"Bet you wish you dodged the draft, Dad! I'm off to school soon so the army can't get me!" A smiling Ben Hunnicutt asked as he handed over the bucket of soapy water. Today was a perfect end of summer evening- neither too cool nor too warm. In anticipation of Peg and BJ's second, and youngest child's impending departure for college, BJ had surprised his son with the gift of a new car.
BJ, wincing as the glare of the sun hit his eyes, had to ask Ben to repeat the question. The draft was a subject BJ himself had extremely passionate ideas about, all negative. In fact, the only times both Ben and his sister Erin has ever heard their dad swear was when he was reading the newspaper and came across an article about the draft . Suffice to say, BJ not only despised the idea of a draft, but greatly feared the idea of either of his children stepping foot anywhere near a war zone.
"So, em, Ben, what clubs do you think you'll be joining at school? I wouldn't be surprised if you took the world of chess by storm. I mean, you did learn from the best." BJ forced a smile and then reached for a sponge.
"What happened there, Dad?" Ben stopped and made eye contact with his father. As a kid, he'd quickly learned not to ask his parents about Korea. He'd seen how tense his dad would become, and Ben couldn't recall even once overhearing his dad talking to his mom about it.
" Son, if you don't mind, I'd rather not discuss this, okay? There are a million more interesting topics in the world. Not the least of which- I've been thinking about growing a mustache. . Your mom threatens to divorce me every time I bring it up," BJ chuckled.
" She doesn't know what she's missing," Ben teased, throwing a towel at his dad.
" Hey, I happen to know I look extremely distinguished with one. If there were a prize for most attractive upper lip warmers, I'd have won it a long time ag..." and then he stopped. Why he'd even brought up the subject, BJ didn't know. His kids had never seen him sport one. The only time in his life that he had spotted a 'stache' was back in Korea. But like everything else from that time period, BJ had left that long behind.
Those days he'd put behind him also included his son's namesake, one Doctor Benjamin Franklin Pierce- AKA ' Hawkeye.
By now, BJ had stopped washing the car. He felt such terrible guilt on the few occasions that Hawkeye had crossed his mind. It was unfathomable that someone whom had meant as much as his family did to BJ was now little more than an afterthought.
Hawkeye has been so much more than an old memory. He'd heard all about BJ's love of his family, his deepest fears, including the fear of never getting to see his family again. In fact, given that Ben obviously hadn't been conceived, Hawkeye had even heard about BJ's fears that he wouldn't know Erin, not father any siblings for her.
It was Hawkeye who had calmed him down from every mental ledge BJ had ventured into, who'd been the voice of reason - when he wasn't busy being the voice of humor that was so, so desperately needed around the 4077.
Hawkeye has frankly( not Frank Burns!) kept BJ going when he'd lost all found himself grinning, recalling full well how Hawkeye had given him such a hard time about his own many puns he'd used as a coping mechanism. If anyone could appreciate, or at least tolerate, BJ's sense of humor, it had been Hawkeye.
Suddenly a strange and wonderful idea popped into his mind.
Peg was off helping Erin get settled in her own school dormitory. Ben had 2 weeks before the start of his own college.
" Son, how would you like to go on a road trip? Spend some time with your old man before you leave home for the last time."
" Now?" Ben smiles. " I'd like that, Dad. Where did you have in mind?"
BJ didn't even hesitate. " Maine. I know of a nice little place- called Crabapple Cove."
And father and son were off in no time, on a trip that would lead to bonding, the passing on of wisdom, jokes, a few cold drinks- and to a place BJ had never known but had deeply, deeply missed.
It wasn't until the next day, when Hawkeye himself had answered the door in shock of the sight of his long lost best friend, that both BJ and Ben realized there was a whole part of BJ's life that had been greatly in need of visiting.
BJ would always indeed despise the draft, wars, the ideas of young men and women losing their lives for arbitrary political agendas.
But the minute BJ felt the familiar brotherly embrace of his comrad in arms, and while BJ couldn't say he was thankful he'd been drafted, he knew that there was something nothing short of miraculous that had come out of it.
"I'd like you to meet my son, Benjamin Hunnicutt. Ben, I want you to meet your namesake, Doctor Benjamin Pierce. Hawkeye, are you a sight for sore eyes."
And the love, the laughter, the compassion that shone thru their every exchanged not only brought healing to the elders, but gave Ben a chance to see his father in a whole new life.
And that's when the rite of passage occurred and Ben realized he was lucky to have been given both a father and a friend.