When I was ten I could never have imagined being fifty years older. To my young self it seemed an unimaginable, unbearable thing to be old. I was sure that I'd never see it. Nor did I care, because back then, even being twice ten, seemed aeons into the future.
My father would have been 44, my mother 37, John F. Kennedy was 46 and his wife Jacqueline 34. Irish Catholics were, at that time, tremendously proud of President Kennedy. It seemed a great thing to my parents' generation that an Irish-American Catholic was the 35th President of the United States of America. We Catholics might be getting treated as second-class citizens in Northern Ireland but, at least, one of our own was the leader of the free world.
It was dark when the news came. Daddy was feeding cattle in the byre and Mammy sent me out to tell him. I knew it was serious news but was still surprised at Daddy's reaction.
President Kennedy has been shot.
His poor face crumpled with dismay.
After the assassination Kennedy's portrait was hung in many an Irish home. Our neighbours even had a portrait of Pope John the 23rd, JFK and Bobby Kennedy, all in profile, hung in their kitchen. As the younger Kennedy died 5 years later I must have been 15 or 16 and I remember thinking it was terribly kitsch.
Time passed and the Kennedy lustre faded. As rumours and scandal emerged the Kennedy icons were quietly removed from kitchen walls. I was far too young to revere the family so experienced none of the disappointment that the older folk felt.
It used to be said, do you remember where you were when you heard the news that Kennedy was shot? I surely do. It takes me right back to the Murphystown Road, on a cold dark November evening when the warmth and light of our Irish-American dream began to evaporate. A strange time for a child. Two evenings later and we were visiting the McAuleys and the grown ups were full of the news. The television was switched on to see the latest and it was then that I saw that Kennedy's alleged assassin had himself been shot and killed whilst in police custody.