Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grandpa Cake

Part of my upbringing included a certain eschewing (Don't you love that word? It sounds like I might want to go "eschew" on a brownie...) of Liberalism and for all that it stands. For example, certain subjects in the liberal arts were not considered worthy of one's attention (especially if they were courses taken at a "liberal" northeastern college), there was an unspoken equation of freethinking with a complete deconstruction of society (and complete Godlessness), that being even vaguely "arty" was a bad thing, and that the Grand Pooh-bah of Liberals was Ted Kennedy (OK, well, perhaps that is the only real truism here).

However, despite my love for these family members of mine and even some friends who chose to be so close-minded, I was able to mature into my own person and draw my own conclusions about people and politics (while majoring in Art History and English with a master's in historic preservation studies, at two esteemed Massachusetts institutions–how "Liberal Arts" can you get?). In my older years, as with everything else, I'm proud that I've mellowed into having the ability to see people, viewpoints and circumstances–even from politicians–for their humanity, despite the fallible natures that we all share. [This skill is especially useful now that I live in the Bible Belt as here, in many ways, I am experiencing an acute inversion of most everything I've taken for granted in New England over the past thirty-five years. This is both enlightening and infuriating, depending on the day that you ask me.]

Without making this political or too personal, I just want to say that of all the moments in the past few days of the Ted Kennedy memorial, funeral and burial, the most touching were not from statesmen but from his children and grandchildren, those who had the personal fortune to spend time in those quieter hours with their very public politician father and grandfather. Kiley Kennedy, Ted Jr's teenage daughter, said this at her grandfather's burial and it was both descriptive and poignant:
When most people think of Ted Kennedy, they think about the man who changed the lives of millions of people by fighting for better health care. When I think about him, vibrant memories of sailing, laughing, Thanksgiving dinner, talking on the front porch and playing with Splash, come to mind.

To me, all the things he has done to change the world are just icing on my Grandpa cake of a truly miraculous person. You see, my Grandpa was really a kid. If you ever saw him conducting the Boston Pops, that's what he was like all the time with me. He knew how to joke, laugh and have fun like the time we played games with all the cousins at my 14th birthday party. I remember him smiling, playing and dancing that day. And I'll never forget everyone's smile that he had made.

I will always remember the times we spent sailing on Maya when I could tell that he was the happiest in the world, even when he was yelling, "Get that fisherman up!" But what I will miss the most are the times I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and would go to the front porch, where my Grandpa would be sitting with Splash and gazing out to sea. It would be just us on the porch for a while, and we talked and talked. And I would get a feeling that the world was just right. It was me and him sitting on his porch watching a new day unfold as we stared into the sea of freedom and possibilities. I love you so much, Grandpa, and I always will.
I hope every one of us is, or has been, so lucky as to have a "Grandpa cake" of their very own, a person that has made you feel "that the world was just right." I know I have been.


Erica said...

Thank you for this post! It really made me realize that no matter who...politicians, celebs, etc., people are .....they are still only human. They are people too, they have familys, friends...just like us....people who love them and care for them despite what they have done , good or bad. This post brought tears to my eyes because I have had and still have Grandpa Cakes.

Catherine said...

Thank you, too, Erica.


Nan said...

I loved this too, and was crying as she spoke. I cried for hours off and on the whole day. It is always kids and dogs that touch my heart.

Erica said...

Hi Catherine,
Thank you for the book!!!

Catherine said...

Erica, I'm glad it arrived safe and sound.

Nan, there is something cathartic about a national grieving. I was more moved than I expected to be in watching the services. My mother called in the midst and I need to call her back because she probably thinks I'm a basket case. She reminded me that I took my first steps while she was watching JFK's funeral...and I had been born the same year Ted was elected to the senate. So a full circle arc kind of moment.

What really got me, in addition to the granddaughter's "Grandpa Cake" remark was Ted Jr's moving recollection of getting back up that hill and his father's encouraging him on.

We are all such a bundle of private moments and public interactions and with someone bigger than life, and controversial, it is good to know that we're really all just human.



The Library Lady said...

I just found your blog through Cherry Hill Cottage Blog and I just love it. I've added you to my favorites to check each day. I'm inspired and entertained. I am the Assistant Director at the Emily Taber Public Library in Macclenny, Florida (a rural town about 30 miles west of Jacksonville on I-10) and we have your book in our collection. It is highly circulated and I especially love it. About 2 years ago we had a group come to our library to "look it over" to see if we would be a good visual fit for the making of a movie/documentary/something or other about the monkey trial. Our building was built in 1908 as the Baker County Court House. We never heard back from the production company ~ anyway, just thought I'd share that.

Anyway, I'm glad I found you. Thanks for sharing.

The Library Lady
"Take surprise and delight in the little things"

Catherine said...

Hi Diane,

Thanks for your nice comment and welcome! Interesting about that film company, especially when the original courthouse where the "monkey trial" took place in Tennessee is so well-preserved and would be a perfect fit (but maybe they don't allow this kind of thing?).

I appreciate your words about my book, and blog, and am glad that people are enjoying it at your library.

Best wishes,