Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pumpkinhead Ted

When first I found the friendly afternoon westerlies of Buzzards Bay comforting, and ran aground here in Apponogansett Harbor, I thought myself fortunate for many reasons:

  1. The love and partnership of a beautiful woman who understands both the terms "Love" AND "Partnership,"
  2. the magnificent land and history that is consistently watched over by extraordinary caretakers, whom I cherish as friends, and
  3. the fact that I stumbled into the district that is represented in the United States Senate by this guy: That's SENATOR Pumpkin HeadThe guy who has been pro-equality, pro-choice, and a protector of ANWR, an advocate of a fair minimum wage, education, student loans, and human rights.
The first time that I met Senator Edward Kennedy D-MA, I was at college, crashing a fundraiser for him at the Campus Center. I had been seeking, of course, to impress the young authoress who had stopped by our campus to write a story on drinking schools for a national magazine. Somehow, and for reasons that seemed clear only to her and me, I became her escort. (I believe it had something to do with the safety pin through the alligator on my Izod shirt.) We wound up at the open bar, working our way through the single malts.
Since I had become mesmerized by the charming way my companion's almost-black pupils seemed to roll independently in her head, I didn't see the lumbering hulk of the twenty-year senator from Massachusetts. When her focus resumed a startled expression, my cat-like reflexes swept my upper body around and there he was.
I instinctively reached out my hand, smiling widely and looking furtively for bouncers or security.
He grasped my hand warmly in both of his ... um, er, hands.
Imagine a soft -- buttery soft -- leather glove, about the size of a soccer ball. Now fill that glove with warm Jell-O™ and imagine TWO of them engulfing your extended hand. Up to about the elbow.
"Thanks for coming. Glad to see you here," he said. Then he repeated himself to my companion, patted her cable-knit cardiganed shoulder and moved on to the next group.
I've met The Senator on many occasions since, usually in conjunction with some job I was doing that he wouldn't have given a crap about, but he was always willing to smile and nod or wave and smile or nod and wave. Depending on the circumstances. Once, I actually had the opportunity to ask him "How she's cutting?" and he knew I was asking about his latest cruise on Mya, his 50-foot Concordia. Because he laughed, and had that look.
You know the one.

EXTRA LENGTH OF CHAIN: I notice around the Interwebs that -- besides the infantile folk who have helped themselves to thoughtless barrels of tastelessness -- that people are asking, like James at Aces Full of Links, "what are we going to do if we lose Ted Kennedy?"
As I often do, I started to answer that question, got self-conscious, remembered that my comments are generally ignorable blatherings, and then remembered that I have my own outlet right here.
Ted has always been my representative, even when I didn't live in his district. He represents me, my hopes for my Commonwealth and country. I've heard some outlandish remarks in the media over the past few days, but over the sniggering of some and the sniffling of others, I can say this:
If Senator Kennedy is my representative, then am I not duty-bound to be his? He's been protecting my Constitution (which is more than I can say for my president), so I will pick up the halyard and start the chanty myself. I'll go right on being a "liberal." I will, to the best of my ability -- without his means, of course -- continue to work toward a more perfect union, protecting my fellow citizens and their interests and addressing the needs of those I can help.
Are we "losing" Ted?
Those who are so heart-broken by this news should take strength from it. His illness is a warning against our habit of taking for granted those who work for us, that they won't always be around to do it, so we better start to toe that line ourselves.
Maybe we will have to do that work without him.
Maybe we should have been doing it alongside him all along.
I think that's what he probably said each time he lost a brother, a vow he may have breathed when we lost other like-minded workers, like Paul Wellstone.
"The Job" has always been ours.
Maybe we should be doing it.