I saw two coworkers cry at the news today that Senator Ted Kennedy had died.
Both grew up in New England, and both weren’t exactly sure why they reacted so. Kennedy had just always been there, they said.
I’m many years too young to remember Chappaquiddick, though my introduction to Ted Kennedy was ultimately through Joyce Carol Oates’ novella Black Water, a reimagining of that event. After living in Boston for seven years, though, I’ve found his presence is everywhere. Everywhere. This death is a loss in so many senses here—of suddenly not finding something that was always there, of there being a hole, of not knowing your way, and having no words. The whole place and its people are at a loss.
My sincere hope is that this focus on Kennedy, the long-time Senator and champion of the underprivileged—despite or because of his own privilege—enhances a clear focus on his last crusade, namely, health care. There would be no greater tribute to a conflicted man than to take the most conflicted issue of our time, one that he took on as his legacy, and sort it out.