It takes a touch of divine grace to upstage President Obama from the pulpit at your father’s funeral. Ted Kennedy, Jr. accomplished that rare feat with his beautiful eulogy this morning.
Listening to Yo-Yo Ma, Susan Graham, and Placido Domingo perform so beautifully in that beautiful setting, enjoying the unfeigned testimonials to this warm father and great leader in the fight for social justice, my mind drifted to one discordant note: the lonely figure of Joan Kennedy.
Her mourning is no less genuine but surely more complicated than expressed at the pulpit this morning. I don’t know much about her. I haven’t followed the celebrity biographies or the tabloid accounts. I do know that it is never easy to be a political wife, particularly one married to this wonderful but flawed bear of a man. It is sadly unjust to virtually airbrush her from the picture as we publicly celebrate a great man, and, yes, as we rightly celebrate the joy and stability his second wife Victoria Reggie Kennedy brought to him.
I write this as someone who loves my dear stepmother of three decades, One day, hopefully very far in the future when my father passes, I hope that my family is able to celebrate their wonderful marriage, while also honoring the years of marriage my mother and father previously shared, and the quiet sacrifices she made, which live on through us.
Millions of George Forman grill owners might reject F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous dictum: there no second acts in American life. Maybe Fitzgerald meant to say that there are no second first-acts in American life. Our pasts follow us and make us who we are. Our hearts go out to Ted Kennedy’s family, to the mother of his children, too.