Shiver Me Timbers, It’s Jack!

I really miss my father. I lost him about five years ago, and he haunts me still.  I am blogging now because — frankly?  I’ve been spooked.  Have you ever felt an actual shiver travel up your spine?  It’s a weird feeling.  Anyway, I came into Ben & Jerry’s for a couple scoops of Chunky Monkey ten minutes ago.  Since I had my computer with me, I decided to forgo the cone and sit down.  Before I could take a bite of the cold stuff, I looked down at the table and shuddered.  There he was looking up at me — Dad’s hero Jack!

Postcard from Dad

Postcard from Dad

No one is going to understand why seeing a good-sized photo of J.F.K. under umpteen coats of lacquer is frightening.  It’s just that, if Dad wanted to communicate with me from the great beyond, this is exactly how he would do it.  Dad had many distinctions of his own, and while he respected most people he admired very few.  Of those few, he admired Jack Kennedy most.

Dad was born eight months after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.   Growing up, Dad must have read Sorensen’s biography of Kennedy and everything else he could about him — to make peace with the fact that he was constantly held to the Kennedy standard growing up.  My Irish grandmother was completely “over the top” that a charismatic Catholic from Massachusetts made it to the White House. My grandfather was acquainted with the Kennedy clan.  So while my father was admirable in his own right, the comparisons were always made.

Dad too was a Harvard graduate.  Before that, Dad graduated from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, blocks away from where Kennedy lived and next to Holy Trinity Church where he worshipped.  My grandparents urged Dad to be a statesman like Kennedy, but instead of joining the diplomatic corps after graduation, he followed my mother to Boston, married into the McCarthy clan, and got his MBA from Harvard.  By the time my sister Rose and I were ready to start school, my parents were settled in Fairfield Connecticut and Dad was working for a big brokerage firm.  But that’s not what’s important right now.   Right now, I suspect Dad wants to tell me something.

When he was alive, Dad’s straight-out advice would usually begin with some Kennedy quote, or anecdote.  He’d pull observations from Profiles in Courage or one of Kennedy’s speeches.  Even Kennedy’s commonplace observation,  Life isn’t fair was delivered with devotion.

I am here in San Juan, Puerto Rico, not exactly down on my luck, but not exactly fast-tracking either.  I am really curious what my father might want to say to me.  Don’t have a clue!   I’m not getting a clear signal, so I decide to tell him what I think, instead.

Dad, you shouldn’t have done what you did.  You don’t have the same credibility in the advice department you once did.  Maybe that’s why you nudged me to sit here with Jack.  I’ll say this to both of you: A man does not live by bread — material wealth — alone, or even the power of persuasion.  A man — especially a just one — needs to follow love home.  Dad, you followed Mom when you were my age.  I know things didn’t work out the way you had hoped, but you had a good marriage, right?  Jack, I don’t know what to say to you on that score.   So, if you two gentlemen don’t mind, I’m going to get on with my life, without fear or apology.  I’m going to eat (drink) my ice cream, walk down to the Carnival Cruise pier, and look across the bay.  It’s my life, my horizon.  Thanks for listening.

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