Morgan Kennedy

Morgan Kennedy was my first in-law, as he married my sister, Liz, in 1959 when I was all of five years old. (Liz was 18 when I was born.) My mother and I were walking to the mailbox one afternoon when she told me Liz was getting married. I asked her what his name was, and then I wanted to know what his job was. Mom told me that Morgan worked for the telephone company. It was a few days later while I was playing with some friends that a repair truck appeared on our street. The whole gang of us watched as the man got into the bucket and was raised to repair the telephone wire. I ran all the way home to breathlessly ask my mother if this is what Morgan did for the telephone company. No, she said, he stays in the office. I was not impressed.

One day some 20 years into his career with the telephone company, Morgan and my sister were driving my mother to a family gathering. About halfway there, Morgan pulled over to the side of the road. He turned the car off, got out of the car, and opened the trunk. Then he appeared at my mother’s window, which by now was rolled down, with an enormous device resembling a phone pressed to his ear. He proceeded to have a conversation with the hostess of his destination to say they were almost there. Then, he put the phone back in its box in the trunk and got back on the road. His mother-in-law was suitably impressed, as were we all awaiting their arrival. That is the ONLY time in his enormously successful career that Morgan Kennedy ever showed off to his in-laws.

Morgan never talked about All That Success. NEVER.  At family gatherings, I could always count on a conversation with Morgan that centered on me, for he would look me right in the eye and ask how things were going and then really listen. When I told him just a little bit of a detail on my current situation, he asked a thoughtful question that allowed me to talk some more about myself, and he would keep looking me in the eye, really listening, asking another good question. I don’t know about your family gatherings, but someone like this is a Real Gem at mine. I always looked forward to my holiday chat with Morgan. Who wouldn’t?

And if he wasn’t listening to you, Morgan was making you laugh. The wet-your-pants kind of laughter.

It was three years ago during the summer that I visited Morgan and Liz in their retirement home near the Jersey Shore. Another sister, Anna, had joined us there for this annual summer rendezvous. Anna and Liz decided that after lunch on Saturday they wanted to drive to a town on the Jersey shore and try to find the house that Mom and Dad had rented for the family vacation one summer.  This would have been in the late thirties/early fourties….I know, I know, but they wanted to see if they could find it and we really had nothing else to do.

Liz drove, Morgan sat shotgun, and Anna and I were in the backseat.  Anna is one year older than Liz, so they grew up side by side, close confidants. When they get together now, both in the 80’s, they quickly go back to when they were girls.   So there we were,  immersed in Jersey Shore summer weekend traffic looking for a house from seventy years ago. As Liz was concentrating on her driving, Anna took over with the reminiscing.

The only drawback to this otherwise delightful scenario (I love to listen to Anna & Liz stories) is that my sister Anna can often get bogged down in extraneous details she cannot remember when she is telling a story. This is what happened that afternoon. There were, apparently,  two women who were staying in the house across the street from the house we were looking for.  These two women had done something peculiar while walking to the beach one day and Anna was trying to tell us about it. However, she got all bogged down in trying to remember the colors of the first woman’s bathing suit.

After an agonizing five minutes that seemed like an hour of this, Anna finally sorted though that detail and started to go on to tell us what these two women did that was so peculiar. AT LAST I thought to myself – we might actually get to the end of this story. But Morgan, who had been sitting so quietly up there in shotgun, interrupted Anna and said:

But Anna, what color was the other woman’s bathing suit?

There were a few seconds of silence before we all cracked up. Anna, bless her heart, is always the first one to see the humor in herself.  After that, the traffic did not seem so bad; in fact, it did not even matter. The four of us were having a grand old time in the car, thanks to Morgan Kennedy.

Of my seven children my parents bought into this world,  I was the last to marry. This gave my husband the distinguished honor of being the last inductee into the “out-laws”, as our brothers and sisters -in-law were referred to. It can be a little intimidating the first time you are among an Irish gang like ours.  Morgan went out of his way to make my husband feel not only welcome, but a greatly needed addition to the out-laws. He has always remembered Morgan for that kindness. However, the acid test for any in-law is their facial expression when a brother or sister -in-law is looking at your sibling.  When Morgan looked at Liz, there was nothing on his face but total respect coupled with deep love. 

I am going to miss Morgan very much.  I know his passing will catch me off guard at the strangest of times, as it does with my other lost friends and family.  The Irish say that sooner or later we all wind up to be stories. Morgan has left us with some damn good ones. 

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