Steve Flores

Sunday, Nov 11 2012 08:00 PM

STEVE FLORES: Grandma, President Kennedy and Thanksgiving Day

By Steve Flores

I couldn't understand why Grandma didn't attend Mass with us on Sunday morning. Like a Marine Corps drill sergeant, she made sure my brothers, sisters and dad, who was a Marine, knew that missing Mass or holy days of obligation was unacceptable in our home.

She was dressed as though she was going, which made it seem all the more strange that she stayed behind that Sunday morning. I thought maybe she just wasn't feeling well.

My maternal Grandma came to live with us after my Mom, Emma, died at age 33 from leukemia. My Grandma helped my Dad, Larry, raise and take care of me and my seven brothers and sisters.

When we got back from church, she was sitting alone in her favorite chair in our small living room. She was still wearing her special flower printed dress she wore for church, family weddings and special occasions. Her pepper-colored hair was beautifully brushed back. Except for the light blue laced apron she was wearing and her favorite well-worn fuzzy house slippers, she was still dressed up as though she were going somewhere special.

I was the first to walk in the door to see her and I know I caught her by surprise. She had her glasses in one hand and one of her beautifully doily white handkerchiefs in the other. She was crying and wiping the tears from her eyes.

It was Nov. 24, 1963. Just two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She was watching the President's funeral procession on our small black-and-white television set.

After his assassination, President Kennedy was brought back to Washington and placed in the East Room of the White House. On the Sunday after the assassination, his flag-draped casket was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state.

This Nov. 22 will mark the 49th anniversary of his assassination.

The 1960s had their fair share of traumatic events. Watching my Grandma cry in our living room was one of them for me. My Grandma died 25 years ago.

It wasn't until many years later that I realized that my Grandma was dressed up that Sunday morning, not for church, but instead for President Kennedy. And although she couldn't be there physically, she would show her respect by dressing for his funeral procession, even though it was from the living room of our Watts Drive home in southeast Bakersfield.

It was several years ago that my wife, Susie, and I had the chance to go to Washington, D.C. It was our first time visiting our nation's capital. There are seemingly countless world-class museums, exhibits and galleries to visit while in Washington, D.C.

Visiting President John F. Kennedy's gravesite was one place where I had to pay my respects for me and, in my own way, for my Grandma.

As Susie and I stood at his gravesite in the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, I had this vision of the President and my grandma standing nearby. As implausible as it is, I imagined her wearing her special flower printed dress with her pepper colored hair beautifully brushed back with President Kennedy's arms draped over her shoulder.

On the upcoming anniversary of his death on Thanksgiving Day, I will have many blessings for which to be thankful. My imaginary memory of my grandma with President Kennedy will be one of them.

-- Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at floressteve32@yahoo.com.

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