I moved to Los Angeles last spring, just at the end of my first trimester with my third child. I was relieved to find an obstetrician I liked, but I was a little taken aback when I discovered where I was expected to deliver this child.
I was going to give birth in a hospital named after Ronald Reagan.
I was aghast. Ronald Reagan, of all people.
“You know, a lot of people here revere him,” an acquaintance gently informed me. Seriously? All I could think of whenever Reagan’s name came up was the hoards of mentally ill people he condemned to a life on the streets when he kicked them out of hospitals. But, apparently, growing up in California gives one a different perspective, one I couldn’t ever hope to understand.
I was acutely aware of being a stranger in a strange land.
The last year and a half has only underscored that fact. I feel awkward much of the time, a woman out of her culture. The billboards, the earthquakes, the designer sunglasses, and the pedicures all leave me slightly shaken at the end of a long day. It is all so strange, even now. Not better, not worse, but very, very different than Massachusetts, where I grew up, or Philadelphia, my last hometown.
Never have I felt more out of place in Los Angeles than this past week. I emerged from my house Wednesday morning, expecting to see people gathered on street corners, huddled together in mourning for Senator Kennedy. Yet, despite the news coverage, no one seemed particularly bothered.
I brought my son to camp, and people seemed to be going about their daily business. No one was weeping, children weren’t waving little American flags, women weren’t tearing their clothes.
I mourn Senator Kennedy. Yes, he made a mistake in his youth, a tragic mistake. But he devoted his life to serving the people of Massachusetts and the people of the United States. Yes, he was a rich, privileged man, but so was George W., and Senator Kennedy cared a hell of a lot more about the common man than did our esteemed former President. Yes, he let a woman die due to drunkenness or negligence or a concussion. But he spent his life expiating that sin, unlike –say, George W. – who killed a lot more people with his pointless war. And Senator Kennedy tried to make the world a better place.
Bottom line. Ted Kennedy tried to make the world a better place. If that’s all they can say about me on my gravestone, it’ll be more than enough.
To those who are mystified why we are so sad, so bereft at the loss of this man, it must seem as mystifying as the adulation of Ronald Reagan is to me. But I know there are some of you out there reading who understand.