A personal memory of Ted Kennedy

"I felt his happy clasp on my shoulder"
"I felt his happy clasp on my shoulder"

My father, like my father's father and my father's mother and all of my father's Norse-American siblings (from the teenage Agnes, a victim of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, to a redoubtable elementary school teacher, Gertrude) is buried on a shoulder of land overlooking Interstate 5.

I didn't expect it, my father's death. I was a teenager, petulant and awkward. You see, my Dad waited a long, long time to get hitched. And he waited until he was well into his fifties to have children. He was a good soul, his nuptial-commitment-aversion notwithstanding. So, his death felt abrupt and horrifying to me. To any kid, I assume.

I spoke at my father's funeral and afterwards I stood in a receiving line for several excruciating hours. It was 1983, an early summer afternoon in Everett. Three people touched my shoulder and were comforting: Pete Wilson, then a Republican Senator from California, Admiral H.G. Rickover, the legendary father of the nuclear Navy, and U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. From that time onward, I rarely made a joke at Ted Kennedy's expense (and God forgive me those few times that I did make a joke). He was a stand-up fellow, I told friends. He eulogized my Dad at Everett's First Presbyterian Church.

Here's a brief excerpt of what Ted Kennedy said about my Dad:

On that day Jack died, he was a friend who comforted me. On more days than I can count, I felt his happy clasp on my shoulder; I saw his crinkled smile; I enjoyed his counsel and his company.

I won't expound on Ted Kennedy's personal and political legacy. Many folks, much smarter than I, can and should debate away. Therefore, I will keep it simple: When I was a teenager, my father died unexpectedly. Edward Kennedy was kind to me. I'm grateful to him.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson