50 Years After The Assassination Of JFK – The Day Our Parents Grew Old

Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2013

I knew exactly what I was going to write when I sat down to share my thoughts 50 years after the assassination of President Kennedy.

That is until I watched a CBS Sunday Morning report by commentator Bill Flanagan and suddenly saw the event, the crisis, through my parents’ eyes.

I am a Baby Boomer, and with that I can say the words; I remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot. As a matter of fact, we Boomers have embraced that particular statement and used it to discount anyone who was too young to understand our angst in a world gone haywire.

Our generation sealed those moments into a capsule, together, forever excluding anyone outside of that time.

That moment in time, frozen for me in black-and-white images, has formed my psyche, my beliefs. We Boomers have that bit of historical weight to throw around.

But then…

Something happened a few days ago that changed my outlook after all these years. I’m feeling sadder for a different generation.  After watching CBS Sunday Morning, I started thinking more of my parents and less of myself.

Everyone who remembers those moments, those days in 1963, will be able to recount the horror. I was 10 years old, had actually just turned 10 the day before, when the news came. I understood enough to know the enormity of the event. I remember feeling sad. I remember knowing somehow that everything changed.  I believed our President and his young family were safe.  And now that belief was shattered.

My parents had their world changed forever, too.  They were safe and secure in the knowledge that they had created a perfect post World War II world just as America asked. They now stood stunned… and old.  My parents, and all those young men and women who came home from the war to start a new life suddenly felt old. They lost their youth.

Remembering my Mom and Dad as the events unfolded – the shooting, then the announcement that President Kennedy was dead, then the swearing in of President Johnson standing next to Mrs. Kennedy in her blood stained suit, then the days of recounting the details, and finally, the funeral procession – I now understand their sinking hearts.

The excitement of the ‘nation building’ of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the excitement of Camelot and the young family (just like our family, and so many others), came to a horrible, tragic, and scary end.

My Mom and Dad saw their youth disappear in one weekend.

Like so many parents, they looked at their home and their kids and thought about how the dream they had for the future was just…  gone.

Kennedy kids in the white houseThe Kennedy white house brought along with it a promise. My parents were excited for the changes to come. It didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or Republican; all of America could feel the electricity of what was ahead.

Camelot was about MY parents believing that there was change coming – excitement – whether it was space exploration or new roads or the Peace Corps or jobs or kids or housing, there was something YOUNG and EXCITING about Jack and Jackie Kennedy. They were what the American family wanted.

Youth Exuberance Children Beauty Elegance Family Dedication Exploration Home Country

I was 10 years old when it happened. I grew up knowing dreams are fragile.

My parents were living in an era where youth and excitement were part of the fabric of their post war lives.

And that excitement was gone in a flash.

Looking back 50 years, for the first time in my life I see the assassination of John F. Kennedy through my parents’ eyes.

Thank you for reading.

p.s.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.  I look forward to learning about your experience.

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12 Responses to
“50 Years After The Assassination Of JFK – The Day Our Parents Grew Old”

  • Peggy says: November 22nd, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Interesting. I was only 3 at the time so I don’t have any memory of it. I’ve never talked to my parents about it or wondered where they were, what they thought of it or how their perspectives changed, but I will now.

    Thanks.

  • Patti says: November 22nd, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Thank YOU, Peggy. Isn’t it interesting to think how our perspective changes as we get older? I think more about how my parents felt about the world now than I ever did before. Sadly, they are no longer here to talk to about their experiences. If you have the opportunity, it would be really cool to find out where your parents were and how they felt, especially since you were 3 years old, about the same age as the Kennedy children. That might have been chilling for your parents.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. It was nice to see your smiling face again!

  • Helene Cohen Bludman says: November 22nd, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Interesting to think about how our parents felt, beyond the shock and sadness. Enjoyed reading your post.

  • Patti says: November 22nd, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you, Helene. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. It is interesting, isn’t it.

  • Kay Lynn says: November 22nd, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I saw Bill Flanagan’s piece Sunday and agree that the assassination deflated the optimism of a generation instantly. It wasn’t my parents though; it was their parents’ (President Kennedy was the same age as my grandparents).

    The generation that fought World War II and came back to a booming America with lots of promise. Great story!

  • Patti says: November 22nd, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Kay Lynn. I surely appreciate it. Yes, that post WWII optimism and all the exuberance our nation felt was definitely deflated. We were all changed in an instant. Thank you again for stopping by, Kay Lynn.

  • Lisa Winkler says: November 22nd, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Well said, Patti.

  • Patti says: November 22nd, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Thank you, Lisa. 🙂

  • Ute Goldkuhle says: November 23rd, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Patti, your post and thoughtful reflection stimulated me last night to share my memory of that day. I realized that we don’t talk enough about our reflections and impacts of times past with our children or younger community. You again brought it out so well how indeed we become wiser as we walk the journey of life and find significance in our stepping stones behind us. Thank you, Patti, for another meaningful and beautiful contribution!

  • Patti says: November 25th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    **blush** Thank you, Ute, for your lovely compliment. And thank you for taking the time to read, comment, and reflect. As kids, we are naturally self-centered, in the true sense of the word; “centered on self.” Perhaps the years add empathy. Perhaps the years add comprehension. It’s probably a combination of the two. Certainly we can’t feel empathy for our parents until we can comprehend what they experienced. And, that can only come as we reach the same age. Sharing our thoughts with our kids is a good first step, but, sadly, they won’t ‘get it’ until they reach our age. Well, maybe that’s not a sad thing… maybe youth should not be burdened with what we understand as we grow older. More thoughts to ponder… 😉

    Thanks again, Ute, for your kind words and for taking the time to read my ramblings. I surely appreciate YOU!

  • Nancy Hill says: November 23rd, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Interesting. I don’t think my parents felt that a perfect world was ended with the assassination, their world got harder with each year as it did for all small farmers who fought the corporatisation trend, but I know they felt that an evil had been done and that world was worse off. The glistening ease of wealth that the Kennedys portrayed was not real for scarcely any of America. The harsh reality of reality came to our lives that day via the televised violence that has been so normal in our lives today.

  • Patti says: November 25th, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, the televised violence that day was certainly the start of seeing such a harsh reality played out right in front of our eyes. Never before did we experience that visual. An evil was done that day and we all SAW it. And, yes, I agree; that glistening ease of wealth definitely was NOT reality for most of us – certainly not for our family. But the youth… that was something I knew my parents saw in the Kennedy White House. The kids. My parents most certainly mourned the loss of those moments.

    Thank you again, Nancy. It was a pleasure reading your comment.

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