I am thinking of Senator Kennedy tonight, hearing of his passing. I am going to share my one-on-one moment with him, in hopes that you, any readers here, might also add their tribute, regardless of political persuasion.
Living in Iowa has distinct advantages in the campaign years. When Al Gore was campaigning, Ted kennedy joined him for a rousing meeting in the school gym at the University of Northern Iowa. As the line formed to shake hands, and get autographs, I scrambled for a piece of paper. My daughter had brought her favorite book, The Power Of One, by Bryce Courtney. I looked at Mr. Kennedy, and having a particular empathy for grieving and loss, wondered what went through his mind everyday, wondering and speculating at the brutal taking of his brothers' lives.
I had a student one year who had a dissasociation event that would happen during class. He would lay across the desk, and his arm, when we would lift it, would drop lifelessly across the desk. When he would come to, I asked him once, "where were you". He said, "in the park, the one where my brother was shot". So, when I watched a statesman like Senator Kennedy, and watched his fearless and tireless work, and then looked down at the book in my hand, I knew that I wanted him to sign the book.
I stood in line, and looked ahead at the man who looked so tired, so over it, so done, as he carried a name, a legacy, an energy for a family unusually marked for posterity, I noticed that he didn't look up at the folks who shook his hand and the many papers thrust his way, for a signature that one day, this day, would become forever the symbol of an era gone by.
When I appraoched, then, this man who stood for grief and forebearance, strength and service, I held out the title page of The power of One, hoping against hope that he would understand that it was him, who held the power of one, standing on the shoulders of his brothers. And in that very singular moment, his eyes looked up to mine, and I signaled that he was that title I held, and his eyes blinked in a loud silent yes, as he handed the book back.
Some years ago, before that moment, I had been privy to a dream that explained intimacy. Intimacy is in fact a sharing of perception, which is why you can have a wordless wonderful moment matching a gaze with a pre-verbal baby, or a gaze from across the room, with a person you know or don't know, when a common understanding is had.
Senator Kennedy received my transmission, loud and clear.
I haven't collected many signatures in my middle aged life, but this one was my favorite, because there were thoughts louder than words.
And in this vaste world, everyone is connected, they say, in six degrees of separation. What are your connections?