Chapter 26 - Life is Full of Surprises
"...and then I say, 'Pierce, do you love life that little?' and he says, 'No, I hate guns that much!'" Sherman, Radar and Max had spent most of the morning fishing and reminiscing. "That Pierce was a pistol."
"I never would have matched him up with Major Houlihan," said Radar.
"Things really changed after you left," said Klinger. "I knew something was up when Hawkeye threw away his nudist magazines. That was after he lost that one patient...Owens, I think was his name. Hawkeye kind of went bananas and after that he didn't joke as much and he stopped chasing the nurses. It was kind of spooky."
"Well, this has been a good day of fishing," said Sherman wanting to keep the atmosphere light.
"Yessir," said Radar, "I think I'd enjoy it more if we'd caught some fish, Sir."
"Radar, I'm not your commanding officer any more. You can drop the 'Sir.'"
"Yessir," said Radar.
"Radar it's not how many fish you catch...it's the experience," said Sherman. "Did you do much fishing as a kid, Max?"
"Who me? Nah...but I was pretty good with a pool cue, though. And I could take the hubcaps off a car faster than any kid on my block."
Sherman laughed, "Now that's a goal to aim for... Soon-Lee was sure surprised to see her folks!"
"Yeah," said Max. "I've never seen her so happy. To think that we spent all that time in Korea searching for them and here you were over there less than a month and they come to you guys. Life is full of surprises, hey Colonel?" Klinger winked at Radar.
"You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, Max!" said Sherman.
"Mrs. Potter says you got to visit Sophie," said Radar. "How is she?"
"She's doing well. Father Mulcahy has been making sure she gets the best care. I enjoyed a few rides on the old girl. That was a rare treat."
"How come you don't have a horse here?" asked Max. "You certainly have the room for one."
"Just haven't gotten around to finding the right one, I guess," said Sherman wistfully, still thinking of Sophie. She'd been a comfort to him in a strange time.
"I think it's great that Hawkeye and Margaret were able to adopt that little girl. She was a pretty little baby. What's she like now?" asked Max.
"Aw, she's just as cute as a bug's ear," said Sherman, "big brown eyes that just melt your heart. Father Mulcahy said the pictures you took were what helped him identify her. She has more hair and teeth now but the face is the same."
Radar looked at his watch and signaled to Klinger that it was almost time to get Sherman back home. They'd worked to keep him occupied all morning so the women could prepare the party and situate the other guests.
The Hunicutt's and the Pierces had gotten in last night. The Winchesters, fresh from their honeymoon in Europe, had arrived that morning. The Freedmans were due in this morning as well.
Suddenly Sherman grabbed his pole.
"Sweet Fanny Adams! I caught a fish!"
"What the...This place is locked up tighter than a drum," said Sherman, unlocking his front door. Max and Radar were close behind him exchanging grins. "I can't imagine where everybody went. Why is it so dark in here? Well Pig Pucks, this a fine howdy doo!...Wait a minute...Max? Radar? Did either of you just giggle?"
"Surprise!" rang out from every corner of the living room. Klinger jumped out and snapped a picture of Sherman.
"Whoa there Max! You blinded me! What is all this?"
"Happy birthday, Grandpa Potter!" yelled Erin Hunnicutt and Aaron Freedman.
"Aunt Nellie's lace bloomers! This is a surprise!" Sherman scanned the room, trying to take it all in.
Sidney Freedman stood by the fireplace with his family. Hawkeye, Margaret and their new addition stood next to them. The newly married Winchesters were flanked by the Hunnicutt clan. The Klingers and the Hans sat on the couch. Patty joined Radar by the door beside Sherman.
Mildred kissed Sherman and said, "Happy birthday, Cuddles!'
Riotous laughter erupted from Hawkeye, "Cuddles?...that's adorable..." he wheezed trying to talk and laugh at the same time. "Happy Birthday, Colonel Cuddles!"
"Stop it, Pierce!" yelled Margaret. "I apologize for my husband's behavior, Colonel...um...hee...hee...Cuddles!" with that she dissolved and everyone in the room followed suit.
Sherman gave Mildred a sidelong glance, "Thanks...dear."
Sherman looked at all of the people crowded into his living room. "This is really special! When did you plan all of this?"
"We started making plans when you decided to go to Korea with Hawkeye," said Mildred. "Peg and I put our heads together. We made a few phone calls. We already had plans for Max and Soon-Lee and Patty and Radar to come for a visit during this time and with your birthday coming up we decided..."
"...why wait until August for a reunion!" exclaimed Peg. "It was perfect timing. You were out of the picture so we didn't have to resort to being sneaky."
Charles and Mildred disappeared into the kitchen. They reemerged moments later with two bottles of wine and glasses.
"I'd like to propose a toast," he said holding up his glass, "to Sherman T. Potter. You were like a father to all of us in that fetid sewer we were forced to call home. Because of your presence there it made it seem more like home."
"Here! Here!" said Hawkeye. Turning to his former bunkmate he said, "Nice, Charles."
"Winchester," said Sherman choking back tears, "I never knew you felt that way. Thank you."
"Daddy, when are we going to eat the cake?" asked Aaron in a loud whisper.
"Aaron Freedman! That is rude," said Rivka.
"That's just normal boy talking," said Mildred. She said to Aaron, "First Grandpa Potter has to see the cake and blow out his candles."
"Tell him to hurry up, then," said Aaron while the adults in the room stifled their laughter.
Hawkeye turned to Sidney with an amused twinkle in his eye.
"What can I say?" said the psychiatrist; "he has finesse like his old man."
"So, let me see the cake already," said Sherman. "Or things could get ugly." He pointed to the children eyeing the cake.
Inscribed on the cake was "Happy Birthday Sherman and Welcome Home Yumee"
"It's beautiful but I thought it was just for Sherman's birthday," said Margaret.
"It was," said Peg, "but at the last minute we decided that we needed to include her in the celebration. We have some presents for her, too. We thought she needed a proper welcome."
Sherman blew out the candles on the cake. Mildred cut the cake and served it, which made the children happy.
"Okay, time for Yumee to open her presents," said Patty.
"Thank you," said Margaret, sitting down with the little girl on her lap. "Look, Yumee, presents just for you. Let's see what you got."
Hawkeye smiled as he watched Margaret with their child. He thought he'd never seen a more beautiful woman.
"Why Auntie Margaret, I had no idea you were so maternal. I can just see you with a houseful of little teeny major-ettes."
"I had so much fun buying little girl things, I had trouble making myself stop," said Rivka, "so I didn't."
When all the presents were opened, Margaret said to Yumee, "Can you say 'thank you?'" The little girl hid her face on Margaret's shoulder.
"She can thank us another time," said BJ with a smile.
"Can I get everyone's attention?" said Klinger. "Mrs. Potter wants us all to move out to the barn."
Sherman looked around at everyone and noticed the smiles they exchanged. Someone had something up their sleeve he thought.
Soon the whole group was gathered by the barn door.
"Close your eyes," said Radar to Sherman.
"This is silliness," grumbled Sherman.
Mildred looked at him and he said, "Oh all right!" and closed his eyes. When he opened them again he was nose to nose with a chestnut mare.
Sherman stood in stunned silence.
Handing him the horse's rope, Radar repeated the words he'd said four years ago when he'd presented him with Sophie, "It's a horse, Sir. Here's the keys."
Tears streamed down Sherman's face, "A beautiful horse, Radar."
"We know how you miss having a horse and what Sophie meant to you, Sherman," said Hawkeye. "It's not practical to fly her here from Korea so we did the next best thing. We found another chestnut mare and all of us chipped in. May she bring you as much comfort as Sophie did. Happy birthday from all of us. Happy riding, Colonel."
Hawkeye stood at attention and gave his former CO a salute. The former MASH unit followed Hawkeye's lead and saluted as well.
"I-I don't know what to say," said Sherman.
"Look at him on that horse! I bet he doesn't come in for a week," said Mildred. "I gotta hand it to you, Radar, dear, that was a brilliant idea. I knew that something has been sticking in his craw for sometime."
"The colonel and Sophie had a very special relationship," said Radar.
"He used to write about her all the time," said Mildred. "If she'd been a person I would have been inclined to be very jealous. But I suppose I can handle the 'other woman' having four hooves and a tail."
It was a beautiful spring like day so the group decided to have supper outside. The group now sat in lawn chairs watching the children play.
"The last time I saw this much open sky was in Korea," said Sidney. "And then you had to worry about the 'rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air.' It's very beautiful here."
Hawkeye sat watching Sherman ride his horse. Yumee was sleeping on his lap with her head on his chest. He stroked her hair. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so peaceful.
"Fatherhood becomes you, Hawk," said BJ.
"I understand now, Beej," said Hawkeye.
"Why you were so homesick for your family while we were over there. I-I can't imagine being separated from Margaret and Yumee for two years." He kissed his sleeping daughter's head.
BJ reached over and squeezed his arm.
"So have you gotten together with Trapper?" asked BJ.
Hawkeye shook his head. "I spent three years wondering what had happened to that clown. Then when I talked to him I realized that it was no great loss. Well, I suppose at the time...we were alike...a couple of womanizing jerks. But so much had changed for me by the time we met up again that I couldn't relate to him any more. The man hasn't changed, Beej. Louise threw him out two days after he got home from Korea. She found out about all of his extra curricular activities. He hasn't seen his daughters in two years. And you know, after all that, he still has the same cavalier attitude toward women. I watched him in action while I was in Boston Mercy. I kind of feel like a rat after all that he did for me, but I don't feel that I have much in common with the man any more."
BJ smiled at his best friend with the sleeping child in his arms. Suddenly something caught his eye where the children were playing. He saw his tiny son with the other children. He had a spoon in each hand and...
"Peg, look!" BJ cried out. "It's Ben! He's walking!"
Peg ran over and snapped a picture. She laughed and said, "It's fitting. We were all together when he took his first breath. Now we're all together when he's taken his first step!"
"Dad! Mom! We're home!" called Hawkeye. It was about six o'clock Monday morning. They had taken an over night flight home so rather than disturb their parents, Hawkeye and Margaret decided to take a cab from Portland.
"I guess they're not up yet," said Margaret. She laid Yumee on the couch being careful not to wake her.
"I'll take our bags upstairs," said Hawkeye.
"Here, let me help you. She'll be fine on the couch."
Daniel's bedroom door opened. Margaret and Hawkeye turned around in time to see Daniel and Rose emerge from the room. Both of them were wearing pajamas and robes.
"Mom? Dad? You two are...sleeping together?" Margaret asked.
"It's customary for a husband and wife to occupy the same bed, so the answer to that would be 'yes,'" said Daniel with a grin.
"You mean...you two...are..." sputtered Hawkeye, dropping the suitcases.
"M-married?" Margaret stammered. "When? When did you do that?"
Daniel and Rose held up their left hands to show off matching gold wedding bands.
"Why didn't you tell us?" asked Hawkeye.
"You two were busy," said Rose. "We got married while you were in Korea. Daniel drove me to New Jersey to help me pack things from my apartment. On the way back...we...well...we..."
"Eloped!" Daniel finished her sentence with a smile. Then he put his arm around Rose and kissed her.
Margaret and Hawkeye looked at each other in shock and then began to laugh out loud and hugged their parents.
"This calls for a celebration!" said Hawkeye. "As soon as you're up and dressed, we're taking you wild and crazy newlyweds out to breakfast. Orange Juice all around! I'm buying!"
Yumee, hearing the noise, began to whimper from the couch. Daniel and Rose practically ran to the couch to meet their new granddaughter.
"She's beautiful, Ben!" said Daniel.
Rose took the child in her arms and kissed her. "Welcome home, Yumee, I'm your grandma." Daniel, Hawkeye and Margaret followed her as she carried the child to her room.
"Mom," said Margaret. "You've outdone yourself!"
Daniel and Rose had even bought new furniture, complete with canopy bed. Rose hadn't been able to resist buying some toys as well.
Hawkeye looked around the room, amused by his mother in law's enthusiasm.
"I hope she likes pink," he said.