Morgan Kennedy: Personal Eulogy

One Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, Morgan, and my sister, Liz, were driving my mother to the family gathering. Halfway there, Morgan parked on the side of the road, got out of the car, and opened the trunk. Then, he appeared at my mother’s window, which by now was rolled down. He held a large rectangular box to his ear and proceeded to have a conversation with the hostess of the Thanksgiving gathering to say that we were almost there. Then, he put this device into its box in the trunk and got back on the road. His mother-in-law was suitably impressed, as were all the rest of the gang awaiting their arrival. That is the ONLY time in his enormously successful career with the telephone company that Morgan Kennedy ever showed off to his in-laws.

Morgan never talked about his work. NEVER.  Quite the opposite. At family gatherings, I could 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 listen. When I told him a 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.

Three years ago I visited Morgan and Liz in their retirement home near the New Jersey Shore. Another sister, Anna, had joined us there for this annual summer rendezvous. Anna and Liz decided after lunch on Saturday to drive to a town on the Jersey shore in order to find the house that Mom and Dad had rented for the family vacation one summer.  This vacation would have been in the late 1930’s, early 40’s. I know, I know, that house is long gone, 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 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, crawling along  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.

Anna can often get bogged down in extraneous details she cannot remember when she is telling a story. This is what happened that afternoon. Her story involved two older 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 color of the first woman’s bathing suit.

After an agonizing five minutes that seemed like an hour, Anna finally remembered it was blue with pink trim, and she began to proceed with her story.  Morgan, who had been sitting quietly in shotgun through all this, interrupted my sister and said:

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

After a few seconds of silence, the car erupted in laughter. Anna, the sibling dearest to each of us, 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.  The Irish say that sooner or later we all wind up stories. Morgan has left us with some damn good ones.  

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