Sunday, March 29, 2009
It was so cool to be on our own with our friends in Washington, D.C. for Spring Break. It was the first time in our young lives our parents had given us so much responsibility. When Trevor and Kurt had told us they were going with their parents to Washington for Spring Break, David and I were so jealous but then we talked our parents into letting us go too, then all our little brothers wanted to go, and Trevor’s little brother’s best friend, Paul, wanted to go. Before we knew it, we had eight teenage boys all wanting to go to D.C. for Spring Break. Trevor’s folks were great about the whole thing, although my parents anteed up for the extra expenses and they made all the travel arrangements including a hired limo to ferry us all around.
Then catastrophe! An emergency came up at work a few days before we were set to leave. Trevor’s parents couldn’t go. We were all devastated until Trevor’s parents decided we could all go anyway. Wow! After all, Trevor was almost seventeen, David and I were almost sixteen and we’d always been responsible and all, and even Kurt was responsible for a fifteen-year-old. They hired a chaperone in addition to the limo driver, ’cause with four thirteen-year-olds, one of ’em with Down’s syndrome, we could use a little help keeping ’em in line.
We were touring Arlington National Cemetery, visiting the gravesite of John F. Kennedy when, out of the blue, Paul asked, “Why was President Kennedy buried here instead of in his home state?” I really liked the way Paul had of asking simple questions. The Down’s syndrome gave him a much simpler perspective on things that let him ask questions no one else would think to wonder about, you know?
Our chaperone and tour guide answered, “That’s a very good question, Paul, and I’m very glad you asked it. You’re right . . . most presidents are buried in their home states but Jack Kennedy is buried here along with our nation’s war heroes, and that’s because in many ways he was one of our nation’s heroes. For one thing, he was a real World War II war hero, having served as a PT boat captain and having put his life in danger in the service of his country. He was entitled to a military burial here at Arlington based on that alone, but that was only part of the reason.
“Much more than that was the way that he died. Kennedy was one of only a handful of presidents who were assassinated while in office. Of those assassinated, McKinley was a good man, but not that distinguished and he was quickly overshadowed by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, was certainly one of America’s greatest presidents but, at the time, America was recovering from civil war. He was despised in the South and many people, even in the North, just wanted to move on and put his presidency behind them. Franklin Roosevelt was our first true superstar president but he died of natural causes. Jack Kennedy was our first true martyr in chief. It was largely his family’s decision that his remains belonged to all the people of America and not just to the state of Massachusetts.”
Suddenly, Paul got this real strange, distant look on his face and looked right at David and said, “You’ll be buried here, too, David.”
Looking up at Paul, I said, “Wha . . . what do you mean?”
“David’s gonna be buried here, just like President Kennedy,” he said again. “He’ll be a war hero, too, only not as a soldier. . . .”
Well that sure as hell didn’t make any sense but then Paul turned to me and said, “You’ll both be volunteers with the American Red Cross in Central America when war breaks out. You’ll save many lives and get the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
My mouth hung open but it was Sammy who asked, “How do you know all that, Paul?”
Paul answered, “I dunno, Sammy. I just know is all . . . just like I know David’s gonna be president, an’ he’s gonna be buried right over there.”
Paul was pointing to a clearing and we all started walking toward it as if we were drawn to it by a magnet. I don’t know why we did . . . even our guide walked with us. The view was spectacular from there - we had a perfect view of the river and the major Washington landmarks just beyond, with the Washington Monument towering above them all. As I stood there, I had a sense of foreboding. I could almost sense that I would one day stand on this very spot and look out across this very view as millions, or perhaps even billions waited for me to speak.
David came up to me and took my hand in his. “I know it seems crazy, but I sense it too, Jer. History will be made here. Perhaps because of Paul’s Down’s syndrome, he can see it more easily than the rest of us, but I think we can all feel something.”
Grabbing David in a tight bear hug, I cried on his shoulder and said, “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Believe me, I don’t want to lose you, either, but whatever happens, I think it’s prolly gonna happen for a reason, and it’s not gonna happen for a very, very long time. Look, we got a good thirty or forty years together ahead of us, so let’s not worry about the future just yet. If and when I’m buried here someday, what you say and do on that day may well be more important than all the things I ever do in my lifetime.”
“I somehow doubt that,” I replied.
“Don’t be so sure, Jer,” my lover said. “Before we met, I was a lost soul. You helped me to be who I am today and, more importantly, it’s your ideals . . . your values . . . that have shaped my life since we met. After all, my parents are Republicans,” he said, seemingly gagging on the word. “You live in a humongous mansion and, yet, you’ve shown me humility, charity and selflessness like none other. Thanks to you, I’ve learned the value of public service. I would have never conceived of a life in politics, had it not been for you.
“Remember, Jer, it was you who thought we should come out in the first place. That fateful decision has shaped our lives ever since.”
“God, Dave, I was just being selfish at the time . . . after all, I was pretty much already out and, as they say, misery loves company,” I admitted. “Now I kinda feel like a jerk.”
“No, Jer, you were just being practical. People woulda figured it out when we started hanging together, anyway. The bottom line is that I love you, and we should just enjoy today and not worry about tomorrow until tomorrow comes . . .”
Thank You for Reading!
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