I can remember John Kennedy’s inaugural speech as clearly as if it were yesterday. Of course it wasn’t yesterday or even the day before.
It was a long time ago when such rhetoric had more impact.
The memory of that speech came to me on Wednesday afternoon as I sat in the lovely old Presbyterian Church in Cazenovia. I was there to celebrate the life of Nancy Skoglund, my son-in-law’s grandmother.
I had the privilege of spending a few hours with her six years ago. We were attending a bridal shower for my daughter. She was the grand dame at the event, dressed impeccably in a way that made me feel at home. The things that I had learned about etiquette and appropriate attire as a girl has long been discarded as passé, but not for her. She brought something of elegance that is so often lacking today.
Nanny, as everyone called her, left this world shortly after her 94th birthday, and in the church, filled with family and friends, she was eulogized for her kindness, her prowess as a cook, a baker, once baking 16 cakes for someone’s birthday, a confidant, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and great grandmother.
He oldest granddaughter told us of wonderful summer days on her porch with sandwiches and tea made in the tea set that she had as a girl, of sheets dried on the line and then tightly tucked in for good nights.
Her son-in-law, my daughter’s father-in-law, described the passage of time and changes that marked her long life, the momentous changes she had seen, had lived through, and with which she coped beautifully.
She was born, he said, shortly before the Bolshevik revolution and so she saw the rise and fall of Communism, she lived through two world wars and the many other acts of belligerence to which the world has gravitated since her birth. She lived through boom times and the Great Depression, raised her family and saw the birth of great grandchildren.
Within that eulogy was the unspoken strength of a woman who prevailed through changing fortunes and times.
She, like all of us, had to come to grips with things as mundane as changing clothing fashions and the earthquake of dramatically altered social mores. What was considered immoral is now moral; what was moral … and so on.
She was her own person, secure in her view of the world, dedicated to her family and her church. I’m pretty sure that she was not a Democrat, but I do believe that the call that Kennedy sent out all those many years ago, a call that resonates less in a world that prizes the bottom line rather than actions generated from traditional values, I do believe, listening to her loved ones, that Nancy would agree that it’s not what others can do for you, but what you can do for them because that is how she lived her life.
I remember so clearly that during that bridal shower, dressed as she was in a lovely navy blue outfit, I had the feeling that, although her hands were bare, I felt that she was wearing white gloves.