When the young Teddy Kennedy campaigned for the Senate in front of our suburban Boston home, my whole family ran out to greet him.
For months, my father had been actively campaigning for Kennedy and others on the Democratic ticket, standing out in front of the local dump, weekend after weekend, handing out fliers and asking for votes.
But on this fall day in 1962, Teddy Kennedy stood on our sidewalk and I, about six years old, looked up at that grinning face with the big teeth that was leaning down to say hello and I shook his big hand.
My mother handed Teddy Kennedy my kid brother and ran into the house to get the camera. She raced back out to take a picture, only to discover the thing was out of film.
In the meantime, Dicky was kicking and screaming -- screeching, really -- to make this strange man let him go. Sobbing hysterically, he was returned to my mother's arms.
To this day, my brother is a staunch conservative, and opposed to just about everything the Kennedys stood for.
For most of us, though, when you grow up near Boston as the child of outspoken Democrats, you come to believe that the Kennedys are somehow a part of your family as well.
Later, as a teenager, I would spend many a wild party weekend at a friend's summer house in Falmouth Heights, just a short drive from the Kennedy estate in Hyannis. Not only did we consider the Kennedys our relatives, we also saw them as our neighbors.
Distant neighbors, for sure, but still, at the same time somehow, one of us. And we one of them.
Barely a year after I shook Teddy's hand, his brother John was assassinated. Like so many Americans, I remember that day only too well. By then seven years old, I was riding my red, white and blue bicycle up town to get a bag of penny candy when I saw grown-ups crying in the streets.
"The President is dead!" They were calling out in anguish. Knowing only that something terrible had happened, I joined in with my own tears.
I don't remember Robert's death -- I was in full puberty and far too self-absorbed to care what was going on beyond the confines of junior high school, boys and going steady with them.
A year later, Teddy got himself into big trouble when his car went off a bridge in Chappaquidick and a young woman drowned. Suddenly, the Kennedy name was in trouble -- the adults wrung their hands over this latest development. It seemed that this Kennedy was destined only to disappoint -- that the nation-changing work begun by his older brothers would end with them as well.
But then Teddy Kennedy pulled himself together and went on to become what President Obama called this morning "the greatest Senator of our time." Long known as "The Lion of the Senate," he would see more than 300 of the bills that he wrote become law.
In the Senate for nearly five decades, his impact on American life runs long and deep, especially in the areas of education, health care, civil rights and immigration.
Many of us now regret that he will never see what we hope will one day be the realization of one of his greatest goals -- the enactment of universal health care in this country.
At the same time, for many Massachusetts residents, and regardless of political party, Kennedy's greatest impact as a Senator was what most people expect of a politician -- that he or she represent the interests of their state and its constituents in Washington.
Sometimes, this meant eschewing lofty goals and just keeping it simple.
My mother, who still lives in our family home, often said of her long-time Senator: "I'll always vote for him. He brings home the pork."
In the long run, despite more ups and downs than most of us would ever experience in a single lifetime, Teddy Kennedy carried on the legacy of his family name, and then some.
And then some more.
May you rest in peace, Teddy Kennedy. Your time on Earth was good. RIP.
(Kennedy photo from the Associated Press.)