Letter from Hawkeye
Okay, so technically you're not with me anymore. You're on the other side of Heaven. I get that, Dad. But I wrote to you so many times when I was in Korea, writing to you now, after The Reunion, after seeing everybody I hadn't seen in years, seems right somehow.
It was a strange idea them getting back together. A 10-year reunion of MASH 4077. Who could have imagined back in 1952 we would be gathering in a restaurant in Toledo, of all places, to relive what all of us wanted more than anything to forget?
Especially me, Dad. It had taken a good ten years to put most of it behind me. The blood, the pain, the death the unholy horror of it all. A surgeon lives with blood, pain and death by definition. I knew that, Dad. I grew up knowing that. Wasn't it you who taught me that? But you also taught me that a doctor does his best to save lives that would have been lost without him. I guess that's why I became a doctor in the first place. But putting the mutilated bodies of strong young men who were barely older then children back together every single day? I still have nightmares, I'll always have nightmares. The nightmares had begun back there in Hell when I was still elbow-deep in the waking nightmare that had become my life. So why a reunion of all things? To rehash (remash?) old times in the OR and Post-Op? Ah, but I had loved those guys – even the ones I had hated. Who had been on the Hate List? Well, Frank Burns, of course. And Charles Winchester, perhaps. And Hot Lips Houlihan, who had somehow evolved into Margaret – I don't think "hate" had ever been the right term for what I felt for Margaret. Lust. Lust was the right term. Then frustration because by the time we met she was all wrapped up with Frank Burns and in love with the Army. I was all wrapped up with any willing nurse and in hate with the Army. Lust and frustration. That about summed up our relationship. Except for that one night.
Margaret. She wasn't there when I arrived at the restaurant, and I was surprised how disappointed her absence made me feel. Not that I had a lot of time to analyze my feelings – I was mobbed the second I put my foot in that restaurant. Everyone who was anyone in that part of my past had made it to Toledo that night – BJ, Radar, Klinger (Toledo had been his idea, naturally), Charles, Colonel Potter, Father Mulcahy. Even Trapper. It was sort of crazy seeing Trapper and BJ together – in what I laughingly called my mind they had sort of morphed into one Best Friend. But there they were. So I guess I had two Best Friends in Hell. Go know.
Margaret. She was, of course, fashionably late. Even from across the room I could see that the years had been amazingly kind to her. My Major Distraction still had it all going on, as the young people say today. She was as gorgeously vibrant as the day I kissed her good-bye. Still blonde, still beautiful, with a body that still took my breath away. Don't get me wrong, Dad. I know there could have been nothing lasting between us; we were so different. So different. Wasn't that what I told her the morning after our one night of passion and terror? I wrote you about that night, Dad. I still remember how she and I clung together while it seemed like every bomb in Korea went off over our heads. We thought they were trying to kill us personally. So we fought them the only way we knew how – by making love until the bombing stopped. When it finished, I knew we were finished as well. Because we were polar opposites in every single way that counted – our politics, our philosophies, our characters. For all I knew we didn't even like the same flavor ice cream. What chance did we have?
Of course, Dad, I know now that there was more that kept us apart than our taste in ice cream. Carlye and I had been very alike. You remember Carlye, Dad. The nurse I met when I was interning and then again when I was serving my time in Hell. By then she was married, but I proposed anyway. Wisely she told me that my heart had already been claimed and that any woman I took up with would always run a poor second to my one true passion. Medicine. I remember wanting to tell her she was wrong. But I wasn't sure about that, Dad.
I'm still not sure about it. I never found anyone to replace Carlye, or for that matter Margaret. Was that because Medicine is my only Mistress? Carlye thought that. I don't know what Margaret thought because I pushed her away too fast to find out. And I never saw her again after that long, long, LONG good-bye kiss.
"Hi," I ventured, pushing past two carts of flaming shish-kabobs and one flaming Trapper, who was also racing toward her.
"Hi yourself," she replied, seeming not to notice the upset carts or Trapper, who also looked upset.
We spent that evening catching up, as they say. Turns out she was still a nurse, still a Republican, still divorced and unmarried. Just like me, except that I wasn't a nurse, wasn't a Republican and wasn't divorced because I had never been married.
"You're not married?" she asked. "Never married? In all these years?"
"See, we finally have something in common," I said, trying to take my eyes off her blonde hair which she was wearing up secured by about a hundred thousand hair pins, every one of which I longed to take out so that her hair would fall free about her shoulders leaving me to fall free about her shoulders.
"You're staring," she noticed, not seeming to mind. "Maybe we should dance."
So we danced. She let me lead and everything.
"You haven't changed," I had to tell her, holding her tight.
"Neither have you!" she breathed, pushing me away a little. "When do you plan on growing up?"
"Certainly not tonight."
We danced on in an uneasy silence until the song ended.
"We should be talking to other people," she said, still in my arms.
"What other people?" I asked.
"I should be going over to Colonel Potter. He's over eighty – how many chances will I have to see him?"
"How many chances will you have to see me?" I countered.
"I'll probably never see you again," she answered ruefully.
"Why?" I wondered.
"We're so different," she reminded me.
Later we left the restaurant, after hugging everybody in sight and solemnly promising to write. We found ourselves in a small café and I began to feel guilty for ignoring everybody at the Reunion except her.
"I should at least have spoken to Radar. He was practically my child."
She shrugged her adorable shoulders. "Well, he looks all grown up now. He's probably married with children of his own. Do you regret never having children, Pierce?"
"I'm not dead yet," I informed her, mildly annoyed that she wasn't calling me Hawk.
"I'm getting to the age where children are no longer an option," she sighed.
"You could always adopt me," I said. "I'm available."
She was shaking her head. "No, I can't. We're so different."
I found myself wondering if she remembered my saying that to her once upon a time.
"I think that waitress wants us to order something," I whispered. "Either that or she's waiting for a bus."
"Ice cream!" Margaret decided at once.
"What flavor?" I asked as if the whole wide world depended on her answer.
"Pistachio," she told the waitress.
See Dad? You never really know a person until you know a person.