The Parakeet and the President

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Strange how history repeats itself.

Fifty years ago my husband and I were in a pet store on Division Street in Blytheville looking at parakeets for sale.

I was entertaining buying a parakeet for myself. It was a pretty blue one that took my eye.

Suddenly a man entered the store and announced, "The president has been shot."

We were shocked, stunned into silence.

The man continued, "He was shot in Dallas. He may be dead."

We immediately left the store and headed for home, the idea of buying a parakeet forgotten.

We wanted to watch the unfolding news on our television set.

The shooting of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was told and retold as we watched....the First Lady in her pink Chanel suit and a smiling president arriving in Dallas aboard Air Force One. Mrs. Kennedy holding a large bouquet of red roses. The president greeting dignitaries who were in the greeting party.

Then the midday motorcade ride through Dallas Streets as hundreds along the route wave and photograph the president and those in the presidential limousine.

Then shots ring out and the faces of those people who line the street turn from smiles to horror and disbelief. There is a flurry of activity as the wounded president is whisked away to a nearby hospital. Word spreads quickly that something has gone terribly wrong.

Many spectators cover their faces and cry. Weeping mothers cling to their children as everyone waits for news of the president.

Finally, word from the doctors and priests. The president is dead.

America would never be the same. Life for Jacqueline Kennedy and the two surviving children would never be the same, forever altered by the actions of an assassin.

My husband and I sat in our living room, reeling at the horrific news.

Later we watch the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald that same day.

Then we watch, unbelieving, as he is gunned down two days later by Jack Ruby in the crowded hallway of the police station.

This is not a recreation, as we watch the unexpected shooting and death of Oswald. This is live television.

Today, 50 years later, I watched documentaries and reruns of the assassination and burial of our beloved 35th president.

The same footage I had seen a half century ago was re-shown over and over again as people of America commemorated the life and death of President Kennedy. Dead at age 46 years.

Ironically, one of the president's favorite poems was I have a Rendezvous with Death by Alan Seeger, an American World War I poet.

It partly reads,

I have a rendezvous with Death

On some scarred slope of battered hill

When Spring comes round again this year

And the first meadow-flowers appear.

I've a rendezvous with Death

At midnight in some flaming town.

When Spring trips north again this year.

And I to my pledged word am true.

I shall not fail that rendezvous.

The retelling this week of the assassination of the president was all the same.

There was nothing new, except a doubt cast that there is more to the story....more unanswered questions despite the FBI and Warren Commission's Report saying that Oswald was the lone shooter; the lone assassin.

Newsmen retell the story. What would America be like today if President Kennedy had lived to continue his reign as America's president?

Would history tell a different story? Would he have ended the Vietnam War?

Then a strange twist.

It is my birthday this month. My daughter arrives at my door carrying a large cardboard box.

Inside the box is a tall oval shaped object covered by a bathroom towel.

She places the box on my dining room table, and then removes the towel.

There in a small cage is a blue parakeet, my birthday present.

A coincidence?

My daughter has no idea that 50 years ago I had been in a pet store looking at parakeets.

How strange that she should decide that a blue bird would be the appropriate gift for me this year.

Life moves in mysterious ways, doesn't it?