Daily Archives: November 22, 2008

John, Clive and Aldous

Of course, being of a certain age and all, I vividly remember where I was when I heard the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination 45 years ago today. I think I was in second grade and on the way out the side door of the school. The door patrol asked if I heard the news — that the president was dead. I asked if he meant the old president, but he said, no — the current one — Kennedy. I don’t remember much after that except that there was no good television on for a while.

I also remember vividly where I was when I discovered that Clive Staples Lewis was dead. It was several years after the fact. I’d been wondering if he was still living  — I’d just read The Chronicles of Narnia and asked a few people if they knew. Then one afternoon I was going through some almanacs that somehow found their way into our house (I think they came with a set of books my mom ordered). One was for the year 1963. I looked at November 22, probably to see what the almanac said about Kennedy’s assassination and was shocked to see that Lewis died the same day as JFK. I know exactly where I sat — on the floor of my attic bedroom in front of the built-in bookshelves.

As for Aldous Huxley — I only recently learned that he died the same day as Kennedy and Lewis, but figured I’d include him anyway even though I don’t think I’ve read anything by him nor did I know his first name was Aldous. I always thought it was Adolf.

So, of the three, the death that ultimately impacted me the most was Lewis’ — but many years after it happened. I was too young, at the time, to appreciate what a death of a president meant. Learning that Lewis was gone when I’d only just discovered his works was a small tragedy in my life. I’d never get the chance to tell him how much his books meant to me.

So perhaps that was why I insisted, this summer, that we visit the city of his birth, drive past the house in which he lived as a child and touch the statue created in his honor.

DSCF2842