Parting Glances: Bambi, Roosevelt, JFK, Trump

By Charles Alexander

I recall a New Yorker cartoon that appeared years ago. Picture, if you will: two or three animals are gathered in a sunlit forest. A cute rabbit looks up to a chirpy bird and asks, "Where were you when Bambi's mother died?"

It's a lighthearted way of dealing with memory and mortality, gently posing a question we often ask: "Where were you when so-and-so-big-name died (got run over by a car, was kidnapped, held for ransom, was outed as GOP gay)?"

I was 6 when my mom took me to see Walt Disney's "Bambi." Like hundreds of kids, I cried during the forest fire animation but was reassured that it was only make-believe.

"Bambi's mom is safe in Heaven," she whispered, and I felt secure knowing that there were happy endings in my storybook kingdom. Content, I finished my popcorn treat.

I was 9 when President Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia, April, 1945, weeks before World War II ended. Miss Goodall, our patriotic music teacher, made the sad announcement. We sang "God Bless America."

"I'll bet Hitler's happy," I ventured sagely that night at the dinner table.

"Yes, Charles Jr. But not for very long," smiled my dad.

When Princess Diana died in 1997 I was staying with friends in Chicago. I joined the queue of mourners signing a British Embassy Memorial Book. Princess Di was the epitome of glamour, a fairy tale princess neglected by an inattentive, media charming Prince Charles.

Her AIDS volunteering and compassion set her apart as someone regally special. "What will become of William and Harry?" I wondered. (They turned out reasonably OK.)

Now 50-plus years later I recall President John F. Kennedy's assassination. At the time I was working at Wayne State University, returning from lunch to hear unthinkable news.

Coworkers located a portable TV set, and we huddled in shock, watching stark black-

and-white history unfold moment by tragic moment.

Two days later I witnessed in disbelief as Jack Ruby stepped out of a police-cordoned crowd, pistol blasting Lee Harvey Oswald in the stomach.

"Oh, my God. I can't believe it," I shouted, shaken, sickened by what I saw. Alone in my off-campus apartment.

A year after the assassination I sat next to an Army sergeant named Larry at Detroit's Woodward Bar. He was on leave, stayed the night with me and I gave him my mailing address, promptly forgetting about it. Sobering up the next day.

When Larry was soon discharged, we saw each other often, eventually moving in together. In the course of getting to know Larry, who was very militarily don't ask/don't tell, I learned that he'd been in the Kennedy funeral as an Honor Guard.

He'd accompanied and rifle saluted our Beloved President for Arlington burial. A gay sentinel to history. It was in the forest of yesterday. Nov. 22, 1963. The evil onset of long, brutally chilling winters of lies, cover-ups, accusations, eliminations of many, many possible key witnesses.

Speaking of chilling brutal winters: where might you be hiding in life's petrified political forest when Donald Trump's sworn in next week? (Who knows? Perhaps as president pro tem.)

Charles@pridesource.com
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