Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 39: Roots

On our last full day in Rutland, my parents, Ben and I drove to Ludlow to visit the graveyard where my paternal grandparents and great-grandfather are buried. That's my grandparents' headstone in the picture. And if you're doing the sums, you're probably thinking I meant my great-grandfather.

But no, my father's father, William, was born in 1864 - that's 145 years ago. I don't imagine there are too many people around who are only a generation away from someone born during the American Civil War. It's a testament to the hardiness of the Kennedy men, I suppose. Or, to be honest, to the stamina of my grandfather.

And I do mean stamina, for my Dad was born when his father was 60. And if that isn't noteworthy enough, my father was not the youngest of the clan. He had a brother and sister born after him. Like a lot of Irishmen at that time, Grandfather William married quite late in life. However, he may have had a bit of Scot in him, as well, for he clearly decided that coming late to the party did not mean you couldn't have your full serving.

Needless to say, my grandparents were practicing Catholics. Although I have to add that by the time he had his seventh or eighth kid I don't think he he needed the practice anymore.

When I talk about my family roots, my Aussie friends know exactly what I mean. I will leave it up to my American readers to figure that one out themselves.

I grew up with more aunts and uncles than most people are blessed with - Jeannette, Don, Bill, Mary, Nellie, Sylvia and Harold.

Now there's only my Dad and Nellie left, and it was a real treat the other day when she stopped by. She and my Dad both inherited someone's humor gene, and she's very funny.

When she was leaning in for this picture with him, she said, "All of us kids, and now we're the only two left, Red." After just the right pause, she added, "And I don't think either of us is going to conquer the world now. But I'll take silver instead of gold."

And if the week in Rutland was all about family this time, it wasn't just about the previous generations. The river flowed in the other direction, as well, when my oldest son Ben flew up from Florida to spend time with us.

I am so proud of Ben. He is an amazingly generous and wonderful guy. He built a great career out of his own smarts combined with lots of challenging, hard work.

And on the personal level, he has proved this year that not all Kennedy men need to find plausible excuses to explain away their waistlines. Ben has been on a personal fitness regime that gives even me hope and inspiration that I may some day see my feet. It's ironic that we both shop in the Big & Tall Men's Store. But of course, I head off to the Big section, while Ben browses the Tall stuff.

Yesterday afternoon, we said good-bye to everyone in Rutland and drove to Freehold, New Jersey, to visit our great friends Walt and Terry. Last night alone has given me enough material for a couple of posts. It should be a great week.

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