This morning I woke at 6:15am and pressed the On/Off button on the television’s remote control. There was a video showing the White House silhouetted against the rising sun… but the flag was lowered to half-mast.

Within seconds my racing mind was informed….

Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009.

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When I traveled to Washington, DC with my brother’s 8th graders in 2000, we sat in the senate gallery and amidst the sea of dark suits, the white, silvery hair of Senator Kennedy stood out. My brother, Destin, also a presidential history enthusiast, leaned forward over the gallery rail, staring down at the iconic figure. It was a moment where we got to see a great performer on the stage of American history.

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It is strange to think of our country without a Kennedy, from the Camelot generation, not at the helm of our government. While the media personalities are expressing their opinion that the next generation of Kennedys are not as powerful as their parents, I believe it is too soon to call the play on this generation. After all, they were overshadowed by their father, and uncle.

This morning, I am not as taken with Senator Kennedy’s politics, nor his successes, or mistakes as I am with Ted Kennedy the family man – especially, Uncle Ted. This morning I think of the nieces, and nephews who have lost a cherished uncle.

I was born the day the Warren Commission released its report on President Kennedy’s assassination. In June 1968, two months following Senator Robert Kennedy’s visit to my hometown of Elwood, Indiana, I sat with my parents watching his funeral at Arlington Cemetery.

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Uncle Ted was the Kennedy of that generation with whom I was the most familiar. My Uncle Ron was my version of an “Uncle Ted,” and had he lived, I have no doubt he would be the revered uncle. However, my brother and I are now the uncles, and we each believe in our obligation to uphold this grand title. I love being a father, but there is something enchanting about being an uncle. There is a mutual adoration, and affection, that is strikingly different with nieces and nephews.

My grandfather loathed the Kennedy’s – a loathing he adopted from his father that sprang back to an episode during The Great Depression. However, I think my grandfather would join me in agreeing that Ted Kennedy appeared to be a much loved uncle. My grandfather seemed to be the favored uncle for his nieces and nephews, and throughout their lives I witnessed his pride, and joy in their accomplishments, and the agony springing from their tragedies. I always marveled at his adoration of his grandchildren, but there was always that “uncle element” in his being that I cherish still to this day. My grandfather, and Uncle Ron were great role models for this uncle, and I can only hope, and trust, that I shall follow in their footsteps as a great uncle.

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