“You know you can’t keep her here, Jeanie, much as I would have loved to.”
Henry stood over me, ever the father-figure of my life, as the last (or so we dared to hope) of the enemy bombs burst amongst us, their planes (and ours) leaving us for the most part. Jesus, these were the first words I remembered hearing after waking up from that long night…the night in which I thought I was going to die…the night in which I thought I had lost my mind in this strange and painful dream…and then I smiled, seeing my daughter in my arms.
The whole camp, as I’ve come to find out within seconds, including the small amount of wounded, had evacuated the area to a village a few miles from here. As the threat was real, these two doctors and Company Clerk felt the need to keep me here instead of keeping me on the road with a screaming Frank Burns, who would have sited regulations about dragging me here and there. It had been a tough decision, but with the fighting, staying with them at the 4077th seemed like a good idea.
I knew, soon enough, that the beds were going to be filled with more wounded and that there was going to be some work to do before everything starts to settle down again. I had to recover quickly and get over my disappointment of losing my daughter in order to survive. I just had to!
I looked around, ignoring Henry for a minute. Hawkeye, sleeping in a hospital bed next to me, was not responding to the terror beyond the doors – the faraway booming sounds of thunder – of Post-Op as he had frantically done before, in an attempt to help another breathe amongst us in the Land of the Living. The bombing was slowly stopping, as our side saw the enemy over us and fired back, as per usual.
I heard the occasional explosion near us – small and frantic – before another airplane came overhead. Was it the end of the show finally? Could we breathe again and hope for an ending?
Radar, naturally (after his initial shock), was still on the phone, trying to find out when this madness was to end finally. After being kept securely under a bed in Post-Op, the poor little guy hugged his teddy bear tightly (Henry had left it there with him before coming back to me) and kept silent, knowing that if the enemy decided to come through, that silence was the key. Practice as he may, Radar was not always a quiet person, but managed by himself until Henry and Hawkeye wheeled me into Post-Op with a baby in toll.
Indeed, I wanted it to end as well, like the others around me. And my daughter, my poor little baby daughter, who I have, in my living dream, named Shannon Cora, has not the chance to live like we had or the chance to see the world past these exploding shells. I am so sorry for it. I felt the need to protect her from all of this, but I could not. I had no choice.
Oh, God, I should have not brought her into the world, but I did, and there she was: pink, healthy and beautiful. She had a full head of dark, dark hair (I could not tell if it was my dark brown or black just yet), blue eyes (Henry claimed that they’ll change color soon enough) and a small nose, like mine.
I sighed as I thought, knowing the moments were short with my child. Either we both were leaving Korea or that she was going to be with someone in the States if the Army needed me. Come to find out, I would hate the latter opinion, but I am sure it’s going to be it, as Colonel Flagg told me it was going to be. I would hate it very much: hate staying in this country until the end of the war, hate being the childless mother and hate, most of all, to give her over to somebody else for care and love.
If…that word can change everything. It’s a simple hope, a simple prayer even: a wish upon a star. Life depends upon one if and then another and we never know where fate would let it fall.
I think I will scream to think that my baby would be in the hands of my parents, especially Clarence, that rapist of women. It was almost mortally dangerous enough: to hand her over to a death that I already went through and gone into over and over again. My poor baby could not handle hell like I could. She’s too young, too innocent…
I would prefer Lorraine above all, but she had her hands full with three other children, her last child (a little boy named Andrew) being born in late April. She didn’t need another baby to keep her hands fuller, but I was desperate. I needed her, but I couldn’t be selfish and ask the world of her. Lorraine had taken care of me and Dean for so long and gave us so much of herself before we left her and Henry. She couldn’t take on anymore.
“Henry, please, not now,” I replied finally as I looked back to him again, holding Shannon dear and close to me, her face squished into my shoulder as she whimpered. “I can’t think of our separation right now. She had just tasted what life is. She has just started to feel what life is like without the bombing. I feel powerless to help her. I just want to hold her and protect her now.”
Shannon’s crying about the noise outside was breaking my heart and her drying sobs touched me as I snuggled her closer, her body dropping down from my shoulder to my heart. On the other hand, who am I to say anything? I would be the first to admit that I have no idea on how to raise a child, much less how I was to feel about children when they are mine. Was it normal to feel for a child like that? Were they always so scared of the outside noises like we are? How do they feel on a day-to-day basis? How helpless are they?
“Jeanie, there isn’t anything I could do,” Henry continued, not considering what I said or the time it took for me to answer him. “Radar received the news yesterday, last night in fact, after she was born. The Army has decreed what will happen to Shannon.”
“And since had they any control over my life over the last span of years?” I snapped suddenly, so unlike me, who had let them into my life in the first damned place and let them give me the hope I so richly deserved someday. “I belong to their institution. I work for them to keep our country safe or help to keep the boys, who run off to their little war, alive. Who says that they can tell me where I can place my family?”
I was shaking with a rare anger. It surprised me, and even Henry was taken back, but it didn’t change the truth of the matter. I felt a bitter woman indeed to have let myself get into this mess. And there were few ways to fix it.
Henry paused, as if thinking of other words, but stopped. He only could sit down next to me on the bed, putting his arms around me, as if he were my biological father (instead of Colonel “Heartless” Morrison, a grandfather at age sixty-eight), and kept close to us both. I felt well-protected and very-much loved, more so than ever before. The feelings were there again – the same ones I had for Henry when I started to depend upon him and Lorraine – and he, instead of Daddy, was standing into the parental unit role once more.
Then, Henry started the lecture that I didn’t want to hear as he let go, as all parents surely must do. “Honey, there isn’t anything I could do about it. You made a choice. You made the mistake. And you alone, right now, have to pay the price. I don’t know who else is responsible, but I can’t say anything to them. You said Major Simmons raped you and then, there was Pierce on top of everything else. One of them is locked away and the other is right here, hoping that the child isn’t his, I’m betting.”
“And you dare judge me? You dare to judge me on something that I had no control over?”
I was crying. My tears mingled with Shannon’s cheeks, so much so that it was extremely pathetic. Suddenly, the family feelings went away. I am not a child, his young child, but it hurt worse that he was treating me as such so apathetically.
Henry had not lectured me in a long time, not since I was a teenager and he was telling me about how I should ask for help when I needed it. And in this – not telling him I needed help and then everything happening to me within days of each other – I thought that he was disappointed in me, hence the cold, hard lecture. I was like another daughter to him in a way. Why am I screwing this relationship up by doing the things that I knew Henry dreaded the most? He feared for the worst for me, worried about me like his own children. And this happened…
“No, no, Jeanie,” Henry protested, holding us – me and my baby – closer again. “No, I am not judging you. I just thought that you had more common sense than this. You are very responsible, more so than any other person I know out there. But now, in times of utmost tension, you decide to go out and have…well, umm, sex with someone else. And now, not knowing who the father is has made the consequences dire for Shannon.”
He sighed, telling me the worst news for last, of course. “The Army has decided to follow up with what Colonel Flagg has said and has ordered that Shannon be handed over to your mother in Bloomington. She’s the closest relation you have that isn’t declared insane yet.”
Another sigh escaped Henry’s mouth. “Lorraine has offered to watch over her carefully, but knowing your mother, she would not have it. And there are other things going on that are going to prevent her from doing so.”
My eyes welled with more fat tears, wounded by the fact that Henry thought the situation – it seemed – to be my fault. This was not helping me (no, it was not) and neither is my mother watching over Shannon, which happened to be the worst thing in the world. Shannon was going to be as abused as I was, if not worse, because she is going to be declared a bastard by our own community. And Clarence wasn’t going to let my pretty little girl with the bright eyes be spared his wrath, especially my own daughter: my own flesh and blood.
“Moreover,” Henry continued as he finally moved himself away from my distress and sat at the edge of the bed again, “when they have determined who the father is, they will send the child to his home according to the law. The father will have to pay for the child and custody might be handed to his family until such a time you can leave Korea. Or, custody might be handed over to another family, a foster family.”
If they can find out, I thought, never daring to speak. If they can find out who my child’s father is, then fine. And what makes Shannon still, especially if Major Simmons is her biological father? What will happen to her? In my mother’s eyes, as well as all of society’s eyes, she is a bastard. But to me, she is a gift. She has made me happier than I ever imagined someone would make me and now, she’s going away from me. A piece of me will be gone.
“Do you understand, Jeanie? Do you understand what’s going on and the consequences of it?”
Henry wiped the tears from my face, ignoring the dribble from my nose. I was notorious for leaving my nose a mess when crying hard like this. Henry knew it well so used the sheet to wipe my nose clean as I had my hands full. I laughed at this, choking on my emotions.
What am I to do now? What can I feel? My own child is being taken away from me and, oh, wait, here’s the good news! She has no father she can acknowledge as hers! And oh, wait, there’s more! My undeclared-insane mother is taking her in until the Army has declared who the father is. Oh, this has made my day. If Hawkeye is the father, I don’t know how much relief or pain we both will feel. And if Major Simmons is her father, his family is not going to forgive me. I have heard that the family itself is a bunch of lunatics, much more so than my own mother.
Would I help my daughter that way? Would it good for her be with family like that, even if they are blood related? No, never!
“Yes, Henry,” I finally muttered keeping silent for a moment and looking at Shannon again. I paused, but then asked the most important question: “So, I’m still going to be staying here, huh? Colonel Flagg was right, after all. I’ll be killed if I step foot out of this country, save for Japan, for sure.”
I laughed again, cold and hard. This wasn’t like me. This mix of emotions was not me. Where am I going to? How am I going to handle myself? Most importantly, how can life go on, after all of this? Life was, most certainly, never going to be the same for me afterward. I was a mother, I was going to lose my child and I’m stuck in some hellhole because the Army can’t spare me and my military secrets on civilian life: a huge security risk to America.
This is lovely…
“It looks like it,” Henry responded as he smiled. “So get used to it, Jeanie. I’ll be keeping a sharper eye on you. I’ll make sure nothing else happens to you, so much so that the goons in this camp won’t know what happened to them.” Then, he frowned. “However, Simmons or Pierce will have to decide fast, to claim the child.”
There was a silly grin from my Commanding Officer, to chase away the frown from his own face. This made me laugher harder and this time, it was with feeling. Henry watching over me was like Hawkeye and Trapper not seeing a new nurse. It was impossible.
Worse yet, with this news, I knew that he had little or no trust in me then to take care of my own self. He meant that he didn’t think I could carry myself on my own two feet. He was worried about me. And worry in Henry Blake meant that I could never be invisible to the camp again. He had to protect me.
I stopped laughing. This was a serious matter. I am staying here and my daughter, my pride and joy, is leaving for the States. She’s staying with my mother and…no, it can’t be…
I stopped thinking these horrible thoughts. Shannon is a survivor. She survived a horrible ordeal with me, a horrible birth and with enemy shells around her and me. Now, she has to learn survival in the best form: my mother and that rapist, Clarence. She had a chance. I have no doubts about it. We both could endure the pain and the separation until…until…until when?
Serious again, I asked Henry, “When is she leaving?” I knew that I needed some time before I could let go of this bundle of happiness. I could not help but be obsessed over her: her dark hair (not even a peach-fuzz) on her head, the round bright blue eyes staring back at me and even her tiny fingers and toes, like tiny seashells almost.
“Next week, before the camp comes back,” was the reply from Radar, who had just come into Post-Op. “H.Q. in Seoul says that she’ll be taken care of by a returning nurse until reaching Bloomington, where one Mrs. Rebeccah Lowes will pick her up from the airport.”
Dear, that was all I needed. There was only a week before I could let her go. I had to wean myself off of her and let my daughter off into the world and walk on her own two feet, off to be manipulated by the two most scheming people out there. And to me, it was much too early, oh, too early to let her out into a vicious world that would deem her undesirable for anything but hardship and harassment. And it was all because I was being selfish.
Oh, my baby, what have I done? Where have I put you? How could I be this selfish and allow it to happen to you?
I closed my eyes and suddenly went to sleep, only to open them some time later when I felt the pain of afterbirth. Hawkeye, Henry, Radar and Shannon were gone. Again, I was alone, alone in the world. And worst of all, I am in Korea: Korea, beautiful and yet exploding its own self around me. The countryside was destroyed by a “police action” gone wrong. It was a war I could never escape, not matter what I did, until its very end or at my death.
Klinger’s words, from the past summer – the first full summer in Korea – when he visited with Father Mulcahy at the orphanage, rang in my ears again as I tried to sit up, thinking: “We are not here to make a quick exit, Captain. We are here in hell. And it only gets worse.”
How true they are, Klinger. And we can only hope that it’ll all be over soon. Let’s hope to go home soon enough.