Funerals, Grief, Politics


He glamoured me, a little girl quiet as she could be at the top of the stairs, waiting for the moment to creep down and peek around the corner to see him. Maybe he wasn't the best Kennedy, but he was the one at my house that night, the one we had left, come to ask my daddy to vote for him in the race to be Majority Whip in the U.S. Senate.

He couldn't have been larger in my imagination. I didn't know anything about him except that he was one of them, the uncle of the children on the Christmas card we got from Hickory Hill, the ones pictured hanging onto a funny car, the children whose daddy had been killed that summer. I watched the film clips of their family over and over again. My mother and daddy rode on the train the day of their daddy's funeral.

But in the moment of being glamoured, I did not think of all those children whose names I had memorized from the Christmas card. 

Some people just shine.

As a little Washingtonian girl, I could not help hearing about Chappaquiddick, and over the years I read the stories about his life, so unseemly. The world began to revel in dirty stories about the famous. The world changed, old ways blown apart.

Fifteen years after the Senator came to my house, he was still in the Senate, while my daddy had moved on to other things. I went to a job in the Senate Library, a little hole in the wall of the Capitol, just down the hall from Senator Kennedy's hideaway office. We knew when he had someone to lunch, and every now and then you might be in the hall when his door opened.

In a world where everyone owns every connection possible, I could not speak to him. The glamour overwhelmed me.

Of course it didn't protect him from suffering. He did things, not nice things, perhaps in an attempt to ease his pain. Who wouldn't have things to forget after so much loss and
trauma? How many people survive such things unmarked?

I don't know when I stopped thinking of the Senator as a tabloid headline and started regarding him as a leader who cared about people and did good things for them. Fifteen years ago? Ten? Glamour, a charm that is nearly magical, covers sins and mistakes, and
for Senator Kennedy, it surely did. Last year he loaned his glamour to another Senator, hopeful that the country could move into a new era.

He knew a person could.

13 thoughts on “Glamoured”

  1. So, yeah. Our idiot governor was on the radio today. And he said that before he married Maria Shriver and met her family, his life had been all about what he could do for himself. And that, essentially, Sargent Shriver said to him something like “that’s wonderful, Arnold; imagine how much you could do if you used that energy for others” and Arnold went on to talk about that being the ethos of the Kennedy family (none of this is an actual quote and I assure you that he did not say “ethos,” but it’s the gist anyway).
    I’ve never had a politician of any sort, famous or infamous, in my house. I’m sorry you didn’t introduce yourself and mention your father when you worked in the Senate Library.

  2. That’s lovely, Songbird & helps me understand a little more as well. Thank you

  3. A beautiful statement reminding us all that the famous, wealthy, powerful, etc. are human like all of us and are equally worthy of forgiveness and second chances. What a loss it would have been for the country if we had not forgiven Senator Kennedy. We ultimately all benefit from his energy and spirit which grew to contribute much to the world in its unique way.

  4. Cornelia, so well put! Are we ALL equally worthy of forgiveness and second chances? Songbird, you speak so eloquently for a lot of us. I’ve heard and read so many mean spirited and horrible comments about Senator Kennedy since his passing. But he was, after all, just a man, another of God’s children. And he did work so hard to help make right for what was so wrong for so many. I sit and wonder who is more worthy of God’s forgiveness…Senator Kennedy or those who sit in judgment of him, even after death.

  5. Thank you for offering us a chance to peek through that doorway with you, a chance to view the situation and the man with a different perception than that of the pop pundits. It’s so important to remember that our shimmering heroes–even our saints–are still blood-and-bone, mistake-prone, rough-edged human brothers and sisters, and that their greatness becomes more, not less, meaningful in the context of their full humanity.
    Thank you also for using one of those wonderful, wrongly-co-opted old words in your post title, and setting it before us with an older, richer meaning. I have little use for “glamour” as the glossy magazines use it, but I believe the word, in its original sense, is both useful and mystical.

  6. If his family had not been in a fishbowl, we would not have thought twice about their weaknesses in being human I am sure most of us would not want our “family mistakes” scrutinized for decades and decades. It never overshadowed the fact that he did strive to represent those who had little voice. What a lovely remembrance of him Songbird.

  7. This is just lovely. And of course we would certainly have heard the unsavory and nasty bits about JFK and RFK eventually, had they not been murdered.

  8. I remember hearing my father rant endlessly about the sins of the Kennedy’s. After all any good island Protestant knows a successful Catholic should be sinless if they want to be an elected official.
    Ted Kennedy’s death has given me pause to think about how strong and called that family was/is. For all they went through and continue to go through, each one took their call to public service and did the most they could do with it. Even when they fell and had to face violence and loss or their sins and humiliations in the public again and again, they got up and did what they felt called to do and did very well. Ted especially, had to live into the loss more than the rest. And he got up and did what he did best. He had respect from opponents and respect from friends. I am so grateful for people that give us their all in public office. Ted Kennedy lived into the call to public office.
    Thanks for giving us you personal insite. I never knew your Washington side. I would like to swap DC stories sometime….

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