Friday, October 24, 2014

Sticks and Tones

Serendipity is often times defined or explained as "a happy accident".  It is not necessarily an easy term to use in one's day-to-day.  However, given that 24 October is a date on the calendar marked by two events that appear to be wholly dissimilar from one another, today is a day on which I can in fact find a use for it.  

For those keeping score at home, today is United Nations Day.  It was on this very day sixty-nine years ago that the United Nations formally came into existence.  Parking in Manhattan has never been the same.  

It was also on this very day not quite sixty-nine years ago that the third child/second son of WPK, Sr. and Joanie K. was born.  By my best guess, today my brother Kelly celebrates the "Heinz" of birthdays, which conclusion I have reached through nothing more inane that calculating the difference between our respective high school graduation years and then adding that number to the age I shall be on my next birthday.  Any questions?  

The Kenny Men are - unlike the people who willed the UN into existence - not known for our diplomatic prowess.  When I was a boy, Dad used to tell me, "Life is not a popularity contest.  And if it is, we are not winning it."  It was advice that not only did I take to heart but - based upon my knowledge of them - both of my older brothers did as well.  

Norman Rockwell would not have painted a portrait of the Kenny Family.  Orwellian?  Perhaps. Rockwellian?  Not at all.  We the people who share the DNA do not always see eye-to-eye.  It is what it is.  

My brother Kelly is not - as I am - a man of words.  He is, instead, a man of actions.  A lifetime ago, before my hair went gray and before he and Linda had added the prefix "Grand" to their title "Parents", I worked for Kelly.  To say we did things at a fast pace would be an understatement.  He simply never stopped moving from the beginning of the day until the end.  And other than the occasional Sunday (and Christmas) off, he worked on every day of the week that ended in "y".  

Since he does not talk a great deal, those who know him know to pay attention to what he says.  Last Saturday Margaret and I spent a considerable portion of our evening in the company of several of my old friends.  The conversation turned from one topic to another until at one point I was telling a story about my father and about the morning that he died.  One of my most vivid memories of that horrible day - thirty three and one-half years later - was Kelly's brief yet forceful telephone conversation with Dad's brother, Jim.  No one - including Dad - liked him and it was for that reason (along with the fact he was some sort of broken down Parish priest) that we consciously referred to him as "Father Jim".  No one in our family ever confused him for a second with the universally adored "Uncle Jim", who was Mom's brother. 

Father Jim was not only an unpleasant douche bag to be around but he was also the kind of being that once you allowed him to enter your home you could not rid yourself of with anything short of an exorcism.  The thing about a leech is that once it sucks onto a host organism, it rides it to the bell - and beyond.  Father Jim was no different.   Within a few hours of Dad's death, word of his dying somehow reached his ne'er-do-well brother in suburban Illinois.  

The Prodigal Padre's worst sin was that he was perpetually rude to Mom.  He disrespected her every time he was under her roof.  So, when the phone rang in the kitchen of the home where Dad had died only hours earlier and Father Jim began barking orders to whoever had answered it regarding what airline he was going to be arriving on, what time he was coming in and what was needed for him in terms of accommodations, Kelly took control of the phone.  In a conversation that lasted - by my recollection - less than one minute and consisted of fewer than fifty spoken words, Kelly informed Father Jim that he was not welcome in our home on that day or any day and that if he dared show up at Mom's doorstep, the opportunity to get some face time with his boss and maker was going to present itself.  

Conversation concluded, Kelly hung up the phone.  Father Jim did not come that day.  He never came in fact.  He never again bothered his sister-in-law.  Mom never again had to deal with that preening asshole.  

While I remain convinced that there is no real connection whatsoever between Kelly's birthday and United Nations Day, there is in fact a template for the type of "Irish diplomacy" practiced by my brother.  It is found however not in the era of Roosevelt, Franklin but, instead, in the era of Roosevelt, Theodore... 




...and so far, he has.  Here's to celebrating the miles covered to date and those that shall unroll before him in the year ahead.  

-AK 

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