Note and Disclaimer: Everything in M*A*S*H is never ours. Enjoy part fourteen of "By the Graveside"!
That was always a part of him that kept life interesting, if not preventing him from going insane. Images of reality and fantasy were the best game he had to play. Even when he was in Korea, he pictured his wife and daughter with him, enjoying their idyll days together as a family. Although photos sent to him did not improve his situation, he also took them and inserted himself in each phase of their lives. Korea did not infringe upon that harmony.
That was what brought him here to this graveside, to a man he did not know personally and yet felt responsible for visiting. The dreamer always wished that he knew Henry Blake. When he arrived in Korea, he heard enough stories to make him wistful for a longer stay than he had. Sure, it would have kept him away from his wife and daughter, but it would have also introduced him to one of the best COs in Korea.
And Henry Blake was a fair man in the camp…and also of the bottle. Remnants of his life were everywhere in the camp. It wasn't those who knew him that told tales of good times and bad. There were the odd files the Army stores that the dreamer had to visit from time to time. Little reminders of his Earthly days stayed in their dusty corners, cleaned when the random memory merited some attention. There were tributes of every kind too, the ones that brought tears to every eye.
When the dreamer first arrived, he had been warned of many things by his bunkmate Hawkeye Pierce, including dysentery, rats, fleas, boredom, regulations and the OR. Hawkeye also used to talk of Henry Blake for hours, reminiscing upon days of poker games, all-night drinking sessions and even pranks upon unsuspecting personnel. He acted out these scenes with gusto, encouraging his new friend to join in. The dreamer hopped on these little facades, laughing as he pretended that he was part of it too. He was a piece of that pie, fitted in equally to a whole.
A whole part that is now vanished.
But it also brought tears running down his face. Like Henry Blake, the dreamer was a family man, with a wonderful wife and beautiful daughter at home in Mill Valley. While he did not divulge with typical nurse chasing as Henry did, he still lapsed twice and it hurt him. His wife did not know and did not need to. Seeing that betrayal and pain would have killed him and he couldn't tolerate it. It would have been worse if he had been killed in Korea.
In retrospective, the dreamer could not imagine how difficult it is for widows, especially the one who had to tend to this graveside. Oh, it was horrible to think that he might have taken the same spot. It wasn't too hard to plant himself in that imaginary plane, heading from Kimpo to Tokyo. He had been through that route before. His memory caught up with every detail, from the rolling seas beneath his feet to the cramped spaces filled with fearful and eager soldiers.
Oh, he had seen it already. Just after his residency and two months after his daughter was born, he had been on that flight to Korea. He felt akin to a sardine in a can, stuffed tightly between those poor souls going to the same war zone. He was scared that he'd never see his family again. However, there was no going back. Close to buying a home, joining a practice and raising a little girl meant nothing to the Army. Off he went, hopeful to finish this tenure off before his baby grew too old.
This time though, it was the opposite. It was now the feeling of going home. He recalled that moment so clearly. He was elated to be leaving Korea and rejoining a civilian life. Driving into Kimpo was one was the best days of his life, a motorcycle ride of bliss that led straight to a ticket out. It was the road growing closer to home…and one that could have concluded in disaster. The ground below was fine from above, yes, but the ocean below loomed larger. He had no way to swim away…
And that was what hit home for BJ Hunnicutt. He was the lucky one, the man who managed to get home in one piece. It was with a survivor's luck that his wife and daughter saw him daily. Many women and men did not have the same joy he held. They lost more than their lives the day their loved ones passed.
On the other side of the coin, there was Henry Blake. As a father and husband, he went on that ride unsuspecting. He climbed into his journey to death, feeling the same BJ had when he was discharged. There were thoughts of real food to eat, the joyful reunions of every kind and arms tangled into all those embraces. Henry had set his heart to a to-do list and impatiently awaited those moments.
And then, the former colonel's plane was suddenly shot down and he drowned.
BJ thought was that it easily could have been him too.
What a hell of a dream.