(I know this is really late, but, in case you haven’t noticed, late is a running theme in this blog. And it doesn’t sound right, but I can’t seem to fix it.)
A few weeks ago, Ted Kennedy died. I know that most people from MA will remember him as their Senior Senator, a permanent fixture in the Senate for years. But I, a transplanted Rhode Islander, begrudgingly living over the border in Massachusetts, have a little different memory of Ted Kennedy.
From a young age, I learned to love the Kennedys. I have no idea why. I just started reading about them, and loved their history. I may have had a small crush on JFK as well. Maybe.
For whatever reason, I read whatever I could get my hands on. Books that lasted a thousand pages, detailing the family history. I can recite all nine Kennedy children’s names, along with most of their spouses and means of death. I may have had a small Kennedy shrine in my bedroom. Maybe.
Even though I live in MA, deep down at heart, I am a true Rhode Islander, in and out. Did I mention that everyone in RI knows each other? They do. My aunt and uncle lived in young Patrick Kennedy’s (son of Ted) district, my mom’s cousin was his treasurer at some point in his campaign. So, when I needed to do an interview for a seventh grade project, my subject was none other than Patches Kennedy himself.
I interviewed Patrick Kennedy in a classroom at Providence College, with a tape recorder in tow, and wearing the following, fantabulous outfit: Black Chicago Bulls hat, thick glasses, large buck teeth covered in braces, a black BUM equipment tee shirt under blue plaid Skidz short overalls (one strap down, gangsta style), a brown leather bomber jacket (map print on the inside, of course),white ankle socks and brown boat shoes with the laces not tied, but cirlicued. I was a fashionista at twelve, obviously.
And I was also a budding Barbara Walters. I asked fascinating questions, such as “How do you feel having your uncle as the President and never having really known him?” I should have won an Emmy.
Anyways. The obsession with the Kennedys slowly faded as I grew up, but I still carried a soft spot for the family as an adult. J texted me at 5 am while I was on vacation to tell me that Ted Kennedy had passed, and I was sad.
I know a lot of people have a lot of criticism of Ted, and the rest of the Kennedys. And I’m no longer a starstruck teenager, I know a lot of them messed up in a lot of different ways. But I still look at them as America’s Family. Every single Kennedy kid was born and raised to be great, and many of them succeeded. Their father (Joe, Sr) basically told them that they were privileged, and they had to do something with that. Isn’t that the kind of lesson you would want every kid born privileged to have?
Did you know that Ted Kennedy called every family from MA who lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks? And he continued to check in with them as time went on? Maybe there were other Senators that did that, I don’t know. I still think it was a classy thing to do.
There is one of the nine Kennedy children left. A lot of people are calling Ted’s passing the end of the Kennedy era of politics. I don’t buy that. I see a lot of “kids” waiting in the wings. I see a lot of them waiting to take over in their parents footsteps.
Will it happen? Who knows? All I do know is that Ted Kennedy was a good man, a man with faults like we all have, but a good man none-the-less. And he, along with his brothers and sisters, leave a legacy behind that we can only hope others will follow in. RIP Teddy.