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Reflections September 2012

Agelessly Yours

Longevity Is Richer Than Royalty

By Karen White-Walker

If you think Sister Mary “Miserable” can barely contain her excitement over seeing the dashing young charismatic senator with the perpetual tan, sun-kissed hair and gleaming smile, you should see how we giddy, highly impressionable teenage girls are practically drooling all over our school uniforms.

If three's the charm then I'm one lucky lady, for you see, though I wasn't in their class, still aren't nor ever will be, I still “hobnobbed” with those Palm Beach and Boston “boys” — Jack, Bobby and Teddy. Oh, they didn't really know me, but all three gazed into my eyes. Well maybe not gazed, but they definitely noticed me.

Turn back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is running for the presidency and his Catholicism is his biggest obstacle. Misinformed voters have the cockamamie notion that if elected, the pope will be swimming across the big “pond” to rule America. Then-Senator Kennedy allays everybody's fears by insisting there will definitely be a separation of church and state, much to the chagrin of two-year- old, diaper-clad Rick Santorum.

I'm attending a Catholic high school in a town where Kennedy is speaking and to enhance a local newspaper picture, we students – and the nuns and priest who teach us to fear all Republicans -- are given front-row seats. If you think Sister Mary “Miserable” can barely contain her excitement over seeing the dashing young charismatic senator with the perpetual tan, sun-kissed hair and gleaming smile, you should see how we giddy, highly impressionable teenage girls are practically drooling all over our school uniforms. Hopefully John can't see our chunky “sister” shoes from the dais he's speaking from.

Tell you about his political agenda, you ask? You got to be kidding! I only remember violently jerking my bouncy blonde ponytail, a little teenage wave to catch his eye. He smiled directly at me but then he seemed to smile at everybody.

1965: Bobby comes to our town and stands on the very same spot that John did. I'm now attending a state university that embraces Catholics, Protestants, agnostics and atheists — no special seating for me this time. Bobby is physically just as appealing as his beloved brother, but with my brain finally “coming of age,” I listen more intently to his objectives for running for New York state senator, but unintentionally I disrupt his speech by repeatedly sneezing in the nippy air. He turns in my direction and looks, but doesn't say God bless you --- some “ordinary Joe” next to me does, but who do I think I am, royalty? Funny, but isn't that how America views the Kennedy clan?

Fast forward to a few years ago. Teddy isn't running for office, so I don't have the exact year. To me he isn't just a senator, he is the Senate — our most powerful and influential figure on the floor. My husband and I are vacationing in Hyannis and just as we're approaching the Kennedy Museum, my husband spots a TV camera.

"Must be someone pretty important here," he informs me and then playfully adds, "You didn't tell anybody you were here, did you?"

My heart flutters when he winks at me, but not like what happens next. I turn and from a nearby car out steps Teddy, portly, white-haired and truly wearing one of the kindest smiles I have ever encountered. Heavy and wearing many years, but I, too, am no longer that young girl that his two brothers once saw, the one with the bouncy blonde ponytail. Dear God, one jerk of my head now and Ted will think he's been whipped by steel-covered barbed wire!

The year is 2012 and they're all gone now. As my husband and I are cruising down toward 1095 North Ocean Blvd., once the “Winter White House,” I'm reminded of how, with the exception of Teddy, the gift of many years was denied the Kennedy brothers. I, also, was blessed with longevity, so that makes me richer than royalty; and if older folks are reading this, we're all now part of the privileged set.

 

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