Friday, August 28, 2009

And then there was one

With the recent passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver just two weeks ago and now, of course, Ted Kennedy, there is only sibling of their generation left -- Jean Kennedy Smith (second from left). I wonder what it is like for her these days.

She was there for the rivalry between Joe and Jack ... Honey Fitz ... sailing and swimming and football in Hyannis Port and Palm Springs ... their father's days in Hollywood ... the Roosevelts ... London during the war ... the glamorous but tragic marriage of Kick and Billy ... the heartbreak of Rosemary's illness ... Choate and Harvard ... PT-109 ... the sudden deaths of Joe and Kick ... the political ascendancy of Jack .... the addition of Ethel, Jackie and Joan ... the addition of Sarge, Steve and Peter ... Camelot ... their father's stroke ... the Cuban Missile Crisis ... the Special Olympics ... Dallas, Los Angeles and Chappaquiddick ... Bobby finding his voice and losing his life ... the trials of the "kids" (many of whom are in their 50s now), including drugs, cancer, brushes with the law and more tragic young deaths ... their mother's 100th birthday and her passing ... Teddy's growth into elder statesman ... her own time as Ambassador to Ireland ...

My mother and her brother are both seniors now and neither is in great health. My mother is stronger than she was six months ago, but she has COPD and a bad knee and tires easily. My uncle, her baby brother, is battling Parkinson's. I have watched their bond strengthen as their parents, aunts, uncles, spouses and lifelong family friends have passed.

In a very real, very human way, the Kennedys are simply a family. A family that has cast an enormous shadow across American life, to be sure, but a family, and Jean is the last one standing. Now, at 81, she has lost two of her siblings in the same month. Being the last of her parents' children must be bittersweet indeed for now she alone has all the memories.

My gratitude is with Ted Kennedy. My prayers are with her.

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