Rob Ford blox mug

Rob Ford

There comes a moment in every person’s life where somebody picks them up, hugs them, and then puts them back down for the very last time. I’m 63 years old and while I could use a good hug now and then, the days of me getting picked up and then put down ended a very long time ago.

Fifty-eight years ago this week the then-President of our country, John F. Kennedy, was gunned down as he was riding in a parade through Dallas, Texas. Very few of us have gone through our lives without seeing the dramatic footage of the event, seen movies made about that day, or read books rehashing the characters involved and their motives, both real and imagined.

The killing of President Kennedy is probably the oldest clear memory of my life. When it happened, I was a kindergarten student sitting in a small classroom inside the Empire elementary school. The images of someone walking into our classroom to talk with our teacher, that teacher then breaking down sobbing, and then the class collectively getting coats and hats on and being ushered to the school bus remain as crystal clear today as they did in November of 1963.

As a barely 5 year old kid I may have understood that Kennedy was the President. Beyond that though, including what exactly the President did, where they did it, or why my school teacher would become so upset at the mention of him dying, I was as clueless as any other kid in my age group.

Even later that day sitting at home with my Mom and Dad, my two older brothers and sister “discussing” the day’s event, I remember being introduced to the word “assassination.” Like many other families of that day, we four Ford children were barely separated by four years; none of us were particularly knowledgeable as to the workings of the world stage. And as they themselves struggled to accept our leader’s demise, I’m sure our parents did their best to explain that big word to us. Just by the way that my Mom picked me up and held me that day, I knew it was an important moment in time.

Having now grown up all these years later with Kennedy’s slaying constantly in the societal background, I’m never certain of what I’ve learned about it and when. Television in our home was a relatively new thing and watching the Kennedy-related coverage offered plenty of opportunities for my folks to become absorbed in it. Lucky for us, we did not have social media around to stoke the fires and stir the pots; it was left to Walter Cronkite and my parents to explain things as calmly as possible. Conspiracy theories and Oliver Stone movies notwithstanding, I think the gist of the whole catastrophe was adequately explained to the Ford kids.

The assassination was politically and socially shocking, no doubt. But after all these years whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone has drifted away as the most important part of the story. Like many other deceased dignitaries, the private life of Kennedy has become far more dug into.

No matter which you follow though, for the most important thing that happened to me that day, I refer you back to my opening sentence. It’s quite possible that November 22, 1963 was not the last time one of my parents picked up their youngest child and hugged him close.

But it’s the last time I remember it ever happening.

Contact Rob Ford at robfordwrites@gmail.com.

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