Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Greater Kennedy

Eunice Kennedy ShriverImage by dbking via Flickr

Eunice Kennedy died today. She was a daughter of Joseph Kennedy and brother to John F and Robert Kennedy.

When I was younger (much younger, back during my final school years and soon afterwards) I all but revered John F Kennedy. I bought every book I could find on him. I devoured any facts I came across if they related to Kennedy. At that time most of the books were little more than love letters to the fallen leader. It was fifteen-twenty years after he was gunned down in Dallas but we as a nation still pictured him with a halo.

Somewhere over time, like with anyone that once was held in such high esteem, the books began to turn and what once was written in reverent tones now the words were scathing and mean. But somewhere in that time the truth was coming to light. Once considered an underdog we soon learned that Kennedy was not above throwing his wealth and connections around to get what he wanted. And what he wanted was nothing short of the Presidency of the United States.

I've read enough, good and bad, over the years about John F Kennedy that I no longer consider him a hero. I know that his name is still considered fairly saintly in many circles, but Kennedy's Presidency was not the bright shinning beacon that many look on it as.

His sister commanded nowhere near the presence that he did, to the majority of the public she is probably unknown, but of the Kennedy clan I think she was more the hero. Eunice Kennedy helped create The Special Olypmics. The Special Olympics helped people with intellectual disabilities develop self-confidence, social skills and a sense of personal accomplishment.

My sister was born with Spina Bifda. In some ways she was lucky. She can walk, which I've found a lot of children born with Spina Bifda cannot. Before she was five years old she had a shunt put in her head to help drain excess water buildup on her brain. She died on the operating table at one point. While operating on her brain they think now someone cut a little too deep or a little too wrong and she's had seizures ever since.

When she was in high school she was in the 'special kids' class. You know which one that is, the class with all the kids in wheel chairs and those that talked out loud, and that most of the other kids made fun of. But she loved it. For one the class was small, I think less than a dozen kids, and of those kids she was the least handicapped there. She helped the teacher with the other kids, she was the star of the class. She was there when these kids praticapated in Special Olympics. With less than a year left of her high school career some burecrat decided in their infinite wisdom that these kids should be mainlined back into normal classes.

So my sister went from being the class star to one of those kids that don't fit in.

But she graduated. My Mom wasn't going to let her not graduate.

After school she volunteered at the school in the library. That year at the annual parish (a parish down here in Louisiana is what most of the rest of the country calls a county) where the school boards recognizes notable teachers and such she was awarded Volunteer of the Year.

I wasn't there, but I watched a video of it. Even today, many years later I can remember sitting at home watching the video. My sister walks hesitantly and when her name was called she walked up to the stage and I was watching, hoping she didn't trip or stumble. She has trouble with her hands, her left hand shakes and she has trouble holding things. I watched as they handed the plaque to her and she gripped it in her hands, smiling and walked off the stage. I didnt' even realize I was crying until I wiped at my eyes.

So to me Eunice Kennedy is the greater Kennedy.




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4 comments:

Bond said...

What a wonderful tribute to two special women, Ms. Kennedy-Shriver and your sister.

Yes, the Kennedy's used their wealth to get to the White House, but haven't many of our Presidents over the last 40 years?

Jessica said...

Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing about your sister. Very touching.

JohnH985 said...

You're right, Vinnie, that Kennedy isn't any worse than a lot of other men who have become President. I just don't think he's the GREAT President that seems to be the common conception. I guess he fell farther for me since I had him higher on a pedestal at first.

Travis said...

This is a wonderful tribute to both your sister's perseverance and to the altruism of Ms Kennedy-Shriver.

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