Patriarch: Teddy Kennedy

Patriarch: n, the paternal leader of a family or tribe; an old and venerable man.

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

Last night I allowed myself to be a rude guest. I was at a BBQ that ran from 5:30-8:30 – right smack in the middle of the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver – and I wanted to see Teddy Kennedy. The hostess kindly turned on the TV in the den so I could watch (and weep).

This is a guy who was supposed to be the little brother in his family. Then one by one the older more promising boys got blown away – one in war and two by separate assassin’s guns.  Unbearable tragedies, each one more poignant than the last.

Teddy is the last man standing. And what a guy.  He is adored by his family and by his constituents in Massachusetts (43 years their senator!).  Despite his patrician background he has always stood up for the less fortunate – minimum wage laws, workers rights, civil rights, health care access, even getting up from his sick bed last month to cast a crucial vote on an important Medicare bill.

My Republican brother-in-law flies chartered jets in the Boston area and often flies Teddy (and John Kerry). He wept when he heard about the brain tumor; he thinks he’s a prince among men and always votes for him (Kerry is a different story).  Ditto Teddy’s wife Vicky, who he says is smart enough to make a fine senator herself.

While I loved Michelle Obama, last night Teddy had my heart.

UPDATE: Just read in the NY Times that Teddy’s show was more amazing than anyone realized.  From that story:

His aides said that after Mr. Kennedy finally decided he was well enough to come to Denver over the weekend, they became alarmed when he arrived on Sunday after a long charter airplane flight, accompanied by family members, aides and doctors, and reported being in excruciating pain.

Their first concern was that the pain was somehow related to his cancer, or the chemotherapy and radiology he had undergone, and that it had been complicated by the long flight or the high altitude of the city. A visit to a local hospital Sunday night revealed it was kidney stones and was unrelated to his cancer.

Mr. Kennedy had no previous history of kidney stones, aides said.

One close associate, who demanded anonymity to discuss any element of Mr. Kennedy’s medical condition, disclosed that the senator had suffered an unspecified but serious setback in July after he flew to Washington in the midst of treatment to cast a vote on a Medicare bill.

Mr. Kennedy’s aides said he did make one concession to the kidney stones: the speech he gave was about 10 minutes, roughly half the length of an earlier draft.

Kidney stones are notoriously painful, and typically treated with morphine or other painkillers. (Aides would not say whether Mr. Kennedy had been given painkillers, or whether any stones had passed.)

Mr. Kennedy’s longtime associate Bob Shrum said that as soon as the senator became ill, he sent an even shorter three-sentence statement that Mr. Kennedy could read at the Pepsi Center. He said Mr. Kennedy, in informing him that he wanted to speak, had rejected that option.

“He said, ‘I’m not getting up to go over there and give a three-sentence speech,’ ” Mr. Shrum said.

As I said, what a guy!

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