I’m sorry Ted Kennedy died. When I heard, I did what I always do, I subtracted my age from his and said to myself, “I hope I have more time left than that.” The older you are, the older “old” gets. I now think a lifespan of 77 years is much shorter than I used to think it is.
A man I used to work for knew the Senator from Massachusetts and once told me a joke I considered really funny that he said Ted Kennedy told to him. I met Ted Kennedy once; He came to Long Island for a political fund raising dinner years before he ran for president himself. I was a reporter at the time. I didn’t know the man. I didn’t even know anyone who was a close friend. I can only say what it looked like to me. That night, he looked distracted. He was in a big crowd and he kept looking around. Perhaps he was worried for his safety. Who could blame him if he was? He’s the only one of his brothers to die in old age or even to die a natural death.
This morning, when I walked into the local deli, they had the TV news on and they were showing a recording of Senator Ted giving a eulogy at his brother Bobby’s funeral. For the very young, Bobby was assassinated when he was running for President in 1968. Everyone who was alive in 1963 and many people who weren’t know that his brother Jack was assassinated while he was President. I have to wonder why Ted ran for President after two of his brothers were killed, one in office and the other trying for the job. When TV reporter Roger Mudd asked him that question, Ted didn’t seem to know himself.
Seeing the late Senator’s image on TV this morning at his brother’s funeral reminded me that I could have been there that day. I wasn’t. If I had been ordered to be in the military honor guard at Senator Robert Kennedy’s funeral, of course, I would have been. My first sergeant, however, asked me if I wanted to be in the ceremonial guard. My answer was that if he wanted me to, of course I would be, but if I had a choice, I’d prefer to pass. I didn’t have the right ceremonial gear and would not have liked to spit-shine everything I owned, three or four times. Plus, even at that tender age, I didn’t enjoy standing still in one place for a long period of time.
I’m reminded of a joke Abraham Lincoln used to tell, although I don’t know if it was original with him. Lincoln said a man who was about to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail was asked how he felt about it. His response was, “If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk.” I skipped out on Bobby Kennedy’s funeral, in spite of the honor of the thing.