The Second Decade

December 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

We are beginning the second decade of the 21st century. Those that want to, may argue with me, but we’ve had 10 years that started with 20 and 2010 is the 11th.

I was running through an issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks ago with short, beautiful written obits about the well-known people we lost during 2009. One of them was Ted Kennedy.

Probably, because of my age, I have been fascinated by the Kennedy family for most of my life, as have many others. When Ted’s memoir was published in 2009, I was quick to buy and read it.

This isn’t a book review and it isn’t a rehash of the tabloid stories that punctuated too much of his life. And, although the primary cause of his legislative life, to secure adequate health care to all Americans, seems to have enough traction to become a reality, this isn’t about his extraordinary effectiveness as a legislator.

What this is about, is the content of the memoir that was devoted to his relationship with his family. I believe that even were he to have been completely revealing about every facet of his personal life, he could not have informed me more about the truth of his life and the lessons it teaches, than the information about his relationship with his family.

Ted had eight siblings and as is well-known, a bushel of nieces, nephews, and children. He also had a father who lived into his 90’s and a mother who lived past 100.

The family base in Hyannis port, Mass was the location of most of the personal family film the public is familiar with. It was there that the family gathered and in time of disaster, as well as joy. For decades, the family came home to Joe and Rose, Ted’s mother and father, whenever there was something to share. It was there they learned to lean upon each other and to share and enjoy each others successes as well as to mourn their common or individual losses.

Ted’s memoirs bring us back time and time again to the family gatherings where decisions were made, where character and morals and ethics were shaped, where no one was ever alone.

I don’t have eight siblings or parents that lived to triple figures. Most of us don’t. Some of us aren’t even lucky enough to have families that share our life histories. But all of us could very well have a chance to spend some time building relationships with people we can rely on for support, if we are willing to reply in kind. Families come in all sizes and shapes and don’t have to be connected by blood.

I’m going to spend the second decade of this century, if I am lucky enough to survive it, building up this extended family. I’m going to make myself open to people I admire and let them know I am here to serve if they need me. I am going to learn to trust some friends so I can unburden myself of some of the things I have kept locked up inside my head and my heart.

I think I’m going to start by making some phone calls.

I just had a mental picture of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “Some Enchanted Evening” from their wonderful show South Pacific, now enjoying a very successful revival in New York. There is the phrase in the song which goes “you will see a stranger, across a crowded room.” How often, in the past few years I have seen an old friend across a crowded room and have waved. I think of how often one of us has stuck a pinkie near the mouth and the thumb near the ear in the now familiar “call me” sign, and how many times one of us has nodded yes and never called.

It’s in this spirit that I wish you all a Happy New Year, by letting you know that if the phone rings, it might just be me.

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Uncle Teddy

August 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

As the world reflects on the remarkable life of the unflappable public official for the people, Senator Edward Kennedy makes his way to his final resting place in Arlington, Va.  There, after much pomp, ceremony and well-deserved offerings of respect and appreciation, he will join his older brothers John and Robert. 

You will recall that it was Ted who, by chance and choice, became the patriarch apparent to the siblings of his two siblings.

It’s no secret that the country’s third longest tenured Senator had a very dubious initiation into the worlds of politics and socializing.  His drinking and fondness for the ladies often made headlines when he and his family would have preferred that they be obscured on a page as far from the cover as possible.  When I think of the Senator, I am often reminded of Friedrich Nitcheze quip, “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”.   The younger Kennedy brother was the ultimate personification of that statement.

Having eulogized two of his three fallen brothers and a nephew, continued his courageous battle with cancer, divorced from the mother of his children …  he still managed to genuinely care for the less fortunate.  Whether it was about a universal health care plan which he called the cause of his life, a fair immigration bill, an increased minimum wage, the civil rights of American citizens, regardless of their age, sex, ethnicity or religion and active support for the riddance of the HIV AIDS disease, this man stayed on a course bound for justice for all.

From Chappaquiddick to the Congress … Ted Kennedy was a true millennium renaissance man.   His problems were approached more like challenges; his defeats were over shadowed by his victories.   Over the years, I watched Senator Kennedy grow in ways seemingly impossible two decades ago.  Born into a family of wealth and prestige, he embraced the causes and demonstrably helped those less fortunate; with the best education available, he sought ways to teach those who understood less than he did; to those who disagreed with him, he made them feel comfortable in doing so. 

“Uncle Teddy” loved life and the people that comprised it.  He fought hard for more to be able to enjoy theirs.  Although this lion won’t be roaring in the Senate chambers any longer, the aftermath of his forty-seven years there will resound as a symphony of respect and fairness for all the days of our lives … and our children’s and theirs.  Edward Moore Kennedy, the guy that the people should feel comfortable calling “Uncle”… may he rest in peace.

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