Saturday, June 26, 2010

A tribute from a neighborhood icon

Len Simon is a remarkable guy. He has handled the stewardship of the Edgemoor Citizen's Association for many years with incredible grace and skill. We have a lot of very bright, very opionionated people in our neighborhood so a discussion about sidewalks or dog etiquette can become quite passionate. Watching Len let everyone be heard while maintaining dignity and decorum is like watching an artist at work. He has also given me some precious Thai memories that I will always treasure. Each year, Len, his wife, and his sons organize a summer musical complete with props, live musical accompaniment, and uneven, but always earnest, performers from the neighborhood. Over the last two years, people learned something that I have long known from car trips and showers: Thai has a beautiful voice. I was so proud of him after he nailed duets from "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Oklahoma" with Julie Mack, a professional jazz singer. "Thai Bennet" became his new nickname. (Thanks Bob) I thought those duets with Julie would become an annual tradition, but alas it was not to be. Thanks, Len, for the memories. Here's Len's wonderful tribute:

The great writer Mary McGrory emerged from President Kennedy’s funeral, on the arm of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and said, “Pat, I’m afraid we’ll never be happy again.” He responded – “Mary, we’ll be happy. We’ll just never be young again”. That’s a bit of how I feel today about Thai. Something young and vibrant has been taken from us, and we will not see its likes again. His passing, for us, is a point of demarcation. You felt so good around him – the energy and enthusiasm. How can it be replaceable?

But Thai will be frozen in time. I sometimes feel that John and Robert Kennedy remain the icons they are because they never got old. No grey hairs, soft flesh, aching joints for them. Or for Thai. He will remain forever young, bright energetic and smiling, a standard against which all of us will measure ourselves, and come up a bit short. But the trying will matter.

What on heaven or earth was God thinking? What did he have in mind -- isn’t this a savage act –to take the best of us? The answer to that is unknowable to us. And yet we can already see God’s invisible hand. I know that in the last 15 days, we don’t complain as much, we try to be more patient, we impart acts of kindness to others more quickly – think of Thai. Think of what he would do. Think of what he can’t do now.

And you know what – here we all are. Can we stay together? Can we transition from strangers to neighbors to friends? Thai wants to know. He’s looking.

When Cal Ripken retired, he was asked: “How did you want to be remembered?” He replied, “How ? -- It is enough to be remembered at all.” Thai will be remembered. There is an entire neighborhood that will take care of that. And none of the McGreivy’s will ever be far from our thoughts or our activities. Boys: You are all our sons now.

The night before he died, Dr. King said: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life - longevity has its place”. I know all of us here would have loved nothing more that to see Thai at 50, 60, 70, 80 and beyond – each of us would have traded blood and years to make that happen.

There was once a good man named Paul Tsongas. And just like Thai, he tried to make it a better world. And just like Thai, he died very young, with young children, about 15 years ago. Recently, I have come to know his daughter Katina, who was not that much older than Nick is now when her Dad died. So on Saturday, I asked her, “Do you have a message for the McGreivy boys?"
She said, “Don’t be afraid of your pain. And don’t be afraid to express your love. Put your Dad beside you”. All of us who have lost a parent knows, they go to a different place, but never truly go away.

On Sunday I visited the memorial in Oklahoma City, where 168 people died in a bombing in 1995. The most profound part of the experience was listening to a woman who survived, and a woman who lost her sister in the bombing and then went on to raise her three children. They both had the same message: Nothing we do changes the past. Everything we do changes the future.

In times when the right words elude you, when you cannot bring forth the sentiments you wish to express, if you turn to Shakespeare, you will almost always find what you need. And so from Romeo and Juliet, comes a passage that reads as if it was written to Thai:

When he shall die,

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