When I was three years old, President Kennedy was shot and I watched the funeral for hours on TV with my mother while she wailed over this man she didn't know. For four full days, she kept her hair in curlers, wore a floral housecoat that was missing a button, and chain smoked as the funeral procession was played over and over again. We took breaks from the TV to have left over meatloaf, jello mold with canned peaches and bowls of vanilla ice cream. My mother played solitaire on the double bed while the news showed clips of people crying all over the country. Years later, when we played double solitaire, I would always think of little Jon Jon saluting his father's casket, and the box of tissues near the deck of cards.
Was I worrying that perhaps something would happen to my mother? Would she be shot by a bullet or would it be something different? Walter Cronkite, the "most trusted anchor in America" at the time was not afraid of his tears but was afraid of not being able to get out the words. "From Dallas Texas the flash was apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 pm Eastern Standard Time, 2 pm Central Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago." Mr. Cronkite the trusted and reliable took of his glasses and sighed. His words had come out yet his tears, tenor and cadence suddenly made the most reliable anchor in America human. Was I crying over Kennedy's death or the loss of safety in the world and stoicism in a man I didn't know?
As we sat on the bed munching on pretzels and watching thousands of people cry, there was a sadness in the air between me and my mother I could not name.