Ever since Senator Edward Kennedy died on Tuesday, there’s been a movie playing over and over in my head.
I come from the Sixties. I believe that the day John Kennedy was murdered was the day that this country began a long slide down a slippery slope that continues to this day. I believe that by the grace of God we were giving one more chance to right our course in the person of Bobby Kennedy. When he was murdered on that June night in 1968, our fate was sealed.
My best friend growing up was Larry. We met in seventh grade, and became friends immediately. We both played guitar. We loved the same bands, and were in bands together. He was a fanatic Kinks fan. I wasn’t quite as avid, but a fan nonetheless. We were together constantly. Larry had been born with an aneurysm in the base of his brain, but that wasn’t known at the time. In fact, doctors operated on his heart when he was four years old because they thought that was the problem. He still managed to live a full life until the symptoms of his affliction began to manifest themselves when he was in his mid-thirties.
After high school, Larry left for college in Boston. Northeastern. He was a criminology major of all things, and went on to be a respected analyst for the New York State Police. I missed my friend. I had never been to Boston before, so I decided to take a ride up there and visit with him.
I arrived in town and parked my car on Boyleston Street, right in front of the restaurant where we’d agreed to meet. Finishing our meal, we headed to our cars, where I would follow him back to his place. There was one problem – my car had been broken into, and my guitar had been stolen from the back seat. Hello Boston, nice to meet you! There didn’t seem to be much we could do about it, so I got in the car and began following Larry. Keep in mind that I’d never been in Boston, and so had no idea where we were. A few minutes later, I caught sight of a guy hitchhiking. I noticed that he was carrying a guitar case that looked suspiciously like mine. I stopped to give him a ride.
It was until he was seated in my car that the hitchhiker noticed that the car looked familiar. I informed him that the guitar was mine. He responded with a feeble, “I know.” He went on to tell me that his old lady had some problems and that they needed money. I told him that the best thing I could do for him was to let him out of the car and not press charges. He seemed grateful, and I had my guitar back.
The rest of my stay in Boston was, thankfully, less dramatic. After a couple of days, Larry and I decided to head down to Cape Cod just to change the scenery. Neither of us knew anything about the place, but we forged ahead anyway. We had no idea what we do when we got there, or where we would go, but somehow we ended up on a little town called Hyannis Port. Of course we knew that the town was home to the famous Kennedy compound, but we didn’t know where it was.
Somehow, and to this day I don’t know how, we found ourselves walking on the beach in Hyannis Port on a beautiful fall day in October. In retrospect it seems like we shouldn’t have been allowed on that beach, and we were the only people on it, at least for the time being. After a few minutes, we noticed a group of people approaching us from the other direction. There seemed to be about ten of them, children of varying ages mostly. There was a football being tossed around.
As they got closer, it became apparent that this little band was being led by none other than Senator Edward Kennedy. Kennedys playing football on a beach in Hyannis Port? It seemed like something right out of the newsreels. While I couldn’t believe our good fortune, I was also afraid that we had intruded in a place where we were not welcome. I need not have been afraid, though. The Senator greeted us with a smile and gracious greeting. Our entire encounter lasted less than 30 seconds, but it made an impression on me that has lasted over the ensuing decades.
Larry died a few years ago. After numerous surgeries, and a courageous fight for life, the aneurysm finally defeated him, but his battle was an inspiration for all who knew him. Now Teddy is gone after his own brave battle, and it brings me back to that October day so long ago. I hope that Larry and Teddy get another chance to meet now on some faraway beach under a beautiful blue sky.
“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Senator Edward M. Kennedy – 1980 Democratic Convention