Last summer, Joe Biden, in his speech to the Democratic National Convention, described how, as a kid he had been tormented by someone who tormented him about his stuttering. That was so meeeeeeean! It also sounded very familiar and the thought occurred to me: Wasn’t that me?
He referenced his mother’s advice about how to handle the situation and even that sounded familiar because my mother came down on me like a ton of bricks and said something to the effect that his mother had challenged him to fight back when necessary. I think she was implying that if I did it again, little Joe Biden had his mother’s and mine’s permission to flatten me.
Later in his speech he made reference to the wisdom of his father-in-law, Pops Finnegan. Things were coming into focus now. My dad’s best friend was Ambrose Finnegan and both my dad and my Aunt Dorothy were always putting things in perspective by looking at them through the folk wisdom of Pops Finnegan.
Senator Biden ran through a bit of his family history and mentioned that his uncle had died in World War II. My dad’s best friend had died in the South Pacific during World War II. Putting together fragments of stories from long ago, it seems that my dad had dated Ambrose’s sister once or twice before he met my mom. Now, gradually it was becoming clear why my mom and dad didn’t like it if I tormented that particular kid.
Everybody is trying to get a unique story about the new administration in Washington, but if this columnist ever gets the chance to interview Joe Biden’s mom, there would be no “gotcha” questions, only a chance to clarify some family history. It would be (to this columnist) very interesting to get a chance to ask: “What was my dad like as a young man?”
How many on-line columnist will get a chance to ask for such an interview? Well, I could make sure one of my high school classmates (Larry O. SPHS ’61) gets the URL for this column and see if he could fwd it to his close pal, Vice President Joe Biden. No harm in asking, eh?
Since National Columnist’s day (April 18) is fast approaching, it seems unlikely that we can get it all squared away before this year’s tribute to columnists. The date was selected because it was on April 18, 1945, that columnist and war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed in action in the Pacific Theater, during World War II.
When I heard Senator Biden speak my first reaction to the fact that I had been the “mean kid” he mentioned was to wonder if I should express some shame and apologize for the verbal attacks (and make my mother proud?), but then after 35 years of living in Los Angeles, I realized that there was another way of looking at it: If I hadn’t done what I had done, maybe Joe Biden wouldn’t have tried so hard to overcome his stuttering and might not have made the change by challenging himself and becoming a lawyer and Senator.
There’s an old axiom in the Hollywood area: Never be afraid to admit your role in someone else’s success, with that in mind, I can, without any shame, say: “I made Joe Biden the man he is today!”
Not many columnists can say that.
In the past, Vice-President Joe Biden has said: “If your kitchen table is like mine, you sit there at night before you put the kids to bed and you talk about what you need. You talk about how much you are worried about being able to pay the bills. Ladies and gentlemen, that is not a worry John McCain has to worry about. It’s a pretty hard experience. He’ll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at.”
Now, as an inside joke for folks from Scranton, the disk jockey will play “Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas” and we’ll head out for a movie at the State theater, where Blackstone the magician performed. Have a “black diamond” type week.