Not the Same Kennedy

Do you mentor?

Do you mentor?

Few of us are born with an inaccurately low self-esteem, but the potential is there for disordered self-image. I may have inherited my mother’s negative opinion of personal abilities (hers and mine), but the passing of the flaw was socio-cultural, not biological. How I got that way is unimportant. What is important is that while humility may be a good thing, too often people miss much in life because they found their way to the “I’m not good enough, I can’t, I am too scared, or nobody loves me” quagmire.

Jack was my teenage friend, and the first to motivate my turnaround from I cannot, to I can. I’ve met others who helped me see my greater potential to achieve. They always came into my life at the right time. My post on synchronicity tackled the phenomenon. Some are still involved in my life, and some inspirational souls have recently landed in my patch of life.

When I first met Hilton M. Kennedy he was a Master Sergeant in the US Air Force, and he would soon be my boss and direct supervisor. The man I eventually called Ken, but many called Mac, had olive colored skin, lots of jet black hair, was several inches shorter than I, and smoked too many Salem cigarettes. I don’t know if Ken was a hyper-active child, but he was one for the most effervescent men I had met. Ten years my senior, Ken reeked enthusiasm. Other than being married, where we worked, and the Air Force, we had little in common, at first.

Ken’s personality included talking fast, a trait one seldom finds in a Louisiana native. I enjoyed our many chats where he made me believe that he was interested in me, and that I would have a successful future. Many of those discussions were accompanied by measured amounts of fine liquor. Living in Ankara, Turkey, ensured financial advantages for Americans in the late sixties. Of course, fine liquor required equally fine cigars.

Do what?

Do what?

I began to see good changes in myself. I was becoming more confident. My self-opinion and hopes began to unfold from whatever dark recess of my mind they were held captive. I attribute any success and goodness in my life to many people, some from my past and some in my life today, some from almost 50 years ago. Hilton Kennedy was the right guru at the right time in my life.

We became personal friends and our families got close as he kept tabs on my career following the end of my enlistment and his eventual retirement. We went to visit him, and he and his wife visited our home. Eventually, our relationship was more friendship and less his being my mentor and advisor. One of the last times I saw him, my wife and I were guests of he and his wife in Rome, New York. He played the harmonica and I thought all was well. But it was not to be.

To remember a friend

To remember a friend

In the late eighties, I learned that my friend and mentor had been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a dreadful genetic illness with no cure. The mental  and physical degradation was disastrous for someone who was such a fast-paced, high-stepper in life.

It was horrible. I didn’t know what to do, what to think, or how to feel. While I felt bad for him and his family, I regretted the worlds loss of one of the good ones. Fortunately, the regressive disease was stopped when Ken died of a heart attack at the age of 55. I faced the loss feeling that any suffering by Ken and his family was aborted.

Ken has been gone for over 25 years. I remember, and I’m grateful for that man being in my life and the difference he made in me simply by believing in me, showing his faith in me, and his eventual friendship.

Look both ways every day.
You may be the long remembered difference is someone’s life.
But, mind the gaps.

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10 thoughts on “Not the Same Kennedy

  1. People that have “touched” others live on, directly in our memories and indirectly through our actions and how our actions related to the people around us.
    Other than my great parents, I have had a few in my life that have shown me how to overcome. I can not thank them enough and do it often when I see them. I see my buddy Jim weekly and let him know how thankful I am to have his wisdom and outlook in my life, enough that it may be to the point of to much if there is such a thing.

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  2. A beautiful tribute to your mentor and friend. We should all be so fortunate to have the guidance of a mentor in our personal and professional lives. When the mentor relationship transcends to a life-long friendship, well … that is a true blessing.

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  3. I have vivid, lovely memories from Ankara. And one of the people I spent time with there died tragically — 23 years ago (and the Air Force was involved). I do think there’s a reason you have come into my life, sir. You’re making me consider things, I’ve long forgotten. Everything happens for a reason.

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  4. If there is a somewhere, Bill, Im sure he knows how important he was (and is) to you. And you must have made a difference for him as well, (it does happen) or there would have not been such a friendship.
    The best relationships are like that, aren’t they. Without straining, they work for both sides and it’s a marvelous thing to see, and to be in.

    In RL I have always gravitated to much older women, not sure why, and I’ve learned a great deal from all of them. The last one was a weaver, and she encouraged me to become one. And two writers, who bolstered my shaky ego when it came to poetry. It does help to hear the good stuff, as well as the crits.

    Anyone who has a mentor that is also a friend is blessed indeed.

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  5. lovely story. My husband had a sergeant like that. He was a Vietnam vet, was redneck, uncouth and he came to our wedding. He also told my husband that he would have made a good officer and he would have been proud to be with him back in the jungles. My husband, and others in the reserve unit shortsheeted the sarge at one summer camp. They heard “What, what….goddamned sons a bitches” and gales of laughter.

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  6. I was going to say the world needs more Kens, but I bet we’re probably all someone’s Ken-like person, for some spell of time. I am glad he influenced you and that you honor his memory with us.

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