Today's sad news is the kind of thing that unsteadies us, unwitting passengers as we are in something like the opposite of Fitzgerald's boat that was so famously "borne ceaselessly into the past." We're hurtling, helpless, into the future, yet further from the ever-receding, once-familiar shore.
Senator Edward Moore Kennedy was a paragon of no virtues but the civic ones, and I've always been essentially immune to the fabled Kennedy charm. Nonetheless, he and his extended family helped shape the last half-century or more of our American life, and for a while they did so with a lot of panache.
Here's an example, albeit a latish one: The first Mrs. Senator Kennedy, Joan, for whom I've always had a sneaking fondness, sandwiched between another sometime political matron, Mrs. Senator Warner, and her sister-in-law, Princess Lee.
The Kennedy ladies all trailed in the wake of Rose and Jackie O, and Joan had the disadvantage of being neither a born-Kennedy, nor a Bouvier, nor, like Ethel, a Martyr's Widow. She was, therefore always, comparatively, B-list. Still, she did the best with what she had, and when she'd had enough, threw it all in for life outside the charmed circle. She's had a hard row to hoe since, but here she is in memory's eye, poised, like her family, between Hollywood and royalty (well, semi-, at least), and seemingly carefree.
Today, nothing seems quite so simple, really; wasn't ever, I suppose, however much we liked to think so. I've quoted it before, but Shakespeare always says it best - "Golden lads and girls all must /As chimney sweepers come to dust." And just so we cover all the cliché-bases: good night, sweet prince...