Leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, green beer, and HM Murdock. Saint Pat's Day came with more than it's usual accompaniment of fanfare that year. There were the usual...parades, parties, decorations, HM dressed as a leprechaun.
Now there's something you don't see everyday. There I was weeding the small flower bed overlooking the beach. The very same I had watched HM and Templeton from on that first meeting. I was watching today too. BA and Templeton had come to take the girls down to the beach, while HM and Matthew had run off to wreak havoc elsewhere.
"Lemonade, Mrs. Eta?"
I turned to find John, who had declined the invitation to 'play' on the beach, holding out a glass of lemonade. Nodding I stripped off my gardening gloves and made haste of the offered drink. John eyed me with amusement as I set the empty glass down and wiped the sweat from my brow.
Seeing that I was finished with my weeding, he offered his hand to help me up and we collapsed in the lounge chairs nearby, overlooking the beach. From our vantage point we could see Templeton twirling Jenny in the air. They were only about 10 feet from the shore, but I could see the water reached up to Templeton's waist. I watched as he threw Jenny into the air again. If he dropped her then, I'm sure the water would have been over her head, but there was no need for me to worry. He caught my giggling granddaughter and spun her around before dunking them both under the water.
Hearing his laugh, I turned my gaze upon John. He was still very much a mystery to me. To the world he played at being the fearless leader, when needed he was a friend, and through it all I saw a father. It didn't take a trained eye to see how proud he was of his team. Even when he was upset with them you could tell how much he loved them. After all they were the sons he never had.
I'm sure, like all good sons, they never realized that this remarkable man would have nothing if not for them. It is always the casual observer rather than the involved that spot the subtle differences in relationships. They may not have ever noticed, but I did. It's the way he puts his arm around HM when he tells one of his stories, and when he teases Templeton about a woman only to 'grill' the poor girl when Templeton's not listening, or when I caught him calling Mrs. Baracus to secretly plan a birthday surprise for BA. After a fashion, I found that I quite enjoyed watching him play the father.
"Do I amuse you, Mrs. Eta?"
Realizing that I had been caught I replied honestly, "Yes."
With a shocked look he asked me for an explanation and with amusement I offered him one. "Oh, you try to be the calm, stern commanding officer and five minutes later you melt at the sight of the boys playing on the beach."
"No need to explain. It's what a father does."
It never occurred to me until that very moment that perhaps the boys weren't the only ones who never noticed. How could this man who prided himself on knowing his men better than they knew themselves, who had led them for over twenty years, and would have done that even if they hadn't been fugitives, never realize such a strong quality in himself?
"I guess you're right Mrs. Eta. I guess it is like fatherhood. I've felt that way often enough but I never realized that perhaps that's how they thought of me."
"You sound so sure."
"John, you know as well as I do that you're the only father these boys have ever known. They adore you."
I could see the blush rising on John's face, "I love them too."
He shifted his gaze back down to the beach. "Well BA, he's always been the big brother to Face and Murdock. He's the easiest to deal with...that sounds wrong. What I mean to say is that he doesn't need 'reassurance' as much as Murdock and Face. Those two! Well, you just have to keep an eye on them! The trouble they get into!"
"Like father, like son."
"Now, Mrs. Eta?! Are you saying I get into too much trouble?"
I could tell from his smile that he was jesting with me and of course I couldn't help but jest back, "Oh, I'd say just enough."
John let out a hearty laugh and then almost jumped ten feet when one of the troublemakers in question made a sudden appearance. After I had caught my breath I scolded him with a glance, "HM you could give an old woman a heart attack like that! Where on this earth did you get that ridiculous outfit! And what have you done to my grandson?!"
Matthew and HM had on matching outfits of green, from the shoes, which appeared to be spray painted, to the suspenders, to the green felt tophats. They even wore identical 'kiss me, I'm Irish' t-shirts.
HM let out a shocked gasp as he covered his mouth and replied in a thick brogue, "Why Mrs. Eta! Don't tell me you've never seen one of the wee men before?!"
I spared a glance at John, who shrugged non-commentally, and we both burst into laughter. Soon joined by our two leprechauns in training.
After a good laugh we decided to join the others down at the beach.