Friday, November 23, 2012

'Mrs. Kennedy and Me' afternoon with Clint Hill

About a month ago I had the distinct pleasure of attending a luncheon with Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin, co-authors of 

the new book, "Mrs. Kennedy and Me".

(front cover - she is asking him to please keep the press at bay so she can have some privacy)

Mr. Hill was Jackie Kennedy's security detail during her husbands administration as well as two years after JFK's assassination.

I sat there completely awestruck as he brilliantly regaled the adventurous details of everything 'Jackie'. I say 'adventurous' because after protecting President Eisenhower he felt he was being demoted to 'fashion shows' and 'tea parties'. Instead he followed the first lady onto fancy yachts, camel rides in the Middle East, elephant rides in India, numerous business and shopping trips to Europe, not to mention foxhunting in Middleburg, Virginia. 
During his lecture, which was conducted Q and A style with Ms. McCubbin moderating, photos flashed across the projector screen behind the podium as he recounted the history of each one. 

 Though I was totally engrossed in every single detail -  Jackie having him buy the tabloids so she could read what they wrote about her, or figuring out how to keep up with her during a foxhunt since he couldn't ride - I still sat there in anxious anticipation of what I knew was to come.


His voice became somber. 

That fateful day.

The images on the screen changed from still life photos to a video. 

Like most of you, I've seen this video dozens of times throughout my life, but this time it was different.

I am sitting with the man who was there. The man whose sole duty was to protect the President and First Lady.

It has to be so difficult to do this.

He knows what is going to happen when they turn that corner. 
He knows - and he can't stop it.

I wonder how many times he has physically watched this played back in slow motion, knowing that the world is going to be changed forever and he can't stop it.

You could have heard a pin drop in that room as he gave play by play of what was going through his mind each step of the way before and up to that moment. And after.

There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

Afterward I was able to catch him alone.

"Mr. Hill, can I ask you something?"


His eyes are an amazing, transparent blue. I wonder if Jackie ever noticed. 
I don't see how she couldn't have.

"What is it like to watch that video and know what is forthcoming, but you can't stop it?"

"It's hard," he replied, his smile weary. I expected that he'd been asked that same question a million times. I was surprised to hear I was the first to ask.

"Well, I have a reason for wanting to know", I explained. He stopped, giving me his undivided attention. "My family and I went through a terrible trauma when we first moved here. Not as traumatic as you went through", I'm quick to add. "But it was absolutely horrendous. Life as we knew it ended. It was crazy-creepy enough that I got a book deal, and I sold the story for movie rights."

"Anyway, there is a wall at my house that used to be filled with family pictures. Every time I walked by and saw my pictures I wanted to say to that girl that's me 'please don't come here. If you do it will ruin your life'. I know what's going to happen to her - and I can't stop it. I finally took the pictures down. I just couldn't look at myself anymore - who I used to be. I just wonder if I'll ever get over that."

Immediately I wish I had kept my mouth shut. Why did I bother him with this? How can I compare my situation with his? He must think I'm crazy. 

He looks at me with those eyes.
I see sadness. 
But I also see understanding. 

"It gets better," he assures me. "It gets a little easier each time. It will get better for you, too. I promise."

I pay him for the book and he signs it for me. He then congratulates me on my work, I thank him and we part ways but not before he says one more time, 

"It will get easier. I promise."

In the upstairs hallway at my house, three of six framed picture collages are back in their rightful place hanging side by side. I see the same young, blonde woman in each photo, the same familiar smile, blue eyes shining with excitement and I can feel her excited anticipation. 
I no longer want to tell her to stay where she is but I'm not quite ready to welcome her with open arms, either. 
 I know she has to make that move in order to be who she is now - a much stronger, wiser woman who is closer than ever to her family, loving her grandchildren, and living her dreams.

 The other three pictures are on the floor, propped against the wall, ready to be hung up next to the others. Not yet, but soon. 
Baby steps. 
Baby steps.

(By the way, 'Mrs. Kennedy and Me' is an incredible book. I give it 5 stars! Put it on your Christmas list to either give or receive!)

Til next time,



Lady Dyna Ryder said...

I've read your blog for a few months and feel so compelled to post a reply for the first time. Riveting is all I can say... this post left me breathless - in many ways. I wish you a 'helping hand' as you move forward with your baby steps...

Kathie Truitt said...

Thank you Lady Dyna - I'm so glad you left a comment this time and thank you so much for reading!

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

You meet the most interesting people! I'd love to follow you around for a week or so.

I keep meaning to look for your book on digital format. Then I get busy doing something else and before I know it, I've gotten sidetracked.

Becky said...

Two part comment here...first, what an amazing Q&A opportunity. I will most definitely read the book. Second, I am proud of your baby steps. Continue to allow yourself to grow and find strength in the little things.

blushing rose said...

Will have to get the book for sure, Kathie

VHillsman said...

Kathie, this was a wonderful post that left tears in my eyes. As always, I am so proud of you! Now, I have to read this book.

Anonymous said...

Wow!I was soo caought up in this ,you are such a good writer..You have been bless what a gift.It does take baby steps to get over what you have gone thru ,,God truly held your hand on writting your story not just for you but for others out there with the same or a differant life experince.I believe I was blessed the day I met you ...So keep writting for all of us out here ..Twila Wagner