Facebook: 11/19/13
Fifty years ago I lost my innocence when President Kennedy was killed. It was one of those moments in time that is forever burnt into your memory, and you remember the events that followed with the crystal clarity of something that happened a minute ago.
I was sitting in my 8th grade English class listening to Miss Gibbons drone on about one of the parts of speech. I wasn’t really listening, so I can’t tell you which one. Notes were being passed stealthily. Students were doodling. My thoughts were on the cute neighbor I had a crush on, and writing in a heart BM & AH.
The PA crackled. The principal called for our attention. Then he said the words that sent our world into free fall. “President Kennedy has been shot.” There was stunned silence as he went on to say there was no word yet about the president’s condition. I think he asked us to pray for our president, his family, and our nation. In the well ordered schools of 1963, Miss Gibbon resumed her lesson after that. No one listened, of course. But what else could she do? I’m sure she was as stunned as we were. But if she gave in to our questions, she would have had chaos on her hands. Therefore, class went on as usual.
You must understand what Kennedy meant to my generation. He was larger than life to us. Handsome, well educated, a man of the world. The boys wanted to be like him, and the girls wanted to be Jacqueline, married to him. They were the perfect couple. And Kennedy was our savior. He was all that stood between us and the enemies of the United States, the USSR and Fidel Castro of Cuba. We all knew that Russia wanted to destroy us. Their hatred and evil had been poured into us like our mother’s milk. We had seen how Russia and Cuba conspired to attack our country during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And President Kennedy had saved us from that with firmness and finesse. He was our beacon of safety in a scary world.
My thoughts were, Who is in charge now? Who will protect us? For surely our enemies would rise up in our time of weakness and attack us without a president in place. I had no understanding of the system in place to maintain the security and control of our government. I would learn about that later as commentators taught lessons on the Constitution and the way our forefathers had established a failsafe system for our country.
When I saw the picture of Lyndon Johnson being sworn in, with Mrs. Kennedy standing beside him in her bloodstained suit, I thought, Who is this man? I felt we were doomed. I was sure our country could not survive what had happened. That picture made it real that the golden age of Kennedy was over. Compare JFK, suave and perfect, to LBJ, bumbling and somewhat goofy looking.
I watched on TV, along with millions of others around the world, as the grief of our “royal” family unfolded. The coffin lying in state. Jackie in widow’s black, her loss as plain as a Mardi Gras mask on her beautiful face. The procession through the streets of Washington, D.C., with the black horse, the empty boots backward in the stirrups. The caisson with the flag draped coffin. John John saluting his father as his body was carried past.
And I cried with those millions, too. It seemed some part of my life had been killed as well. My generation had been promised a better world. We accepted the challenge to do our part to help that come to be. Whether through Civil Rights activities, or the Peace Corp, or Vista. We believed we could make a difference. With Kennedy’s death, we were shown that the serpent was still very much alive and poisonous in the Garden of Eden. I realized that life was not safe: it had never really been. The years that followed reinforced that knowledge for me. In the following five years, I faced a sexual assault; my junior high school best friend becoming pregnant, having to drop out of school, and becoming a single mother; Viet Nam exploding into a beast to which my male friends were sacrificed; Reverend Martin Luther King being assassinated; people taking to the streets in Washington, D.C. to riot, burn, and pillage in response to King’s death; Bobby Kennedy, who wanted to carry on his brother’s legacy, being assassinated; my best friend of our senior year, being told her fiancée had been blown up in Viet Nam, and was being brought back home in pieces.
On that day in November, I lost my innocence. I learned that life is unsure. You never know what waits for you in your next step. My sense of safety and security in the world was shattered. I still try to make a difference in the world, but I know there is no guarantee that I will.

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My Step-Brother

26 Nov 2013

My step-brother died last week. I didn’t know it until I saw his obituary in the newspaper. I never met him, so there would have been no other way for me to find out.
His father was gone, and his mother (my stepmother) died July a year ago. And my dad, his stepfather, died in January. So all his parents were gone before him. Although I never met him, never saw a picture of him, only knew his first name, I always thought of him as my step-brother. He’s the only sibling I ever had. And a shadowy, mysterious brother is better than none at all.
I was told he was developmentally delayed, born that way. I don’t know to what extent. My stepmother, in one of our rare conversations, told me he was riding his bicycle to work and had been hit by a car. That accident put him in a nursing home permanently. So I know he was cognizant enough to hold down some sort of job, but delayed enough that when the accident put him in a wheelchair he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go to work anymore. It must have been a chore to explain that to him!
He loved Christmas, and my stepmother and Dad celebrated it with him several times a year. It didn’t matter if it was July and hot as Hades, if there was tinsel and a wrapped present, it must be Christmas! What fun to celebrate Christmas all year long.
I wonder how confusing it was for him when his mother stopped visiting. How to explain to him that she was gone, passed away, dead? Did he have the concept of death? Or did he just feel neglected and deserted? My dad’s Alzheimer’s had long before that prevented him from visiting. No one to celebrate Christmas with him, even on Christmas. How did that register in his world?
And now he is gone. Joining his parents on the other side. I wish I had had the chance to meet him, to know him, to love him. I’d have been a good little sister. But going to his funeral today makes no sense because he is as much a stranger to me as any man I might pass on the street. Yet, I’m sad. Sorry for lost opportunity and sad for lost family. My step-brother died last week.

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First blog

24 Nov 2013

This is my first blog. I am nervous. Did I set it up correctly? Can I successfully connect it to my Facebook page? Will I have anything to say? Will what I say make a difference? Will anyone read it?

Only time will tell.




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