Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Teddy.

Growing up in middle class Massachusetts, The Kennedy's was as common a phrase as The Sox. My grandmother would often mention Jack n' Jackie, and my mother's bookshelf was filled with books about Camelot. Visions of a strong, white haired man named Teddy, smiling on a sailboat or speaking strongly at a podium were on the news, it seems almost every night. As a young child, I didn't understand who the the Kennedy's were, or what they did. I just assumed they were famous people who happened to live on the cape.

That would change the first time my mother told me about the day President Kennedy was assassinated. She described in detail exactly where she was, the devastated reactions of those around her, and the quiet stillness of my grandparents glued to the television when she got home. So many years later, you could see very clearly the impact that that day, that man, and that family had had on her life. This intrigued me.

In 1999 I was on vacation at Coast Guard Beach at the cape the morning after John Kennedy Jr.'s plane disappeared. As I played with cousins, the adult family and friends I was with spoke of John Jr. as if he were one of their own, their faces painted with worry. I couldn't believe that this had impacted them so much, how personally they were taking it.

As I advanced in school, I developed a fascination with media and politics, and the role history has had on both. It seemed only natural that with that, I also inherited my mother's interests in the Kennedy's. I read books and articles, and listened more and more closely to the stories told by my family, and the evening news.

I learned that Teddy was more than just a Senator. I learned that he was 'The Lion of The Senate" fighting for those who did not have a voice. I learned that despite much tragedy, scandal and hardship, he never faltered on his beliefs, and never gave up on the fight to bring them into fruition.

This spring, I had tickets to the Sox home opener at Fenway. A lifelong, die hard fan, I was elated to be there, and on the T I was gushing about how Beckett was going to annihilate Tampa Bay and get the revenge we so deserved...then I heard the man in front of me say that it had been confirmed that Ted Kennedy would throw the game's first pitch. I had heard rumblings of this the day before, but I didn't think that it was possible given his physical state. I knew right away that this was going to be a game I would never, ever forget.

Beer and hotdog in hand, we made it to our section (standing room) and got ready. A few minutes later after some pomp and circumstance, music began to fill The Fens, and from left field, he appeared. In a golf cart driven by Hall of Famer Jim Rice, Teddy circled the entire park waving to fans with a smile that could be seen all the way up to the bleachers. By then I was standing in the aisle, speechless. I looked around me-the entire stadium was on their feet. Some were crying, and most shared my awestruck expression.

This is when I fully understood Teddy, and the Kennedy legacy. It's something that I could have never learned from a book, an article in The Globe, or any news broadcast. As I stood in that aisle at Fenway, I was surrounded by 40,000 people who quietly in their minds, were saying goodbye to Teddy, and to The Kennedys.

Teddy is my generation's Kennedy. While I respect and admire the accomplishments of his family, I was here to experience his, and feel directly impacted by him. No matter what side of the aisle you stand on, Ted's enthusiasm and compassion were contagious, he motivated you to care, and in many cases, take action.

Thank you Teddy. Thank you for all that you have done for History, for the Nation, for Massachusetts, and for me.

"We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe
that all of us will live on in the future we make."
-Senator Ted Kennedy


Nancy said...

I've always felt the same way and I can remember my mother crying while watching television during the time JFK was shot.
I watched tv endlessly when John Jr.'s plane was missing and saved the People magazine remembering him.
They were and still are a family who serve their country tirelessly. The current generation is more in the background but many of them are still committed to public service and helping those in need.

meredithjustice said...

Very well written. Thanks for sharing the story from your perspective.