Thursday, August 27, 2009

Washington Social Diary

By Carol Joynt

An acquaintance on the West Coast, who legitimately knew Edward Moore Kennedy, sent an email early Wednesday morning: "We have about twenty prints of Teddy's paintings with glorious and effusive inscriptions ... I never tried to "cash in" on anything I did for him, but what a guy ... he sent my step-dad, a hero of Iwo Jima. a 50-yr commemorative medal and a letter comparing his exploits with JFK's heroism in the South Pacific. He came off the Senate floor to spend an hour with my sister, her husband and daughter two years ago. He spent twenty minutes reading to my niece a book he wrote about his dogs ... What a chap! I have two hours of answering machine "Thank You's," I have no intention of listening to them now." 

There was more, but he asked me to keep it private. As he said, he prefers not to "cash in" on his Kennedy connections. I didn't know Teddy, but I certainly encountered him a lot over the decades, even met him, and definitely heard about him all the time. I witnessed the bad boy (dancing in the wee hours at the private Pisces Club in the early 80s, not with one but several young women) and the statesmen (on the Senate floor, in hearings, walking the floors), and I honestly believe he deserves the legacy of the statesmen, because we should be known by who we become not necessarily all the stops we make along the way in shaping our ultimate self.

No question Teddy's life was about bad and good, disgrace and redemption. He a caused a girl's death. He handled the aftermath poorly and that could have been the end of it for him. No one made him pursue a meaningful Senate career, but he did. It seems to me he was always trying to do better - the classic little brother - even getting out of a bad marriage and later making a good marriage.

The last time I saw him was spring of last year at a Refugees International dinner at the Italian Embassy. He was among the last to arrive for the VIP cocktail reception, shuffling in (his walking in later years became labored) with a small entourage, fully aware that all eyes and cameras were on him, but skilled at the business of working a room. It was only a short while later that he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Another time I saw him - earlier - was at the Capitol party for the cast and producers of "John Adams" in Statuary Hall. Again, he arrived at the last minute ( a star's true sense of timing ) and stood at the side to listen to speeches. I was right beside him as he talked to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He quietly told he would miss the screening because he wanted to get over to the House side where his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, was introducing or managing a piece of legislation on the floor for the first time. He was a proud father who wanted to be there for his son. For me, that quite a lot about the man.
Teddy was a late bloomer, a long work in progress, a man trying to find who he was, fighting large shadows,  finding himself, embracing the legacy, and then sharing the goods with all. I hope he gets as close as the Senate can come to a State-level farewell for a colleague. If we still did those things, if we were the Vatican, he would be buried somewhere in the walls of the Senate side of the Capitol, with a carved sailboat on his headstone. 

I have this special memory of Teddy, too. I always got a kick out of the way he showed up at various black-tie soirees around town, where all the men were in tuxedos, knowing they looked a little ridiculous, because the event wasn't necessarily all that formal. Teddy would arrive in a pin-striped suit, looking a little superior, of course, but also just right for the occasion, like he had some common sense.

We met only once, in the late 1970s at Hickory Hill, the McLean home of Ethel and Bobby Kennedy. It was a family affair where he was filling his role as patriarch of the Kennedy clan. Affable, funny, welcoming, interested in everybody, watching the room, the door, the family, the friends, hugging loved ones, talking to reporters, being a good "chap."

Ted Kennedy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, near the graves of his brothers, Robert and John
Sen. Robert Kennedy's simple grave, only yards down a sloping lawn from the graves of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The graves of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Arlington Cemetery. Sen. Ted Kennedy will be buried nearby this Saturday.
The Kennedy gravesites are among Washington's most popular tourist attractions.
Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: