Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Kennedy Obsession

The Engineer and I were literally in Hyannis Port when the death of Teddy Kennedy was announced.  In fact, we passed the Kennedy Compound on the ferry to Nantucket.  

This is the closest we have ever been to something historical, as it was happening.  The other day, the LAST sunny day we had on the Cape, the Engineer and I were driving home from the Sandwich Glass Museum (yes, that's right.  We wasted the last heat and sun of summer at a museum. Damn you Frommer's) and passed a pile of people stopped on the overpass looking at the highway. 

First thought?  Someone jumped.

On the highway, we saw hundreds of people lining the streets.  Still didn't clue in.  Were the Obama's on the Cape?  Oh wait, it finally dawned on me (before the Engineer!  HA!  That almost never happens), the Kennedy's must be on their way to Boston.  

Sure enough, we pulled over to a gas station, and I asked a sheriff what was going on.  Grrr, I would have looked less like an idiot if I had said 'are the Kennedy's coming?' rather than 'what's going on' because he treated me like a slow-minded sloth.  Whatever, I pulled the Canadian card.

The Engineer and I waited for five minutes (ha!  other people waited hours!  Totally pays to be ignorant) and the motorcade did indeed go right by us out of Hyannis on it's way to Boston.  It was sort of cool.  There were about four limos, the hearse, three Escalades, and a Peter Pan bus with all the Kennedy kids.  The Kennedy's waved at us as the Cape Codders (ummm?) thanked them and waved their flags.

So the obsession began.  I have always been sort of fascinated with the Kennedy clan.  Who isn't?  An massively powerful, political and rich family that is so big it fits into four Peter Pan buses?  Thanks to Wikipedia, the Engineer and I have learned everything there is to know about this family.  Even if you hate the Kennedy's, you can't help but feel some sort of compassion for the amount of tragedy that has hit this family.  Besides the two assassinations, did you know that the oldest son was killed in World War II at the age of 28?  Or the oldest daughter died in a plane crash?  The second oldest daughter had a frontal lobotomy that went wrong (did they ever go right) that left her a vegetable in a Wisconsin institution?  That Teddy Kennedy's oldest son had cancer at 12 and lost a leg?  Or that Jackie Kennedy had a stillborn AND her fourth baby died three days after his birth?  

Weird right?

I am the most unpolitical person I know.  But in this last week, I have learned more about what the Kennedy's have done for the Democrats and the US than I probably care to know.  I even cried during Patrick and Obama's speech.  I think it's quite lovely that despite what Teddy Kennedy did in his private life (and wow, was that something) that he personally spoke to all 177 Massachusetts families that lost someone in the attacks of 9/11, that he wrote to a widow about how one continues on after such tragedy.  

Watching the funeral where the world's most influential people sat, I felt very very small.  One of the most interesting figures of the Kennedy family, I think, is Eunice (mother to Maria Shriver).  She passed away only two weeks before her brother and I think she could have been the first woman president if she had run for office, in another time of course.  Joe Kennedy (the dad) was so ambitious that he wanted all four of his sons to be president.  He overlooked this amazing woman because it was the sixties.  She would have rocked.  

Eunice is the driving force behind the Special Olympics.  I first learned about her on Oprah (no comments) where Oprah told a cute story: 
In 2004, I was vacationing in the Caribbean when the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami hit. I was standing at the edge of a pier overlooking the water when suddenly I heard a strange commotion. Coming toward me was a woman wearing a swimsuit, a bathrobe, and a pink bathing cap flipped up around her ears; arms waving in the air, she was calling my name loudly. It was Eunice. 

She wasted barely a moment on the niceties of Long time, no see, How are you, blah, blah. Instead, she dove right in: "I know you're on vacation, but what are you planning to do about the tsunami?"

"I…I…I don't have a plan right now," I stuttered. "I feel terrible, though. It's just awful what happened."

"Everybody feels terrible," she said. "But you can do something. Call Maria. Set up a meeting. Make a plan. Meet with Teddy. Do something."

This has me thinking.  About that small feeling I got watching the funeral.  How can I make a difference? I am not Oprah or the Kennedy's. I don't have buckets of money.  I feel strongly that people who do have buckets of money should contribute to the world using their power, influence and chequebook. But how can I make sure that at my funeral, people will stand up and talk about all the contributions I made to our world?

Is it through volunteer work?  Or writing letters to the government?  Comments are welcome here.  I know it's time to get off my butt and volunteer for a cause I feel strongly about.  But is that enough?  How can people truly, really make a difference?

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