Thursday, November 7, 2013

JFK

Each year as we approach the anniversary of a world tragedy, the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, I begin to look for new books or magazine specials to read and am glued to the TV for new specials or simply watch the video library I have acquired over the years. Even though it was published months ago I am reading Killing Kennedy by Bill 0'Reilly and look forward to watch the National Geographic special movie based on O'Reilly's book. Rob Lowe will take a stab at the title role. He has garnered praise but I think I will have trouble seeing him as Kennedy. Ginnifer Goodwin plays Jackie which I do not see at all but then I couldn't imagine Katie Holmes in that role either and she did very, very well. So maybe I will be surprised. Clint Hill, the secret service agent, assigned to Jaqueline exclusively has a new book coming out this month as well.  He is an excellent writer and absolutely was the rock Jackie could lean on. So I'm in my "JFK Mode". It's a somber time of year because it happened here. In Dallas. And it was the first big event I remember being exposed to. I do remember how upset Daddy was when Kennedy beat Nixon. We were living in Baldwin Park California and I was 5. But I remember the black and white TV, and Daddy's anguish on election night. I really didn't know what it all meant at that age. I focused on Daddy's mood. But I knew he wasn't happy with JFK but he really was negative only a few times about the new President. That's what I saw but Mom could probably tell a different story.
When I was 7 years old Dad took a job at Texas Instruments in Dallas Texas. That was October of 1962. We rented a house in Lewisville until our new house was built on 5 acres out in the beautiful country. Fast forward a year and a month later and November 22, 1963 arrived. As far as I knew it was just another work day for Dad, another school day for me. I was in third grade at Central Elementary in Lewisville a suburb a short drive to Dallas. Mr. Bolin was our principal. I found out that night that Daddy and several co workers had stood outside to see Kennedy just minutes before he was murdered. That surprised me. Even though Dad wasn't thrilled with the choice he had enough respect and interest to go see a man. A man that he would see once and never see alive again. In person. On the TV. Never again. It was a normal day at school and we were in the library when Mr. Bolin came on the loudspeaker. We knew what was happening that day and of course, we found it exciting. But the words we would hear from those old fashioned speaker boxes on the wall would stun those of us who could understand what was being said. It was a point in history none of us will ever forget. Where we were when we heard those awful words that our president was dead. That was just about all the information we were given. People were crying. I watched not sure how to feel except very very sad for a man my Daddy didn't vote for. When I was finally on the bus that afternoon there were boys in the back (we rode with ALL grades back then) were talking about the fact that Kennedy was a "N word" lover and that's why he was killed. I didn't understand because I had never heard that word but they were being ugly and it made me cry. As I walked home after being dropped off I cried and when I got home I asked Mom what a "N" was and why would those big boys say that? My first taste of what the south was like at that time. But not everyone, no not everyone, because all across the board people were shocked and broken hearted that it had happened. Mom assured me that that was not the reason. There are people who do things and we might never know why and she held me in her arms while I cried for a man I didn't understand. He had a beautiful wife and 2 precious children. One only 2 years younger than me and I wondered what would happen to them. Daddy came home in shock that afternoon. He was one of the last people to see the motorcade and I wished I had been with him. So I could see. This man that was loved by many and sadly, not loved by so many. We remained glued to the TV for the next several days. Until it was over. And when Jack Ruby walked up to Oswald Dad jumped up and yelled he has a gun. And the gun fired. And Oswald would die later at the same hospital with some of the same surgeons that had tried so valiantly to save the life of a young man who was president. And his wife had part of his brain in her hand and gave it to the doctor in the event it could help. And she crawled up on the back of the limousine to retrieve a piece of skull that might be used in repairing her beyond help husband. And we watched the night they landed at the air force base with the president and saw her blood splattered pink suit and her blood soaked legs. And I will never forget that because it made it real to me. In the days to come we would see LBJ take the torch (another man Daddy didn't really like but he WAS a Texan), we would see the most beautifully executed funeral of all time and a sweet little boy in a blue coat salute his precious father one last time. And we cried. Because what happened was wrong. No matter what. And I'm sorry it happened here. Close to us. 

I think Daddy would like Kennedy very much today, warts and all. I do. Not only am I fascinated by him I admire and respect him for the things he did. For the things he did that were wrong and stood up and took the brunt of the fault. Honestly and sadly. He ached for what had gone wrong in the Bay of Pigs. He was heart broken. He messed up and admitted it. Like a good president should. Like a good leader should. And people respected him. He fought for civil rights and things changed during LBJs watch. We went to the moon by golly. I wish he had seen it. Daddy was a valuable part of the space program and we were up for every launch. I gained a huge respect for that program. And to a large degree I have a president to thank for that. And so does my dad. Daddy is gone but we have continued to see his work in later years. Especially with the Space Shuttle program. I think Daddy and Kennedy would get along now. Because actually their goals weren't that much different. Some were. It's not for me to judge. But I think Dad could sit and explain the inner workings of things to President Kennedy. As he did for us. And I miss you Daddy so very much as this time of year rolls around. So much I would love to ask about that day. The day you were a witness to history changing.

So I was a 3rd grader at Central Elementary in a little town called Lewisville, Texas. And for years after this all happened visitors to our home would want to see where it happened and Daddy would drive the route and then, without much thought, would speed up at the spot our president was killed, and speed under the triple underpass to Parkland. That makes me smile and I teased him about it as a child. I love the 6th Floor museum. If you are local and haven't visited it yet please do. I think we owe it to our former President and his beautiful, broken hearted wife, Jaqueline.

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