Is It Because of Ted Kennedy I Carry An Awl in My Car?...

Courtesy Reddit
I live in land-locked Alberta, Canada, prairies to my east, rolling hills and Rockies to my west…not exactly Lake Country…and sure as Hell not Eastern seaboard Massachusetts.

But here I am, some 48 years later, being the proud owner of a solid steel awl, forced into the glove compartments of cars, loved ones and I have owned, for nigh on as long as I can remember.

Yes. An awl. A pointy steel tool one can use to break car windshield glass.

And I will never know if that would have kept Mary Jo Kopechne alive.

It’s tough to stab glass if you’re knocked unconscious and your male escort swims ashore and leaves the scene.

And I will never know if Ted fled or tried to save that young woman.

You’re thinking, Why bring up Chappaquiddick now? It had nothing to do with you, an event concerning people you never knew.

As an aside: my mother refused to let me see the movie Jaws when it first came out, fearing I’d end my love affair with swimming.

She forgot about Chappaquiddick.

Something about the land yachts my parents generation drove. Something about going off narrow roads, into water, in the dead of night.

Something about the impossibility of breaking car glass, and something about how painful drowning is said to be.

Makes a rubber shark filmed at Universal Studios seem trite.

Those images of Ted’s 1967 Olds Delmont 88.

Courtesy Newport Buzz
Those TV network video shots of cops on site being interviewed, of the funeral of Mary Jo, of how Kennedy’s seems to be present whenever disaster hits.
  • Joe Jr. —bomber explodes over the English Channel during top secret mission in WWII
  • Rosemary — frontal lobotomy, rest of her life spent in mental hospitals
  • Kathleen — air plane accident with husband over French Riviera in 1948
  • John — assassinated
  • Bobby — assassinated
  • Teddy — Chappaquiddick
And that’s just the short list of the Kennedy First Generation.
Not a curse, mind, just a recipe: wealth + a sense of invincibility = disaster

Back to water…and the need to escape.

Someone, unknown to me now, said that the best way to break windshield glass: use an awl.
So I carry it in the side pocket of my driver’s side door, you know, just in case I come upon a Kennedy…or water…or both.

I know it’s silly.

My friends and family roll their eyes and shake their heads, but there my awl sits. Every once in a while I check it for the point going dull, for dirt or rust, in case that hampers glass breaking ability. It, the awl, seems fine.

I’m not so sure about me.

I could be fearful of stepping on sidewalk cracks.
I could go catatonic when an umbrella is opened inside a building.
I could be more inclined to cross a street into Hell before I’d walk under a ladder.

But no, those things touch me not.

I am touched by the drowning of a pretty girl, in a big car, a half century ago.

Why do certain events stay with us? Ones in which we have no direct connection.
Mary Jo’s body was found in the last place in that car that would have had air to breathe — assumption: she was conscious, all alone, cold and so frightened, clinging to the last bubble of life-giving air, sensing, no doubt, that she was about to drown. I have a 3D kind of mind’s eye, so I can feel her in there, see her fright, taste her salty tears, hear her clawing to get out, pounding on the glass to break free. Then her screaming? Then silence and stillness once the water filled her lungs and death carried away her soul.

Do nightmares get any more horrific?

Is there a soul-link between humans as we come and go from our bodies and this world?

Is it some kind of ethereal defence mechanism against being taken advantage of by domineering, powerful men?

Do I carry this awl, now, for Mary Jo?

Or is it a simply a tool to stave off one form of death while forgetting another? We all have our time. We will all have that final moment.

It’s not everyone who saunters into a hardware store to buy a tool she hopes she’ll never use.
But it’s there, all the same, quietly resting in that side pocket.

I thought about stating in my Will that I wished it to be buried with me, my buddy awl and me, together, for all eternity, just in case one needs to break out of Heaven.*

*This is me being politically correct. There’s no way I’m getting a free pass into Heaven. I have already registered with the University of Purgatory. I’m majoring in verbal silence.

On and off, and maybe on right now because of all of this recent talk on the JFK files being publicized, but Mary Jo will spring to mind, and I’ll see her smiling wide, heartily laughing as her friends said she was wont to do. She lived life, made the most of it, was excited and proud to be on Bobby’s,
then Teddy’s campaign team. 

There is no reason for me to linger where I’m sure her soul does not…but on dark nights, car lights beaming, the surrounds blackened out and the real or imagined lap of water…

Courtesy Getty Images mind goes “there” and my fingers check to see if that awl rests with me here.
It’s not like full blown OCD and a compulsion to position carpet fringe just so.
It’s a quieter, deeper need than that. Rarely a conscious thought, more a subconscious treading of water…

And on still nights when Teddy pops into my mind, from an online mention here or a TV documentary there, I wonder…

Did he carry an awl too, in the glove compartment of his cars , after July 18, 1969?

We are all only 1 degree away from another’s soul, aren’t we?


Endnote 1: I finally saw the movie Jaws and I still love to swim.
Courtesy IMDb
Endnote 2: Chappaquiddick, the movie, scheduled to be released April 2018.

Endnote 3: ACE Hardware — store wide sale. Awls make great Thanksgiving cocktail swizzle sticks or that ideal Christmas stocking stuffer.