lørdag 17. desember 2011

Jim Langan blogger om Rose Kennedy

TEDDY, ROSE AND THE POPE

For those of you still mad at me for chastising Ted Kennedy’s deathbed request that the law be changed to allow the Massachusetts Governor to name his successor, understand I stand by my opinion but regret the timing. Ted Kennedy’s death did have me reminiscing about the number of times I spent with him. Everyone I suppose has a favorite Teddy story because he was a larger than life person and he was who he was. Here’s my favorite.

 I had been invited by a family member to Hyannis for the Memorial Day weekend in the late 1980’s. I stayed at “the big house” as the home of Joseph and Rose Kennedy has always been known. The house and the adjacent Robert Kennedy house were full of Kennedy’s and houseguests. I remember sailing over to Martha’s Vineyard with Teddy and a gaggle of Kennedy siblings and cousins. After some shopping and lunch, everyone was driven to the airport and we took a private plane back to the Cape, leaving the sailboat there. Only a Kennedy can leave a spectacular sailboat like you and I would a car at a shopping mall.

Everyone then returned to the house and cocktails. At some point we all headed into the dining room for lobsters with all the fixings. As we began the meal, we heard the clank of the elevator which was located at the far end of the sun room adjacent to the dining room. The elevator had been installed years earlier after Joseph Kennedy suffered a debilitating stroke. While Teddy was living in the house, his mother was living there as well although in a much diminished physical state. She had suffered numerous strokes and lived upstairs with round the clock nursing.

Suddenly there she was, the iconic Rose Kennedy, resplendent in a beautiful dress and grand hat, being wheeled into the dining room. I remember everyone there pounding the dining room table chanting “Grandma, Grandma.” At that point in her life it was difficult to know how aware she was of her surroundings so the table pounding and chanting was intended to rouse her.

 Teddy immediately asked the nurse to wheel his mother next to him at the head of the table. I recall him saying “Mother, I knew you’d be down if you thought we were having a party.” There was no response but Teddy kept on talking and began telling his mother about his recent visit to the Vatican. Kennedy had just returned from a conference in Europe and a Papal audience.

“Do you know what the first thing the Pope asked me, Mother? He asked me how is Rose Kennedy?” At that point Mrs. Kennedy appeared to focus and stiffened in her wheelchair. We were all just watching and listening. Teddy then went on to ask his mother, “Do you know what his holiness gave your son Teddy?” (It was obvious Teddy wasn’t sure his mother knew which son she was talking to.) Again, she seemed to brighten at the mention of the Pope.
“Mother, the Pope gave your son Teddy Papal absolution.” At that point Mrs. Kennedy opened her eyes wide and said in that famous voice “Well Teddy, I certainly hope you got it in writing.” There was about a three second delay as everyone processed the fact she spoke and what she said before everyone laughed and cheered and started pounding the table again. No one was laughing harder than Teddy but in a few seconds I saw him begin to tear up and he asked everyone to leave the dining room as he wanted to be alone with his mother.

We all left the room; Teddy closed the door to the dining room and sat there for at least an hour with his mother. You could hear him sobbing at times from the other room. He adored his mother and was so moved she was tuned in if only for a few moments. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Hopefully that Papal absolution has reunited him with his beloved mother.

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