Why do I also remember aprons? My Aunt Margaret wore one, so did Aunt Kate. Why was Kate there? Didn't she have to work? Great Aunt Jo stood swaying under the arched entry to the living room. The black rotary dial phone in the hallway-silent.
I was supposed to be in school until 3:00, but Sister Reparata had dismissed us shortly before 2:00. I sat in front of the black and white television like I had not done before or since, innocently bored with the waiting, the interminable repetitive message: "The President has been shot."
My Grandpa hovered near his wife. He must have made the call to Margaret. The rest of the grandchildren must be at her house some blocks away.
This post is about perspective, about how we see things. Mine had been so intimate that day, even at six years old, caught between the T.V. in front of me and the event of my grandma's first massive stroke.
That was 53 years ago. Was it the first time I cared about the political climate? Could it be from the perspective of a six year old, that I could understand something beyond myself?
In the ensuing weeks I would be captivated by the images. Because the adults around me glued themselves to televisions when they weren't in a hospital waiting room. I had a quiet countenance and could watch with them.
Caroline Kennedy, my same age, lost her father the same day I lost the essence of my true mother, my grandma. Watching Caroline 's mother stand on alabaster steps with her young children, something seemed familiar about her face. Her downcast eyes reminded me of my mom's normal look. The set of Jackie's sad jaw like my mother's on any given day.
At six, I felt compelled to write to Caroline with support and the knowledge that she now would be like me-fatherless.
And, while circumstances are vastly different in today's political climate, we once again are in uncharted waters. While fear gripped us long ago, a different uncertainty consumes me now. One that also requires action, just like it did long ago when I watched a little girl on T.V. as her father's coffin paraded by.
Months later, while my grandma struggled with her new reality of paralysis on her right side, I received a card from the White House. A secretary thanked me in young Caroline's name for my kind words.
Today it feels as if words are all I have. I cannot hold them back, and yet I hope to always use them to practice compassion and empathy, like I did when I wrote to a little girl who had lost her father so long ago.
coming soon, observations on Topaz Mountain, a Japanese Internment Camp.