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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kennedy


  Each morning I reach into a wicker basket beside the chest of drawers in my bedroom for a fresh pair of socks. Resting in the corner there is a small teddy bear. I named him Kennedy long ago when my twin boys were about three years old. He has two hearts. The boys had reached up their tiny hands, cheeks all aglow, to bestow upon me the small, satin, ruby colored jewels. Their bright eyes were absolutely sparkling. The store was called “Build-a-Bear”. It was another one of those sweet places that the father of toddlers goes that, if they were not the fathers of toddlers, they would never cross the threshold. I felt horribly out of place and clumsy, yet each moment my stubborn attitude was melting like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. The boys ran from bin to bin excited by the construction of this umber colored, fuzzy being that was to be my gift from them.  They giggled and cooed as the limp carcass was blown full of foam and they were each guided to place their two hearts carefully in the bear’s chest.
  Kennedy. The time came to dress him and I spied a “Fonzie-like” leather jacket in one of the bins. “That’s it there fellas. That’s all he needs; a good leather jacket.” Part of me was just trying to get out of it all easy. I had no desire whatsoever to spend time picking out some cutesy pants and shoes. On another level I couldn’t explain to them that the jacket on the fuzzy bear would serve as a symbol of my long-standing internal conflict. Half my life had been spent building barriers with leather jackets and balled up fists. Now these two cherubs were exposing my facade. I felt like I was standing on the square buck-naked during the morning rush hour.
   I named the little bear Kennedy because JFK has been my hero since I was a child. I found him to be courageous in battle and loyal to his brothers in combat.  He stood for the poor and disenfranchised though he was wealthy and privileged. Yes, he was something of a rascal but he rose to the job that was before him and represented much that was good about America. Then they killed him. Like so many things in life, it broke my heart, but now these children … one day at a time, heal the part of me that had been bound in a leather jacket prison for so many years.
   It is early October now. The leaves are changing and beginning to fall. The boys are thirteen. This weekend on a camping trip we collided with a drunk driver that crossed the centerline. My family mostly walked away with bumps and bruises. Mom’s banged up a good bit worse.  I’m afraid that we were somewhat traumatized by the event though. I’ve been dismayed at the emotional hangover that has rested heavily in my soul. I could have lost them and it is still tearing at me.
  So now, standing here in the dim morning light, I pick up Kennedy and hold him to my chest. Gently I caress his soft fur and realize that I had forgotten how wonderful he feels. Suddenly the bile rises and I can taste the sour fear just like I did after the collision settled this past weekend. Air bags had deployed and the yellow dust like talcum powder filled the air and our lungs.  I could smell twisted metal.  For one brief second  … I had been afraid to look.
   It’s as if I can hear the boys laughing that day in the store. This soft, little bear wears a leather biker jacket. My truth is that the two tiny hearts resting within him are what became of the one that was broken oh so long  … long ago.

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