Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and throughout the day I have found myself thinking a great deal about that fateful afternoon. I was only 12, in 7th grade, but his murder affected me so profoundly that, all these years later, I can cry just by conjuring the memory of my small self glued to the TV set in my bedroom. Though mourning the President’s death was a very public event, and so many others were at least as deeply affected as I was, the grief I felt, as I look back on it, seemed very private and very primal.
It was my loss, my wailing seemed to say, and mine alone. Having had the experience of a disintegrated family well before I had the inner resources to cope with it, I was no stranger to loss, or to rudderlessness. So perhaps in some way I saw the first family as my own, or as I wished mine to be. I could imagine what the young children, Caroline and John, might have been feeling, and my heart broke for them. How much I would have liked to console them, as I myself would have wanted to be consoled. In my world, there was no place to find the loving comfort of an adult.