MASH Epilogues Vol. 6

(These are my final thoughts on where the MASH characters ended up after the war.)

MAJ. MARGARET HOULIHAN

What we know: Belonging to the army all her life, Margaret decided that after the war, she’d take a post at a military hospital in the States.

What I think: By the mid 1950s, Margaret had become a senior member of the surgical nursing staff at Walter Reed, in Washington DC. She also sometimes worked as an instructor of trauma nursing at Johns Hopkins. The army had been good to her; it was her family business and it showed her things that most women of her generation didn’t get to see. But she knew she would never go overseas again—just as she knew she would she never marry again. (That dream she had in Korea, of the bloody wedding—it still haunted her.) From a more practical standpoint, her first marriage wasn’t so great. And she realized she didn’t ever want to take care of a man—much less at the expense of her own career.

She grew to consider Erin Hunnicutt as a godchild of sorts. She considered Col. Potter as a father, of sorts. She considered BJ as the kind of man she would marry, if she had to. And she considered Hawkeye as someone she occasionally needed. She came to visit him for the first time in the States, when he’d come to Boston while Daniel was sick. She traveled up to Boston again, after Daniel died. (This all started after Hawkeye had already made contact with Charles, and at first, Hawkeye didn’t mention Margaret to Charles at all. In fact, after a while, these were some of the occasions when Charles became his most tactful.) Margaret and Hawkeye didn’t mean to start a love affair. It happened after a Chinese dinner while Daniel was sick, and they barely spoke a word the whole night. In fact, over all the following years, they never had an actual romance. It was more of an immediate intimacy—a resonance—a meeting of their most vulnerable parts. Their reunions never lasted for more than a long weekend, but they recurred as a kind of longing. It was an homage, or an understanding. It was something that neither of them fully had with anyone else.

They talked about it once:

Hawkeye said, “Do you think we’ll keep doing this when we’re old and gray?”

“Ha,” said Margaret. “Not if I keep using Clairol.”

“But I don’t get it.”

“Get what?”

“This! Us! I’m already old and gray. But you could have anyone you wanted.”

“Huh.”

“Why me? Why us? Why six days out of the year?”

“Maybe I’m busy the rest.”

“Don’t tell me the other 359 are with Frank.”

“Perish the thought.”

“So?”

“You’re actually serious? I can’t believe that Hawkeye Pierce wants pillow talk.”

“Just a little pillow. To cushion your clusters.”

“Well, I guess that’s it, isn’t it?”

“What’s it?”

“If you must know–“

“What?”

“What I mean is that when we were over there, and while all of you were watching Radar grow up and making sure that our patients got a chance to grow up, that maybe I was growing up too.”

“Well if that’s the case, than that’s the nicest thing that ever came from a war.”

“I’m not saying that war does good things. It does awful, destructive things. I’m just saying that with all of you, and the nurses, it was one of the first places that I ever felt I had much of a family.”

“So, what, this is some kind of gratitude?”

“No. I didn’t say that. But if war becomes your household, maybe you can’t ever really leave the yard.”

 

COL. POTTER’S MEMORIAL

In the 1980s, Margaret was the one who told the others of Colonel Potter’s passing. By then, Radar was in his early fifties. (If you want a laugh, consider that he was old enough to date Blanche Devereaux.) The rest of the group had reached their sixties, except for Sidney, who was in his seventies.

Everyone attended the service, except Frank (who couldn’t get away) and Trapper (who didn’t know Potter). At the memorial, all the MASHers sat together in a Methodist church. From Potter’s family, to patients, to other co-workers, the sanctuary was packed. Everyone, except Margaret, wore civilian clothes. Mulcahy gave the homily for the service. Radar eulogized Potter with his line about being a man and being a father. Hawkeye gave a small speech, where he said that Potter was the kind of soldier who served in wars because although he hated them, he loved those who fought them even more. After the funeral, in the Potters’ backyard, Charles revealed that he had procured a bottle of brandy from 1952. In honor of the colonel’s WWI tontine, the comrades toasted him with it. And Charles himself finished the toast with, goodbye, farewell, and amen.

Radar’s son, Henry, had known the Potters from their occasional visits. He attended the funeral with his infant—Eva—who was Radar’s first grandchild.

In the Potters’ yard, everybody held this grand baby, except Hawkeye. “We wanted to name her Sophie,” said Henry, “but then we heard about the horse.”

“Better than Babette,” said Charles, “or she’d been named for a Guinea pig.”

“Hawk?” Radar stood before him. “You can hold her, if you want.”

Margaret touched BJ’s arm. Hawkeye sat with his hands on his knees. “No. I’m sorry. I can’t.”

Later that night, they played poker and croquet. Mildred and Klinger shared one of the colonel’s old cigars. Margaret and BJ had gone out, leaving Hawkeye to play cribbage with Mulcahy. Now they returned—and behind them, fresh from the airport, came Trapper John. Hawkeye sat. Trapper hugged Radar’s son.

“Great to meet you,” said Henry, “but I think you thought I was Dad.”

Trapper was jolly and sheepish. He embraced the right O’Reilly. Mulcahy, shaking Trapper’s hand, led him to Hawkeye. Sidney gave a half smile. Trapper stood. Hawkeye had him sit. Trapper put his hand on Hawkeye’s arm, and Hawkeye put his head in his own hands.

Near the end of the night, the group looked over Potter’s paintings. Among his newer ones (and there were dozens), he had a portrait of Klinger, Soon Lee, and their son (from twenty years ago); he had a watercolor of a Korean man in old military dress, astride Potter’s old horse; and he had a sketch of BJ holding a child, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. The most recent paintings were some of the colonel’s very best—each of a horse, or studies of parts of a horse. Mildred said they depicted Sputnik, a neighbor’s Palomino down the road. Sidney said the brilliance wasn’t surprising, that studies in Alzheimer’s showed how a patient’s visual artistry became tremendously acute, as the patient began to paint things as if he were seeing them for the first time. One struck Charles especially, of the horse coming over a hill at morning.

After midnight, BJ, Margaret and Hawkeye took a taxi back to their hotel. They made arrangements to meet for breakfast. “And now,” said Hawkeye, “I have to tell you people what I learned tonight.”

“That Winchester bought that painting for $5000?” said BJ. “That’s what I learned tonight.”

“No—no. Better,” said Hawkeye. “Better. I learned that when it comes down to it, your best friends will help you keep all your other friends.”

Margaret said, “That’s because they love you.”

“Yeah.” He kissed her on the head. “Yeah, I think that’s why.”

MASH Epilogues Vol. 5

(These are my continuing thoughts of where the MASH characters ended up, after the war.)

MAJ. CHARLES EMERSON WINCHESTER III

What we know: After Korea, he became chief of thoracic surgery at Boston Mercy Hospital. The war, however, maimed music for him, as it always carried the reminder of the POW orchestra he directed before they were killed.

What I think: After the war, Charles enjoyed his Beacon Hill. Returning to status was its own homecoming—and he found, to his gratification, that being a veteran conferred an additional standing of its own. He had too much class, however, to trade on the latter. The war changed him—and he meant what he wrote to Margaret. In the late ‘50s, his sister, Honoria, introduced him to a friend who played low horn in the Boston Symphony. She laughed at the story of Charles’s military comrades flattening his French horn with a jeep. She reminded him that music could exist to express melancholy, and that this was a reason it should be treasured. Charles gave his love to it—and to her. They married two years later.

Charles’s wife—Marie—had a second cousin from Louisiana who served at the 4077th. He was the staff-sergeant, Rizzo. Charles did not find this a happy coincidence. As it happens, however, Rizzo had a nephew who attended medical school, and, in the 1980s, served for a year as a psychiatrist at Boston’s St. Eligius Hospital. Well into his retirement, Charles encountered this Dr. Beale at a symphony—and he found the resemblance to Rizzo far too unsettling.

Living in Boston, Charles was the closest MASHer to Hawkeye’s Crabapple Cove. In the mid 1950s, Hawkeye spent some time in Boston while his father (Daniel) was sick. Remembering Charles’s support during Daniel’s health crisis in Korea, Hawkeye met Charles a few times for dinner. Charles stayed grave and tactful.

A year later, after Daniel’s death, Hawkeye and Charles visited again. But without a crisis to discuss, the conversation strained. Hawkeye finally divulged that he was not practicing medicine. First it sounded as if Hawkeye had been too busy with his father’s care. Charles said that, whenever Hawkeye was ready, he could offer Hawkeye a job in Boston. But Hawkeye admitted that he couldn’t bring himself to practice surgery—that every operation brought him back to the war. Charles finally suggested that Hawkeye should write, that he could sit around in his purple bathrobe and rant for the good of all.

“I don’t know,” said Hawkeye. “I might be just too angry.”

“Pierce,” said Charles, “first drafts commonly bleed.”

 

CAPT. HAWKEYE PIERCE

What we know: Serving in Korea for longer than any physician at the 4077, Hawkeye could never escape the war. His sanity degraded as he refused to relinquish his humanity. He eventually spent time in a mental hospital after he inadvertently contributed to the death of a Korean baby. He was never the same afterwards. After the war, he returned to Crabapple Cove, to live near his father, Daniel.

What I think: The MASH books portray Hawkeye as practicing medicine in Maine, and eventually attracting his old Swamp-mates as partners. In the meantime, the books show how Hawkeye becomes more conservative as he ages. I don’t believe the television Hawkeye moved in either direction. After the war, he did return to Crabapple Cove. He slept. He drank. He took care of Daniel. He figured he would open a medical practice, but discovered he couldn’t. When he worked on children, he saw Korean villagers. When he worked on adults, he saw soldiers. He was unable to bring himself even to hold a baby.

He talked some to Sidney Freedman—not formally, and mostly at the urgings of BJ. Finally, Hawkeye told Sidney of Charles’s idea about writing.

“Well sure,” said Sidney. “Why not? You’ve got tons of great material.”

“Yeah,” said Hawkeye, “but I don’t know if I want to invite the whole world into Hawkeye’s Museum of Melancholy.”

“Well,” said Sidney, “so keep some back rooms for yourself. But, you know what my people say. Melancholy has a holy end.”

“They say that?”

“Or maybe I just say that. But they *could* say that.”

So Hawkeye wrote his memoirs. During the start of the Vietnam conflict, he also published anti-war letters in the Boston Globe. These attracted the attention of journalist, Aggie O’Shea. After she learned that Hawkeye has a manuscript, (and after she asked if BJ was still married) she put Hawkeye in touch with an editor friend at Random House. He published the book to some acclaim. Dick Cavett even hosted Hawkeye on his show. Hawkeye also embarked on a reading tour, visiting with the Potters in Hannibal, Margaret in DC, Charles in Boston, BJ in San Francisco, and Radar in Iowa City, (after Radar drove all the way from South Dakota).

“Radar!” he said. “You’ve got more money than Frank!”

“And I didn’t have to turn Republican neither.”

During all this publicity, Hawkeye remained charming, angry, and glib. Erin Hunnicutt adored him. But with the help of both BJ and Margaret, she saw Hawkeye as someone who gave enough of himself to his army tour that he never stopped fighting. “Not fighting Korea,” said BJ, “but War. And by that, I mean the horseman.”

Perhaps in ways at least equal to what she’d seen from her father and her male classmates, Erin fought for peace in the name of all potential Hawkeyes. In the meantime, Hawkeye intended to attack Frank “All Communism” Burns in the press. But when he discovered what Frank did for Erin, he relented, entirely.

MASH Epilogues Vol. 4

(These are my continuing thoughts of where the MASH characters ended up, after the war.)

CAPT. JOHN “TRAPPER” MCINTYRE

What we know: He settled in the Bay Area, and became the chief of surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. At some point before then, he divorced his wife. He became calmer and less womanizing in his maturity—although he never re-married. Eventually his son, JT, graduated medical school and joined his father’s hospital for his internship.

What I think: Trapper spent a lot of time drinking after he left Korea. The death of Henry Blake hit him especially hard. Trapper became an alcoholic who still functioned at work, but the disease (and his wartime affairs) cost him his marriage. He entered recovery in the 1970s. He never contacted Hawkeye—or really, anybody else from the 4077. During the remains of the war, this reticence stemmed from his remorse about getting away, while the rest of them stayed over there—or worse, died in a chopper crash. After the war, Trapper felt shame for not doing well, even though he’d been one of the first to leave. At the same time, he became aware that part of him didn’t escape the war at all—and that confronting someone like Hawkeye would summon too many ghosts.

A ghost found Trapper at a medical convention in 1961, when a Dr. Hunnicutt recognized Trapper’s name. As they talked, Trapper became enraged by Frank’s promotion; bemused by Margaret’s transformation; amazed at Klinger’s willingness to stay in Korea; and dismayed (and even guilty) about how Hawkeye’s final days in Korea found him in a mental hospital. BJ said that if anyone could ever understand Trapper for his reticence, Hawkeye’s own withdrawal would make him a perfect candidate. Trapper said that maybe he and Hawkeye were too much alike—drinkers, womanizers, ace rebel doctors who did their best work with people when those people were asleep. Trapper wondered if Hawkeye’s difficulties came in part because Trapper wouldn’t stay in touch. BJ shrugged and finished his drink. He said there was still time.

LT. COL. FRANK BURNS

What we know: After suffering a meltdown over Margaret marrying Donald, Frank received a transfer to a VA hospital in Indiana. This was so he could run the hospital. For all we know, the army never saw fit to treat him. They did, however, promote him to Lt. Colonel.

What I think: Upon his return, Louise stayed married to Frank just long enough to get the best alimony she could. Frank did little to contest the arrangements. He served as the head of the VA for five years. (He hired on his former secretary—and erstwhile lover—to serve as his administrative assistant.) He eventually married this secretary—because he needed somebody to take care of him, and because he needed a wife so he could look better as a senate candidate. In the early ‘60s, Frank won election as the arch-conservative Senator Frank (All Communism) Burns. He’d keep that post until his retirement in the mid 1980s.

Soon after his election, Frank prevailed upon Margaret to have a drink with him in DC. (It’s possible that he wanted to show her how he’d finally surpassed Lt. Col. Penobscott.) Margaret was cordial during the meeting, but she brooked no joking at any MASHers’ expense. She especially defended Potter and BJ as the finest soldier and civilian she’d ever met, respectively. She and Frank had little to say after that.

“Margaret,” said Frank, “flare your nostrils for me, just once for old times.”

“Senator,” said Margaret, “as a veteran, I have a hard time making faces at a man with no lips.”

Margaret did ask for Frank’s help when Erin Hunnicutt faced riot charges: “I know we’ve fallen out of touch, Senator, but from your time in Korea and the VA, you must understand how when war asks so much of our youth that they eventually must say no. War is so old, and we keep feeding them the young, until war either makes them old too, or uses them to bolster its own longevity by feasting on the banquet of their unspent youth.” Charles Winchester wrote Margaret that last line in a Christmas letter, and she used it with permission. Frank would later use it, without attribution, at a campaign rally in South Bend. He would, however, pull the strings for Erin Hunnicutt. Frank never divulged why he did such a thing. Maybe he liked the power of removing a stranger from her life’s trajectory. Maybe he enjoyed how BJ might now feel indebted to him. Perhaps he had indeed changed since his work in the VA. Or it’s possible that after all these years, he still couldn’t say no to (almost) any request from Margaret.

MASH Epilogues Vol. 3

(These are my continuing thoughts of where the MASH characters ended up, after the war.)

CAPT. BJ HUNNICUTT

What we know: BJ returned to Mill Valley, where he got to hear his daughter, Erin, call him Daddy for the first time. As a graduate of Stanford, an inventor of a proto-difibrulator, and a third-generation physician, BJ would likely have no trouble finding work.

What I suggest: He eventually became chief of trauma surgery at UCSF Medical Center. This also made him colleagues with Capt. John McIntyre, who (according to Trapper John MD) became the chief of surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. In the years after the war, two of them met for drinks sometimes. They reminisced about Hawkeye, Margaret, and Frank, and they talked shop. They recognized each other’s prowess, compassion, and wisdom to bend the rules. But BJ was more of a family man, and Trapper was married to his work. That, and BJ was aware that Trapper never tried to contact Hawkeye after Trapper left Korea.

Despite his original prediction that they’d never seen each other again, BJ worked to keep touch with Hawkeye. A few months after Hawkeye’s father died in 1958, BJ had Hawkeye out to meet the family. But Hawkeye’s anger and propensity for rants made Peg uncomfortable about keeping Hawkeye around Erin. Hawkeye sensed the unease—and even agreed with it. When he left, he invited BJ to visit Crabapple Cove, but BJ never made the trip. They did talk on the phone every Christmas. Here’s a conversation from the mid 1970s, where BJ tells Hawkeye that Hawkeye buried part of himself with each of those patients who didn’t make it.

“And what I think,” says BJ, “is that sometimes you stay this angry as a way of keeping them alive.”

“Well maybe that’s because they should be alive.”

“But most of the generals who killed them are already dead.”

“And you know what? I really don’t care. They don’t get off that easy.”

“And I guess that by your thinking, neither do you.”

BJ’s daughter, Erin, developed a special kinship with Margaret. As a young woman, Erin decided to become a theoretical physicist, and she saw Margaret as a guide in how to reach success in the man’s world of science. The only differences were that Erin wanted to marry (successfully) and she refused to join the military. Margaret, through her letters to the Hunnicutts, expressed her understanding about all of this.

Having grown up in the Bay area, Erin came of age during the anti-war movement. While studying at UCLA, and while receiving encouragement from her housemates, she attended the protests at the Democratic National Convention, in Chicago of 1968. Police arrested her for the federal crime of inciting a riot during the skirmishes in Lincoln Park. (Whether she did that is something she denied—although to Peg’s horror, she did receive various contusions from police.) A federal riot arrest threatened up to five years’ prison time. So BJ contacted Margaret—and in their desperation, they reached out to Senator Frank Burns. Without saying a word to either of them, Frank convinced the feds to drop the charges. BJ and Margaret thanked him, but he did not respond.

Erin went on to graduate school at the University of Washington. BJ became one of the first surgeons on the west coast to work with AIDS patients.

MASH Epilogues Vol. 2

Here are my two write-ups for today. (I wrote about Potter and Radar yesterday.) Klinger and Mulcahy are the last characters influenced by AfterMASH—so the remaining five epilogues will have a little more creativity.

SGT. MAX KLINGER

What we know: At the end the war, Klinger fell in love with a Korean named Soon Lee, who was trying to find her family. Klinger stayed after the war to help Soon Lee continue the search. They found her missing relatives, and then departed for Toledo. Klinger’s family was aghast that he brought home a Korean bride. Toledo itself was no more accommodating. So, in his depression, Klinger fell into some petty larceny, and got caught. Col. Potter bailed him out of trouble by landing him a job as an administrative assistant at the Hannibal VA. Two years later, Klinger and Soon Lee had a child.

What I suggest: Klinger learned more about medicine as he served at the VA. After his child entered grade school, he decided to attend nursing school. (“What? I already know I look good in the uniform.”) His shady past caused some initial difficulties with admission, but recommendations from Col. Potter, Maj. Houlihan, and Capt. Hunnicutt smoothed the way. He eventually spent years working as a nurse at the VA, while also keeping an eye on Col. Potter as Potter started to decline. Klinger was one of the first to recognize that his boss suffered dementia, and he tried to keep it secret as long as possible. To help manage, he even cut back on his nursing duties and earned a BS in hospital administration, at night school. Klinger eventually handled so much of Potter’s work that once Potter stepped down, Klinger was a natural candidate as the next administrator.

In the mid 1980s, Klinger and Soon Lee made their retirement in Miami. Ever the tradesman, Klinger set up a hobby import/export shop close to the beach. (“WallRUG,” he told Radar he’ll call it.) Mostly, he just enjoyed meeting his customers. These included a little, old Italian lady from Brooklyn who called her daughter Pussycat and told him stories about Sicily. Apparently, when she and Klinger haggled, it was a sight to behold.

CAPT. FRANCIS MULCAHY

What we know: In Korea, while trying to free a pen of POWs, Fr. Mulcahy sustained an ear injury from exploding mortar. He finished his tour all but completely deaf. He decided to hide his injury, so he could stay in Korea and help the orphans. His deafness, however, was found out. The Church shipped him back to the states, where he became so depressed that he edged toward alcoholism. He made his way to Hannibal, MO, where the VA surgeons fixed his hearing, and he later gave up drinking. He stayed on to serve as the hospital’s Catholic chaplain.

What I suggest: For the rest of his life, Mulcahy stayed in Hannibal, where he started a youth boxing club and generally worked to keep Klinger in line. (Eventually—and confidentially—he also advised Klinger on how to help Potter in his decline.) Mulcahy came from a difficult family, so even before the war, he’d severed most ties with his home in Philadelphia. He did, however, remain close with his sibling, Sister Mary Angela. In the 1960s, she transferred to a convent near Loyola of Chicago. She was always an avid basketball player, and while so close to Loyola, she got one of her younger colleagues, Sister Jean, to like the game too.

Loyola was also close to where (per AfterMASH) Maj. Sidney Freedman had taken a position on the faculty at the University of Chicago. Sidney was one of the doctors, in fact, who helped Mulcahy with his post-war depression. From there, the two began to share a sort of professional brotherhood. They visited each other whenever Mulcahy came to see his sister, and Sidney found Mary Angela’s saxophone playing delightful. Mulcahy always wanted to ask Sidney if he’d heard from Hawkeye, who had mostly withdrawn, but he knew that Sidney would never say.

MASH Epilogues: Vol. 1

While I dine at my TV tray in my little house at my writing retreat, I flip the TV channels between the nightly news and MASH. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot more of MASH. If you’re like me, you’ve seen every episode about as many times as you’ve watched Star Wars. So when I lie awake at night, hashing and rehashing what I’ve picked up in the news, I lull myself to sleep by thinking about what might have happened to the MASHers after the series sent them back to the States. I started writing down these epilogues. And because this is the internet, I’ve decided to put them here. In other words, I’ve stooped to fan fiction. I’m so sorry. I know. But if you’re at all interested in Meggie’s sketches of MASHer fates, I’ll post a few at a time.

(The first four of these are the most vanilla. Spin-off content constricted me some.)

COL. SHERMAN POTTER

What we know: The war’s end sent him home to Mildred in Hannibal, MO. He’d originally planned to work as a country doc after Korea, but he later decided to become the administrator of the local VA hospital. In AfterMASH he recruited Max Klinger as his administrative assistant and Father Mulcahy as the hospital’s Catholic chaplain. He helped Radar decide to marry his first wife, Sandy.

What I suggest: Potter served at the VA until deep into his seventies. He painted and he gardened. He taught his grandson, Corey, how to ride a horse. He stayed close with Max and Mulcahy. He and Mildred spent a few Thanksgivings with Radar and his family. (During the first one, he presented Radar with a family-heirloom carving knife). He also corresponded with Margaret, as he advised her on how to manage an army medical career (and its subsequent loneliness).

While he was in his eighties, Col. Potter developed dementia. Margaret helped Mildred prepare for what to expect. Margaret visited the Potters a few times while the colonel entered his dotage. Toward the end, she found the colonel still painting in his study, where, among other pictures, the portraits from Korea hung on his wall. Col. Potter died in his nineties—our 1980s—surrounded by friends.

CPL. WALTER RADAR O’REILLY

What we know: In his wallet, he kept a picture of himself with Hawkeye, Henry, and Margaret. He also reached out to Col. Potter, who helped him to get over his cold feet and marry his fiancee, Sandy. Almost immediately after the wedding, Radar found Sandy in the arms of another man. She and Radar divorced, he sold his family farm, and he moved to St. Louis to become a police officer. (CBS aired a single episode of W*A*L*T*E*R, which launched, and crashed, on this premise.) During that episode, Radar befriended, Victoria, who clerked at the local drugstore.

What I suggest: After a year on the job, Radar learned that a police career was not for him. He liked to work with people for longer than policing generally allows. He also hated the city. But his friendship with Victoria went very deep, and they eventually fell in love. Victoria’s father ran a pharmacy in South Dakota, and he’d been looking to expand. Radar decided he was pretty good at moving merchandise both in Korea and when he was trying to make ends meet on the farm. He married Victoria. They moved up to the family store, and Radar developed this great idea about serving free ice water to any customer who came in.

At Radar’s first wedding, Col. Potter said that in Korea, while Radar was learning how to become a man, Radar reminded Potter how to be one. At Col. Potter’s funeral, Radar said that Potter modeled not only how to become a man but also how to be a father. While they ran Wall Drug, Radar and Victoria raised a daughter (Rebekah) and a son (Henry).