Ted Kennedy and My Grandmother Pearl

Thinking about Ted Kennedy again this morning after watching Obama’s eulogy.  Sorry, if this seems belated.  I don’t watch t.v., so missed what I’m guessing was wall-to-wall coverage.  (I wasn’t even online much this weekend, due to a stay in a house without internet access.)

But I’ve felt bad that my earlier post re Kennedy focused so much on my childhood feelings about his brothers’ deaths, and so little on Teddy himself.  (There was something awfully narcissistic about that—sorry!)   Seeing/ hearing Obama’s eulogy made me want to write more.

First, about Obama himself.  He really is such a graceful wonderful speaker.  I’m sure he has assistance writing speeches; yet, one also feels that most of the words are his own.  I, at least, am continually amazed by the breadth and maturity of his vision, by the genuine quality of his compassion, by the subtlety of his understanding, all of which he can actually express.  I don’t quite understand how we got lucky enough to have someone like him as President.  I pray everyday that he’ll be kept safe.

As for Teddy:  I was a child, at least on my mother’s side, of New Deal democrats.  FDR was spoken of in hushed tones.  Even the murmur of his initials seemed to express the phrase: “and there was a man.”

When JFK was inaugurated, my maternal grandmother, Pearl, (who, as a mother during the Depression, was probably the main FDR worshipper) was visiting us in Washington, D.C.  Although in her 70s, she got up very very early to shovel snow, determined that we’d get to the inauguration.  Later that morning, my metal chair at the Mall was frozen solid.  That’s all I really remember of the ceremony in fact; the icy silvery chair that my thick tights half-stuck to as I tried to scoot to some warmth.

Given all of that, I could not help but like Teddy’s politics.  (I really really loved my grandmother, see e.g. post re elegy.)  (This is, weirdly enough, partly why I named my dog after her, see e.g. post re Robert Pattinson and my dog, Pearl.)

But I also admired Teddy’s resilience, his plodding, legislative, energy.  As a parent, especially a more or less single parent, you really do learn that the devil is in the details.  There is much in the parenting life that is grand and exciting, public and acclaimed (let’s say, your child graduating from college), but very very much that is not grand, far less public, and not much acclaimed (let’s say, making the dentist appointments in the face of resistant schedules, re-reading the problematic English paper, sending the right shoe that got left at home, making sure that the health insurance coverage forms are properly filed. ) (As kids reach college age, this usually means filing all forms at least twice.)  You can’t help but feel that Teddy, as a dogged senator, did a lot of the day-to day shoe-sending, and virtually all of the filing of the health insurance forms.  (Okay, he had a great staff.  Still, he hired them.  And his was the voice on the phone.)

Of course, one admires his strength through all the tragedies life forced on him.  But you also have to admire his strength in the face of those he sort of courted.  Yes, again he had the help of his staff, and wealth, and alcohol, and finally, a really terrific wife.  But still, he kept on, genuinely trying to help people, to push policies that he thought would help.

My grandmother would have approved.

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