and people just fawn over the old man, I mean hang on his every word because he so damned witty! It's disgusting!
She sighed as she looked at the empty page in front of her. It was hard right now because her mom had to go stay with Papa in Oklahoma while he recovered from hip surgery, and she could really use her mother at the moment.
Here she was asked to deliver a speech at the USO tribute dance that she helped put together with the school faculty.
You're the student body president…blaaaa blaaa blaaaaaa!
The problem was this little war in Vietnam was running full tilt and many of her classmates were terrified that as soon as they hit eighteen the draft notice would pop up in the mail. So anti war sentiment was at his peak, and she had wandered into the cross-hairs.
Members of the faculty were hinting that they knew she'd do a nice "safe" job of it, since her dad was a known Korean War veteran, and she had a personal stake in how the military is portrayed.
The counter culture kids were making overtures as well, encouraging her to "tell it like it is" as if they knew how anything was. They listened to Mister Kowalski, the Social Sciences teacher, he of the pony tail and Dylan records, and his tales of baby killers and monsters wearing American stripes when no older faculty was near. They all thought he was hip, Erin just saw him as a draft dodging coward who assuaged his guilt by warping the next generation, that...and he was a first rate creep.
If they bothered to ask her about her dad's loyalties, she could have told them about her Dad and Uncle Hawk going to Washington and participating in the largest peace rally in American history, (minus Uncle Hawk's streaking arrest and banning from the nation's capital for the foreseeable future of course and the fact that Uncle Hawk blamed her dad for some reason) or of her father's tireless lobbying to overturn the draft amendment as un-American, but the truth is it was none of their business.
Of course it was now going to be everyone's business what she thought real soon.
What could she say?
She grew up in this wonderful extended family, most people had two grandfathers, and she had three.
Colonel Potter and his sweet wife Mildred treated her and her brother Ben just like they were their own grandchildren. He pushed her aboard a horse when she was six for her first riding lesson. The elderly couple had passed within two months of one another two years ago and she still missed the stern but twinkle eyed old gentleman.
Then there was her beloved Aunt Margaret, who gave Erin her first makeup tip, which amused her Uncle Hawk to no end.
Uncle Radar and his merry large family from Iowa, this man's legendary scrounging ability made her sweet sixteenth a day to remember last year.
Father Mulcahy who had to be the sweetest man who ever lived, and always had an ear for Erin if she wanted a more spiritual second opinion.
Uncle Charles, sophisticated, doting, and who could get under her sainted father's skin better than anyone else alive.
And then there was her Uncle Hawk, what she could say about her free spirited second father, mere words failed.
Her dad had lamented more than once that his best friend was a mix of Peter Pan and Caligula, whatever that meant…but she just thought of him as the fun uncle who blows into town every couple of months turns everyone on their ear then heads cheerfully on his way leaving behind smiles and property damage.
Why her dad named her crazy brother after such a man was beyond her.
Speaking of which…she checked the third drawer down in her desk.
"Benjamin Franklin Hunnicutt!" she bellowed, she found the lock jimmied on her diary again. There was a sound of pattering feet as her brother made his escape chuckling under his breath.
She stormed after the sound but knew he was far too fast to get caught, but the little joker had to come home to eat, so she went to the only voice that little monster seemed to listen to.
She knocked on the door to her parent's room.
"Ah, I was expecting this, Entrez s'il vous plaît."
She came into the familiar room to see her father wearing unfamiliar clothing. It was his army uniform, and…of course…he looked disgustingly good in it.
It fit him like a second skin, and he looked like he had been wearing it for years from the ease in which he stood tying his tie.
"What's with the get up, Dad?" she inquired as she moved into the room so he could see her in the mirror.
"You did say that you were inviting veterans and asked them to wear uniforms, correct?" he inquired with that one cocked eye brow that he used when he was at his most charming.
"Oh cut it out," she grumbled as she reached out and adjusted the tie for him.
Her dad, mid-forties but still had that handsome face, the lines that bracketed his mouth and accented the corner of his eyes just made him more attractive, this time of year he stayed clean shaven which made him look younger and gave him that boyish smile, especially with the uniform hat on.
"What am I doing, exactly?" he inquired with a lopsided grin.
She sighed and pulled the tie a little too tight for emphasis. "Stop being so damned perfect."
He gave her a confused look as he fixed his tie.
That was the problem with him, some would call it humility, but Uncle Hawk said it best, "The reason your dad is so annoyingly wonderful is because he has no clue he is, that's the man's normal condition, what we all aspire to he does naturally…makes you want to smother him with a pillow."
"What were you after Ben about this time?"
"That little monkey won't stay out of my diary, why did you name him for Uncle Hawk anyway? You must have known you were asking for trouble."
He shrugged. "Sorry dear, seemed like a good idea at the time."
She watched him as he did a half spin. "So how do I look? Can the old man can still fit, or what?"
She sighed, hearing the phantom complaints in her head from her friends about their dads.
"You should see my dad's gut, hangs over his pants; he doesn't even care anymore just wants to drink beer."
She sighed. My dad doesn't drink, he exercises every damned day, and can fit into clothes that he wore when he was in his twenties."
To him she said. "You look great."
The dummy actually sighed in relief as he took off the hat, as if another verdict was actually possible. His hair was graying but still had some of the same sandy blond that Erin had in her own hair, since he was no stranger to the outdoors his was bleached out a little more than hers.
Like a typical doctor, he was an avid golfer, could even turn professional by some people's opinions, but unlike his fellows he refused to spend the time necessary to go full time, because he loved being a doctor too much.
My dad makes Albert Schweitzer look selfish, what a goof..
He sat down on the edge of his bed and patted a space beside for her. She sat down not out of obedience but because she needed a hug.
He threw his arm around her shoulders. "This isn't just about Ben," he said in that oh so patient tone.
"Really…do you think?" she replied in that acid tone she picked up honestly from the man beside her.
He gave her a squeeze. "Worried about the speech?
She nodded and said to herself, How annoyingly perceptive of you, father dearest.
He grew quiet then ventured. "You want me to stay away? Will it bother you to give it in front of the old man, in case you feel something needs to be said that might hurt his feelings?"
She stood up exasperated. "Why do you have to be so understanding? Why not rant and rave and get angry?"
He leaned back and gave her an irritatingly patient shrug. "So your problem is that I'm too understanding, you would rather me be what…irrational?"
He stood up and glowered at her, looking very impressive giving her the same intimidating stance that he gave errant interns at the hospital.
"Well if that's what you want, for me to be a total jerk I'll see what I can arrange. I mean if you don't want me to be nice and understanding I think I can turn into a blustering idiot, if that's what it takes to please you!"
Erin turned to him with a wry smile. "That was pretty good dad, nice try."
He grinned. "Sorry Bright-Eyes, I gave it a shot."
She walked forward and gave him a big hug. "You just can't help it,can you?"
"Whatever it is I am supposed to be helping, I guess not," he said hugging her back.
She began to leave the room but he called to her, "Seriously if you need me not to be there, I don't mind."
She nodded. "I want you there, Dad, more than anything." She gave him a smile and a wink. "After all…you're my date."
"By the way, tell Ben he's grounded for the rest of the week until he learns to respect privacy and boundaries," her dad said with one of his winning smiles.
She nodded. It's official, I've got the best dad…ever…
She sighed and left him adjusting his medals and rank insignia, and headed for the stairs down.
She was about to turn into the kitchen to grab a glass of milk and some of Grandma Bea's cookies to kick start her brain when she heard her brother talking on the phone, from the tone it was with their mom.
"I miss you, when are you coming home? I know…tell pop I hope he gets to feeling better…of course I've been behaving…oh she's upstairs asleep…"
Erin moved into the room and plucked the phone out of his hands and said, "Oh hi, mom, what line has the runt been feeding you?"
Ben had their mom's blond hair and they shared their dad's blue eyes, but Ben was all long arms and legs and mischief, while she had her mother's pixie features, right now Ben was glaring at her with crossed arms and stuck out his tongue. Really mature! She stuck out hers back and mouthed, "Dad said you're grounded."
Ben slumped and made his way upstairs to plead his case most likely.
"What's really going on, Erin, I thought Ben was blowing some smoke."
She sighed; it was good to hear her mom's voice. "Oh nothing we can't handle."
"How's the dance coming?"
"We got a big band and a group of veterans coming, and the gym's done up like a picture of a WWII speakeasy," she replied setting down in a chair.
Her mother sounded excited. "Dancing?"
"Yep," Erin confirmed.
"Dance with your dad, Erin, for me, I know you think you're too old but he misses it," her mother implored.
Erin had to sigh.
She had been dancing since before she could walk to hear her mother tell it. She used to sway and shimmy in her high chair, then after her dad returned and after the lost two years that she did not care to remember, she had taken ballet, and was a natural, her dad was so proud; it became something they bonded over.
When she got older she graduated to other dance classes, and she found a partner in her father, he might have long arms and legs and size thirteen feet but the man could cut a rug to shame Fred Astaire. They called each other Fred and Ginger when they danced together.
The 4077th get together was held in Toledo one year, and it was agreed that there would be a dance competition, with Uncle Winchester as the judge. Erin and her dad had worked for months on a routine, and that night they executed it perfectly getting a standing ovation, Mildred and Sherman Potter were the sentimental favorites with their sweet foxtrot, with Uncle Hawk crowing about his surprise entry but keeping it a secret.
Then her wacky uncle walked into the spot light, it went out a minute and when it came back on her Uncle Hawk had on his Groucho Marx glasses, and was holding a very hairy ingénue in his arms, instead of a rose it had a cigar clenched in his jaws. What followed was the most hilarious and inappropriate tango in human history, Erin had never laughed so hard. Halfway through Klinger went to the lead and Uncle Hawk got the cigar. Winchester wanted to disqualify them but Colonel Potter vetoed and Uncle Hawk and Klinger went home with the trophy to the delight of all present.
Uncle Winchester mentioned to her that he was going to award her and her dad the trophy if he had been allowed, said he had seen professionals with less polish and style.
She and her dad had danced all the way until she was sixteen then she gave up dancing insisting that she needed to focus on more important things, her dad said he understood, and went with her mother instead, and while her mother was a former cheerleader, she did not have the same talent and chemistry that Erin had.
Erin leaned back contemplating her options. "Alright, I'll dance with him at least once, it won't be too embarrassing, he'll be wearing his uniform."
Her mom's voice got a breathless quality. "Did it fit?"
"Like a glove," Erin replied rolling her eyes. Honestly they're like two teenagers!
Her mother let out a chuckle. "Watch out for him, you know he's like a babe in the woods when it comes to female attention, he got bumped so many times last time we went out dancing I thought the sign over the bar was going to switch to TILT, had five numbers in his coat."
"Probably asked what they were for?" Erin said with exasperation.
Her mother confirmed with a laugh. "Oh he knew it's just not an issue."
Erin twisted the cord around her finger. "Okay I'll dance with him at least once, but as hostess I might not get too many chances."
"One will be plenty; you know Captain Marvelous won't mind."
Erin had almost forgotten Uncle Hawk's comic book inspired nickname for her dad, she laughed. It felt so good to talk to mom but made it worse when she had to tell her goodbye.
"Want me to get Captain Marvelous for you?" she teased.
"That's okay we talked just earlier this afternoon, give him a kiss on the cheek for me," her mom replied before they said their goodbyes.
Erin sighed and poured herself that glass of milk and retrieved three cookies from the jar, she sat at the table to contemplate some more.
Her mind was blank.
There were two ways this all could work out; neither of them was acceptable for her.
Embarrassing the veteran's she had invited was something she would not do, and yet no one hated war and its results like she did. She had a front row seat as her favorite man in the whole world suffered through his recovery.
She still remembered when she was a little girl that summer when her dad did not know who she was. She got him back but the terror from those dark days had stayed with her even now. It certainly made her treasure him even more, but having to learn to recognize the signs of a panic attack and be strong for him until he recovered before she was even a teenager had left an anger in her for what they put her dad through, so not remarking upon it, once given the platform, was not an option either.
She was a 4077th brat, one among many, they summer get togethers were etched in golden detail in her memory. The MASH unit that was thrown into a distant land returned as an extended family and these people were her aunts and uncles and cousins, how did she talk about the people she loved without mentioning the matter in which they were all gathered?
She picked up the phone and dialed a number. There was one person who might be able to help her get her mind straightened out.
She talked to a nice nun, or two…someone named Mary…well they were all named Mary, suddenly the person she needed was on the line.
"Erin? Is everyone okay?"
"Everyone's fine, Father, sorry to scare you, just needed to talk," she said with a sigh. Something about his voice immediately put her at ease. The man had a peace that translated over the miles and through the earpiece.
"Well, if it's a confession, I need to say the appropriate prayers first," he joked.
She giggled, embarrassing herself. "No nothing like that, just needed to ask some advice."
"Everything but personal experience in a marriage, I'll do my best," he replied.
She outlined her conundrum as he listened patiently.
"What do you think?" she inquired after he was silent for a few minutes.
He sighed. "This is certainly a dilemma, and I think there is only one solution…"
"What is it?" she blurted excited that he was going to tell her what to do.
"You know deep down what should be said, choose your own path, you straddle both worlds, you know better than anyone else in the gymnasium what it means to be a veteran and what it means to be a conscientious student who is opposed, so I say…go with neither expectation, decide what you want and do it with a clear conscious."
She sighed. "Now I'm completely confused."
"From confusion comes illumination, if your mind was made up you would not have called me, you know that neither side is entirely correct because you have not chosen one, so rather than go down the path they are offering, make your own," he replied.
She sighed. "Thanks, Father."
"Anytime, child, you know you can call me, wish I could give you clearer council though," he said in that sweet helpful way he always had.
"You've helped bunches, good night, Father"
She sat and studied the phone, finishing her cookies as she thought about what he said.
"That didn't help," she grumbled.
She heard her brother's big feet gallumping down the stairs, but his pace was different. This did not sound like the carefree stampede she usually heard from him.
Sure enough when he appeared he was the other Ben, the boy that was more serious and calm in tough situations, the one she saw first last year when Randall McIntyre nearly broke his ankle hiking with the fellow BRATS at the annual 4077th get together, and Ben splinted it since they were miles from an adult.
She drank the rest of her milk and composed herself, then followed him without a word up to their parent's room.
Her dad was sitting on the edge of the bed, his face had gone pale under the usual tan, and he had removed his hat and coat and was staring off into space his expression that of a man who has suffered a blow.
Erin turned to Ben, patted her brother's back and leaned in. "He'll be fine, why don't you get ready for bed, I'll send him in to say goodnight."
To his credit, Ben nodded and left without argument.
She knew better than to startle her father so she gingerly walked into his direct line of sight watching his eyes for recognition. To her relief they found her immediately.
"Was I gone?"
She nodded. "Not long."
He slumped the age and weariness absent from him normally catching up. "I'm sorry, sweetheart; did I scare your brother?"
"A little, he's more concerned than frightened, you know Ben…the next Hunnicutt doctor in waiting," she replied as she sat next to him on the edge of the bed, reaching out to give him a hug.
"Where were you?"
He shook his head. "Somewhere I don't want to relate, it would give you nightmares."
She usually respected his wishes, trusting his expertise on nightmares, God knows he had his share over the years, but this time he needed to talk and she needed to listen.
"I'd like to be the person you can talk to, at least this once, if it means nightmares, maybe that will mean one less for you."
He sighed. "Take a look at your old man, Erin, still a basket case after all these years."
"Still the best dad ever, now shut up with the self pity, and tell me, Doctor Erin Hunnicutt's orders," she responded with a squeeze of his shoulders.
They had three rules when it came to dealing with her dad's condition. Truth always, no coddling, patience and affection apparent and available, they had weathered a lot of storms over the years, thankfully diminishing in time…this suffering was the price for the perfection everyone else thought they saw in BJ Hunnicutt. The truth was, to Erin, these moments, when her dad was at his most flawed were her favorite times, when his self sufficiency abated and he became vulnerable; these were the times when she loved her dad the most.
It's official, best dad ever…
He gave her a mock glower. "Since when did you go into medicine?"
She gave him the Hunnicutt eyebrow that she had learned from her dad and grandfather, guaranteed to end all arguments and reduce the patient to instant obedience.
He smiled, it was weak and a ghost of the usual one, but it was genuine, if he could still smile then that was a good thing.
"You remember the story about my first day in Korea?"
She nodded. "It's my favorite, the one where you met Uncle Hawk and Radar. Uncle Hawk snuck Radar into the Officer's Club, Radar saved a Korean girl, you got shot at, got drunk at Rosie's and made it back to camp to insult your CO and groped Aunt Margaret when you passed out in her arms."
He laughed silently. "You remembered."
"It's a memorable story," she said back giving her dad a little bump.
His eyes regained that distance; she reached out and grasped his hand, checking his pulse. "Your heartbeat is elevated, dad, you start hyperventilating and we'll have a problem on our hands, so stop messing around and get it out."
"Yes, Doctor," he teased. "Me and your Uncle Hawk left out one little scene in the tableau, I'm afraid," he began, "we ran across a column that had been hit by enemy bombardment on our way back, they took heavy casualties, we stopped to help with first aid and Hawk and I got separated. He called for the medical bag; I went to get it to him and took a header in the roadbed mud…"
"Uniform and all?"she asked appalled.
"Yep," he confirmed, "the bag landed by him and he called out 'nice shot' the jerk, he was with two soldiers, one on his back they were working on a head wound, the other face down. I moved to help the other guy and Hawk told me not to bother. Here I was fresh from stateside, full of myself and not sure of my companionship so I got angry...insisted that we had to try…"
He swallowed, and she felt a tremble in his shoulders.
"When I tried to roll him over, there were things that never should see the light of day coming out of that boy, and covered in mud and grass, he was nearly blown apart, I set him back down prone and went a short distance away and threw up everything I had eaten for two days, I felt someone holding me out of the vomit."
"Uncle Hawk," Erin encouraged.
He nodded. "When I was through I looked up, expecting to see his disgust, and I saw more compassion and empathy than I have ever seen in anyone's eyes in my life until that time and since…he was holding out a hand to me, offering more than just a leg up, I took it and that was when our friendship really began, I thought he was just a burn out case, simply a disgruntled malcontent, someone I would have to work around, rather than with, but after that moment he became my lifeline."
She nodded. "He still is, give him a call...say good night to Ben first."
"Doctor's orders?" he inquired with a smile.
She nodded as she moved in for a hug. "Thanks for telling me."
"Thanks for listening," as they embraced. He held her a little tighter than normal, needing to hold onto something more from the present to chase away the past.
Then he stood to leave.
He turned back. "Yes?"
"Wear comfortable shoes tomorrow night," she replied, "I've got to open the floor with a dance, you're it."
He grinned. "I'll do my best, remember I've got two left feet and both are size thirteen."
She waved him off; both of them knew he was being a goof.
He left on his errands; she stayed on the edge of the bed trying to absorb his words.
"First day in Korea, and you had to see that," she murmured.
Every time she thought she had a grasp on what he suffered over there, some new horror knocked her from her certainty. He was embarrassed by his weakness, but it only caused her to respect him more.
She got up and headed to her room, she heard him and Ben talking quietly as she passed, her father never wanted his troubles to land on his children's shoulders, but Erin believed that it was her father's transparency about Achilles' heel that made him such a good father, not some parental need to show a facade of perfection.
If those kids at school only knew how veterans really feel about war…they would want to learn from them, not resent them…
Inspiration hit…she rushed back down the stairs to her dad's study, well It was where he conducted his business but it stayed open to the family, those years ago, he had secluded himself in that room and nearly lost his way, so keeping the door open was his way of keeping accountability.
She checked the large book shelves lining the walls, running her fingers over the spins looking for one volume in particular.
"Which one?" said her dad as he came into the room; his eyes seemed less haunted; Ben always had that affect on him.
"Famous quotes on war?" she replied.
He reached past over her head and pulled down the volume in question.
"You get inspired?" he asked in a quiet voice.
She nodded and kissed his cheek, "That was from mom, so good night, remember don't stay on the phone too long, school day tomorrow."
"Yes, Mother," he replied rolling his eyes.
She patted his cheek and headed out. She paused long enough to hear him dial, then say, "Hawk, what are you doing up? Just wanted to talk for a while, what's going on at Casa de Pierce? Well that's why they're called babies, Hawk…no they don't come unscented…"
His voice took on that joyful tone that he always got around Uncle Hawk…that everyone got around Uncle Hawk the man was a one person cheering squad with brass band accompaniment a genuine force of nature.
She took the book up to her room and thumbed through, finding a familiar name, she opened to that chapter, and soon had a big smile on her face.
The writing of the speech went quickly and she was in bed ready for sleep by the time she heard her dad come back up the stairs.
The next day there were subtle and not so subtle attempts to find out what she was going to say, at school, but she remained mum.
She came home and dressed for the dance in a red dress she used to wear when she and her dad went out swing dancing, she made up her hair with a fifties style hairdo that she picked out of a magazine.
He was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs, decked out in his military finery, having trimmed his hair sometime during the day. Ben was over at Jay and Bea's for the night, all was taken care of.
"You ready Ginger?"
"Born ready, Fred," She replied with pat on his cheek as she passed by.
The gymnasium was perfect. The decoration committee had gone out of their way, using clippings from Life magazines to get the period details, the band was from Burbank and came highly recommended, and from the sound of them, those testimonials did not do them justice. She had a private conversation with the band leader who agreed eagerly to her request.
She knew her, and her father, looked good, but the attention her dad was getting gave her the urge to get on the microphone early and make sure everyone knew there was a Mrs. Hunnicutt and that job was not up for grabs.
Oh the perils of having a handsome father. I wonder how Cary Grant's daughter deals with it?
The room was dividing up already, with the faculty mingling with the other veterans, welcoming them to the dance, while many of the more marginal students were gathered around where Mr. Kowalski was holding court.
It was shaping up to be their own little civil war, right here in the gym. She did not know if anything she could say would fix it, but at this point she did not care, like Father Mulcahy had suggested, she had chosen her own path.
The time came for the speech, and she was nudged in that direction by Principal Bertram Barnes, a tall grave gentleman who fit his name very well.
The microphone was a fifties style aluminum monstrosity, it had the call letters of a radio station for authenticity.
"Good evening," she called out trying to not blast everyone's ears.
"For those of you that have not seen my resume, I am Erin Hunnicutt, class president, captain of the debate team, leader in the FBLA, captained the cheerleading squad last year before pursuing academics exclusively, was voted in the senior class year book as "Most Likely to Be Kidnapped by Aliens for a Zoo on Other Worlds."
There were smatterings of laughter, especially from her cheerleader girlfriends, the anti-war group just glowered with some cracking smiles inadvertently.
"So when you hear me say the following, you can understand the significance. 'I, Erin Hunnicutt, am going to be brief."
More laughter broke out, she felt that the room was thawing somewhat, that good old self-effacing Hunnicutt charm was winning out.
"These are the times that try men's souls, and our country is once again in conflict. A very great man once said:
I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers ... tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation," later he also uttered the famous phrase, "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell."
She paused for effect. "That man was Mahatma Gandhi, oh no wait, Tolstoy…ummmmmm…not Tolstoy…Albert Schweitzer?" She checked her notes. "Oh yes…sorry…that man was General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the best military minds that has ever lived...a soldier."
Into the stunned silence she said these words. "There are some today who gaze across this room and see those uniforms and think that the wearers represent the war effort, in the words of another great Sherman…THAT'S HORSE HOCKEY! These people are wearing those uniforms because they earned the right, not because they love the circumstance, to accuse them of being a lover of war is like accusing a plumber of being a lover of sewage leaks."
She leaned on the podium. "Tonight, I am making my own choice. Whether or not you join me is irrelevant. I choose to honor them. I choose to give them the respect they deserve. I choose to do my best to show them a good time, because they have had so few. I choose to declare armistice and say that war might have a place outside these walls, but in here…this place…this time…war ends tonight!"
To her surprise there was a general applause.
"Right now," she continued when the din had died down, "I am going to open the festivities, by dancing with the best looking GI in this room, if you decide to join me after, and have a good time, feel free, but as for me, I intend to let the fun begin!"
She stepped out and made her way to the clearing out dance floor. Her dad made his way to join her, his eyes twinkling with pride. He received a few wolf whistles from the cheerleading squad who had stayed over Erin's house for sleepovers more than once, he acknowledged them by flashing that trademark bright smile and tipping his hat to their delight.
"What's it going to be, Ginger, a waltz?" he asked as he got into range.
She smiled. "Dad, I am 'In the Mood.'"
He looked surprise but got into position. "Are you sure, sweetheart, we haven't practiced."
"What's the matter, Fred, not sure you can keep up?" she teased.
That determined spark lit his eyes. That was one thing her and her dad had more in common than anyone else in the house, a competitive streak a mile wide. "Lift at the end?"
He had a moment of concern. "I'm older now, are you sure I won't drop you?"
"You never have, and you never will," she confirmed with a wink.
She raised her hand and snapped her fingers.
The first saxophone peals broke the silence, surprising the audience expecting something more solemn, and her and her dad broke into the routine. Glen Miller's trademark tune swung into full speed as her and her father did fancy footwork apart from each other.
She did not have to hear the appreciative ooohs to know that her dad was using those long legs to their best effect; she had to smile, what a show off!
The time apart dissolved in a perfect grab into a sequence facing and he was smirking. "Looking peaked, Ginger." "Just you wait, Fred," she shot back.
She had a flash of images as they got to the middle sequence, all those years of her on stage dancing and of her father watching with that same smile. He called her bright eyes because of the way her eyes lit up when she was in the spot light.
Two years ago she started looking at colleges and made the "adult" decision to give up that part of herself, to "grow up" and she still remembered her father's disappointment, but he had never tried to talk her out of the path she chose. Now as he lifted her and she flew through the air like so many times when she was a little girl, she felt a missing piece snap back into place.
There was a comedy sequence in the middle of the routine, she used her skill as a ballerina for an extended pirouette while he sarcastically checked his watch, the laughter rang out right on cue, her dad the goofball played it to the hilt adding in a impatient tapping shoe, but as she broke out of the spiral, his arm caught hers perfectly and did a lift, a wrap around and a flip over, controlling her on the way down so she would not break a heel, then a face to face coordinated kick turn sequence was met by spontaneous applause, her dad shot her a wink as they split apart while the song built to the end and they had their backs turned to one another.
The move was all about timing, it had taken weeks to perfect, if he missed her hands or failed to get his legs under her and keep his balance, it would fail, they had not performed the maneuver for years, but she had no doubt in her mind that he would pull it off.
At the appropriate penultimate moment she came at his turned back, slid between his legs with her hands extended, and he caught her hands and lifted her aloft as the last trumpet pealed, spinning her to face him and she came down to end in a basket dip.
He broke the rules before the music even ended by giving her a huge hug.
"You are amazing, you know that?"
"Came from good stock," she replied giving him a kiss on the cheek, as the jubilant crowd flooded the floor and the ice broke.
The cease fire had been called…war be damned.
She leaned up and mumbled in his ear where only he could hear. "I changed my mind, I want to be a dancer, when I graduate."
He grew stern. "If you think that your mother and I are going to support you while you chase your dreams..." he scolded, then he broke into one of those patented eye crinkling Hunnicutt smiles as he finished, "you're absolutely right!"
She laughed and hugged him tight as the band moved to the next piece and the dancers took the floor around them.
Okay...It's official...best dad...EVER!
Story Notes: This piece was not to offer a commentary on war outside of the fact that it was very much on the nation's collective mind in those days.
The quote is an actual one...William T. is one of my favorite all time characters in history, I have him as a screen saver LOL!
I hope that fluff did not get in your eye from reading this.