"What does your father think of Margaret, Pierce?" Potter interrupted the two men in their friendly bantering.
"He loves her." Hawkeye replied, a smile on his face. "He tells her that she's the daughter that he always wanted. He says that she reminds him of Mom. I guess Margaret has the same feisty nature that Mom had. He was so happy when we got married."
"Did you have a big wedding?" B.J. asked.
Hawkeye shook his head. "We got married in the backyard of my father's house. Just my Dad and Margaret's folks. A few friends."
"And you both stayed with your father after you got married?" Trapper asked.
"Yeah, Margaret and I both figured it would be a good idea to live together after we got married." Hawkeye laughed teasingly. "We thought it might help keep the marriage going."
Trapper rolled his eyes in exasperation. "You know what I mean."
Hawkeye smiled amusedly at his friend and replied. "I didn't feel like I could leave him alone in that big old house. He had been by himself long enough when I was in Korea and I just couldn't abandon him again."
"What does Margaret think of living with her father-in-law?" B.J. asked.
"She doesn't mind." Hawkeye replied. "She and Dad get along perfectly. She's told me before that sometimes she feels closer to him than she does to her own father. Dad's a lot freer with his expressions of love and appreciation than Margaret's father is. She even calls him 'Dad', much to my father's delight."
"Sounds like they have a good relationship." Potter acknowledged.
"When Margaret was pregnant for Becky, Dad helped her decorate the nursery." Hawkeye chuckled slightly at a memory. "You should have seen the two of them putting the crib together. It took them three tries and five hours, but the look of triumph on their faces was absolutely priceless. I've never seen Dad happier in my life than I've seen him in the last seven years, or prouder. He just adores his three 'angels' as he calls them."
"Ah, grandchildren." Potter exclaimed. "They're the joy of any grandfather's life."
"Our Grampy likes to take us to the park and push us on the swings. He says that he used to take Daddy there when he was young." Rebecca piped up, excitement in her voice. "And he likes to tell us stories about when Daddy was our age and he reads us the story about where Daddy got his name."
"The 'Last of the Mohicans'." Hawkeye reminded her.
"That's it." Rebecca nodded. "About the Indians."
"You should have brought your Dad with you." Potter commented. "I would have loved to have met him."
"Really?" Hawkeye asked, looking at him pretending to be surprised. "I would have thought you'd have wanted to keep him away from Mrs. Potter." His smile turned teasing.
Potter accepted the joke. "That's just it. I want to check out what kind of riff-raff was hanging around Mildred while I was in Korea."
"Well, you're in luck." Hawkeye laughed. "Dad's coming later. He's at the hotel taking a nap. He was tired out after the plane ride and wanted to rest up a bit before coming over. He said that he'd grab a cab over later."
"That's great!" Radar exclaimed. "My ma's coming later too. She had an appointment this morning, but she'll be here before supper. And there's a special surprise that's suppose to be here around five."
Everyone looked at their watch. "It's 3:00 now." Klinger reported.
"What kind of surprise?" Hawkeye asked, looking at Radar expectantly.
"An enormous surprise." Radar replied with an excited tone in his voice. "One you'll never guess in a million years."
"Give us a clue." Trapper pressed.
Radar shook his head. "Nope. You'll just have to wait. But trust me, you'll be very pleasantly surprised."
Trapper opened his mouth to protest, but Potter interrupted him. "Come on, let's leave the boy to his surprise. We'll find out what it is at 5:00." A couple of them mumbled in complaint, but complied. Potter turned to Hawkeye as asked. "Are Margaret's parents coming to this little shindig?"
Hawkeye shook his head a little sadly. "Margaret's mother passed away a few years ago."
"Oh, no." Potter commented sorrowfully. "I'm so sorry to hear that. What happened?"
"Heart attack." Hawkeye replied, tears in his eyes. "It was so massive that there wasn't anything I could do."
"You could do?" B.J. repeated in surprise.
Hawkeye nodded and in a tight voice explained. "She was visiting us just after Beth was born. She'd been doing some cleaning when suddenly she collapsed on the floor, knocking over one of the lamps in the living room. I was in my office with Dad and we heard the crash. By the time we reached her, she was in cardiac arrest. Dad and I rushed her to the hospital as fast as we could. I did heart message and ventilated her as best I could, but she didn't respond."
"How did Margaret take it?" Potter asked, concern on her face.
"Very badly." Hawkeye replied sadly, his face suddenly looking old and haggard at the memory. "She felt that it was her fault. Beth was only a few weeks old and Margaret was still learning to adjust to having two children to look after. She'd been leaving some of the housework so that she could concentrate on the children more, so she felt guilty that her mother had been doing it. Dad usually helped out, but he had had surgery on his hip recently and was still having a hard time getting around himself." Hawkeye stared off into space as he continued. "Anyway, Margaret fell into a deep depression. It took her quite a while to get over it. She had no interest in anything, not even Beth. I had to do everything for her, change her, play with her, rock her to sleep. I'd have to bring her to Margaret to feed her. I think that's one of the reasons that Beth is so attached to me. I was both mother and father to her for the first few months."
"Oh, Hawk." B.J. commented, his heart going out to his friend. "That must have been really rough."
"It was." Hawk nodded and let out a tired sigh. "But, after a few months Margaret came out of it. I think her big problem was she wasn't letting her feelings out. You know how in Korea she liked to pretend that nothing could get to her." Everyone nodded. "Well, that's what she tried to do in this case, but it didn't work. Finally she let it out, and boy did she let it out. She cried, she screamed, she pounded me in frustration. It wasn't me she was mad at, just the whole situation in general. After a couple hours of emotional storm, she fell asleep in my arms, and slept the most peacefully she had in months. After that, she was the same old Margaret, the Margaret I loved and married. Things have been fine since."
"I'm relieved to hear it." Potter said, a smile on his face. "And I'm proud of you son."
"What for?" Hawkeye asked in surprise.
"For sticking with her, even though times were tough." Potter replied. "That's the sure test of the strength of a marriage, when it can weather storms and come out okay."
"Well, I knew that it wouldn't last forever." Hawkeye said, his eyes thoughtful. "And, even though it was rough, I couldn't imagine my life without Margaret and the girls. I love them more than life itself. And you know how much I value life."
Potter and the others nodded.
"What about Margaret's father?" B.J. asked. "Where's he at?"
"He's living out in California." Hawkeye replied. "He's still the same as when we met him in Korea. Ornery and strict." He laughed lightly. "He comes to see us on occasion."
"What does he think of his daughter's choice of a husband?" Charles asked, a taunting smile on his face.
"We get along fine..." Hawkeye replied with a smile. "...now. At first her Dad and I butted heads."
"Big surprise." B.J. laughed. "Remember when we first met 'Howitzer' Al Houlihan?"
Hawkeye laughed. "Talk about butting heads."
"What happened?" Trapper asked curiously.
"Before or after he tore a strip out of these two pranksters?" Potter laughed.
"What did he lit into you for?" Trapper asked.
B.J. and Hawk looked at each other and laughed. "Let me see, Hawk, what was it again?"
"I believe he didn't approve of our casual attire." Hawk replied.
"Ah, yes." B.J. laughed. "I believe he called us clowns that were making a mockery of our country's uniform."
"We were also a disgrace to the flag, if I'm not mistaken." Hawkeye laughed and looked at Potter with a sly smile. "Can you imagine? Us? You couldn't find two guys anywhere more dedicated to being unpatriotic."
"I'll drink to that." Potter laughed, raising his glass in agreement.
"You should have seen Alvin's face when he realized who it was that his daughter was seeing." Hawkeye laughed.
"What happened?" B.J. laughed.
"I was visiting Margaret one weekend and her father showed up." Hawkeye laughed at the memory. "I was dropping her off at her place before heading to the hotel I was staying at. I had walked her to the door and we were saying, or I guess I should say, kissing 'goodnight' when a voice behind me asked very sternly, 'What the hell is going on here?' I tell you I've never jump so high in my life. Shell fire hadn't startled me as much." The others laughed heartily, picturing the scene that had taken place. "Margaret looked at her father in such surprise, her face was priceless. She introduced us again and then asked what he was doing there. He didn't take his eyes off me the entire time, I think he was doing his best to try to intimidate me. And trust me, he does a wonderful job. I told him I was glad to see him, told Margaret I'd see her the next day and made my escape."
"Then what happened?" Trapper asked.
"Margaret made supper for both of us the next night." Hawkeye replied. "Things were very tense. There had obviously been a lot of arguing about our relationship. I could see the Houlihan stubbornness at work on both sides. Alvin kept putting in little digs. He didn't think I was military enough for his daughter. He'd pulled some strings and gotten a hold of my service record and found it wanting. He kept at me to leave his daughter alone."
"What did Margaret do?" B.J. asked.
"She was very quiet at first. She kept hoping that her father and I would resolve things." He replied. "Unfortunately, that night we didn't. He got in a temper, told Margaret that she had to choose between me or him. I was never so angry at anybody in my life. I couldn't believe he'd give her such an ultimatum. She said that she loved both of us, and that she wasn't going to give up either one of us. He told her that she couldn't have it both ways, and he left. Poor Margaret was beside herself. She loves her father very much, and tries so hard to please him."
"I know." Potter nodded. "I remember when he came to camp. She blamed herself for the foul mood that caused him to lash out at you and Hunnicutt. She didn't think she was good enough to please him."
"So, what happened?" B.J. asked. "When did he change his mind?"
"The night before the wedding." Hawkeye replied. "He had come to Crabapple Cove with the soul intent of breaking us up, but instead he realized how much Margaret and I were in love with each other. It turns out, that he was not really upset at me, but he was mad about what had happened between Donald and Margaret. He felt that if a high ranking army lieutenant could break his daughter's heart, then a lowly doctor with a spotted army record couldn't do any better. Once we got past that prejudice, we were fine and we've gotten along great ever since."
"Well, Hawkeye." Potter smiled proudly, "You've done very well for yourself." He looked around at all his old unit members. "You've all done well. Radar, you have a beautiful wife and two gorgeous daughters. Klinger, you and Soon-Lee seem very happy and you have a strapping young son. Charles, your wife is very nice, and your daughter is sweet. B.J., you and Peg seem very happy together. Your daughter and son are wonderful. Trapper, I'm very glad to have had the privilege of meeting you and your charming wife. You seem like a very nice couple. And Padre, I'm glad to see that you are still keeping well and happy. I've missed you all very much." He looked around the group again and commented. "I feel like a father when his children finally come home for a long awaited visit. I think this calls for a toast."
"What are you toasting?" A voice inquired from behind the group. The men turned and found an older looking gentleman coming towards them with little Beth Pierce in his arms.
"Grampy!" Rebecca exclaimed in delight, jumping off her father's lap and running towards her grandfather.
"Hi, Peanut." He greeted with a chuckle as she hugged him tightly around the waist.
"Come and sit with us, Grandpa." She invited with a big grin.
Daniel Pierce laughed as his oldest granddaughter grabbed his hand and led him towards the group. Hawkeye stood up and quickly pulled in another chair so that his father could join them. "Thanks son." The older man acknowledged, settling himself down with Beth on his knee. Rebecca scrambled back up onto her father's lap and smiled lovingly at both her father and her grandfather. The senior Pierce reached over and messed her blond curls affectionately. "You being good, Peanut?" Rebecca grinned at him and nodded. "That's my girl." He laughed.