I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know
That the world is going to break your heart eventually.
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan
By the time I was about ten or eleven years old, all four of my grandparents were dead and buried, including Mom's mother, Grandma Kelly, who had (I presume) a heart attack while sitting at the dining room table at our home on Canal Road. Jill and I were sitting at the table with her when it occurred. As an event, it so overwhelmed my little boy brain that my principal concern was the beating I anticipated Dad administering to me when he arrived home from work given (a) my proximity to Grandma when it happened; and (b) Jill's status as Dad's favorite. She was "Tiger". I was his big-headed, Phenobarbital-swigging menace. I had little doubt which one of us was going to take the bullet for killing Grandma, which one of us clearly must have done. I feared that Grandma's untimely end was going to serve as the first half of day-night doubleheader in the Kenny home. Thankfully, I was mistaken.
I was fourteen years old when my mother buried my father. Married life for Joanie K. and WPK, Sr. was not idyllic. Not by any stretch of one's imagination or one's vocabulary. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was seized by the difference between what it means to be a child who endures the death of a parent as opposed to what it means to be a spouse who endures the loss of a partner. A child - unless she is a red-headed orphan named Annie - does not choose his/her parents. As a general rule, we become cognizant of who they are and the role played in our day-to-day at some point subsequent to our arrival in their day-to-day. We did not choose them.
It is not the same for husbands and wives. We choose one another. We hitch our little wagons together, metaphorically speaking, and wade off into the Great Unknown, where we do battle with Life, experience its joys, its frustrations and its beautiful rewards.
Sadly, the song is true. "When you find somebody to love in this world, you better hang on tooth and nail. The wolf is always at your door." Sadder still is the fact that irrespective of how hard you fight and how long you hang on, when the wolf moves upon you it ends up through - and no longer merely at - your door.
It is among the most unfair things that the decidedly unfair, rigged game that Life is does to any one of us. And these days, among the people to whom Life is doing it is my sister Evan.
And it sucks.