It is the first Friday of summer, the start of our 50th year. I am winding down the work week on the office front porch. My father sits in his sturdy, classic white, high-backed rocking chair - afraid to rock and I stand beside him too uncomfortable to sit. The depth of our conversation is narrowing.
He wants to talk shop and I want him to realize just how fortunate he is. How, at the age of 85, his ailments are minuscule compared to his quick sinking circle of friends.
“I started this business the same year you were born,” he boasts.
“Yes you did,” I reply.
He founded Kennedy Investigation long before there was such a thing as ‘no fault divorce.’ With a cocked camera, pencil and pad by his side he spent years in the shadow of adulterers; trailing unsuspecting husbands and less than perfect wives.
Primed in high school track and football star status, he carried his competitive nature with him. He drank and ate more than his share, balancing it all with a plethora of women.
He ran with the best of them; affluent lawyers, doctors, politicians and businessmen. He was free spirited, gregarious and fun - a welcome relief from the stiff tailored shirts and tight noosed neck tie’s his white collar friends encountered on a regular basis.
When they offered him a referral he took it. When they opened a door he walked swiftly through it. When they spoke of change he listened, hard.
Greenwich quickly catapulted from a quaint coastal, New England town into a city overflowing with opulence and opportunity. To match the demographic change, he restructured the company into a full scale - private sector security agency specializing in uniformed guards services for high profile corporations, grand scaled events and lavish homes.
“Who’s going to work Joe’s shift?” He asks
“Don’t worry Dad, I’ve got it covered,” I reply.
"Scheduling, its like a puzzle," he’ll tell you. "You have to know who knows each guard post and if you can’t fill a shift, YOU have to do it."
This annoys me. I am done pulling guard duty. I have filled more than my fair share and I have paid a dear price for that. I was trapped in a shift when, unknowingly, my son laid unconscious, waiting for me to rescue him.
“50 years… can’t believe how much this town has changed in 50 years,” he adds.
In 1977 he moved his understated office above a string of trendy shops on West Putnam Avenue into a house owned by the family of a close friend. A local lawyer who went on to become the first selectman of Greenwich. The even side of the street was business zoned, allowing him to transform 58 East Elm Street's Colonial Revival into a comfortable work and living space.
“The house used to be on Greenwich Avenue. Right where the new Ralph Lauren store is going,” he reminds me. “They picked it up and moved it here back in the 50’s.”
Crazy as that sounds - its true. Imagine people uplifting full scale homes, in one piece and replanting them two blocks further down the road.
“Will you look at that,” he says as he points at the ornate black iron rail adorning the second tier balcony of our newly constructed neighbor. A 5300 square foot, federalist-styled brick town house stuffed into a ¼ acre lot - it’s perimeter brick wall butts exactly 8 feet from our foundation, “ewww, that’s gaudy!” he adds.
It’s “urban sophistication,” I tell him.
Because we are two blocks away from the chic shopping of Greenwich Ave, 30 minutes outside of New York City, and within walking distance to the train and Long Island Sound, our address is in high demand.
You’ll hear the locals complain a lot about how much the town has changed yet its upscale essence remains. A community infused in wealth, culture, and charm - a population of 60,000 thrive here along with one hundred of Connecticut’s largest corporations. Museums, a symphony, polo grounds, and marinas interlace with 8,000 acres of protected land - including 32 miles of coast, 20 parks, four beaches and a municipal golf course.
"They should have NEVER made the Avenue one way," he reminds me, "and you can't get a decent hot dog, let alone a burger now that Finch's is out of business."
Dad wore many hats before he struck it big. One of his favorites was "soda jerk" at the food counter in Finch's Drug Store. It's been 20 years since Mom and Pop stores ran the Ave, trampled by trendy trademarks such as, Kate Spade, Baccarat, Tumi, and Tiffany. If its a $5,000 vase you're looking for I can easily point you in four different directions - but nowhere can you find a needle and thread.
The average net worth per person is 430 thousand, the typical home costs an estimated 2.4 million, and the combined real estate value exceeds 50 billion. Dubbed the "Hedge-fund Capital of the World," its easy to see why the affluent flock here.
“You can work three jobs if you want,” he’ll tell you, “You’ll never go hungry here.” This is his attempt at keeps us grounded.
He lives directly across from the office, on the odd side of East Elm Street. A modest two-family home he bought back in the 80‘s with hope that the restrictions would bend enough to balance out the lopsided commercial zoning.
“It’s a shame we can’t move the business to 61 …no telling how long we’ll be able to stay here,” he grumbles.
He worries about a lot of things and I am high on his list. “We’ll be here as long as you’re alive Dad,”I tell him, "besides where would YOU live if we moved the office to 61?"
The house has been a haven to many. Kerry grew up here. We lived in the second floor apartment until I married Eddie - my daughters father, in 1989. When I moved out, Terry - Kerry’s father moved in. When Kerry moved on, Terry moved on.
Kerry moved back to 61 East Elm when he returned to help run the business. Mary and Jackson followed, granting Jackson the privilege of growing up in the same bedroom as his father.
Located in the heart of down town Greenwich, you can walk everywhere. "No need for a car," my father will tell you. Work, school, library, church, grocery store, drug store, restaurants and boutiques; everything is in close range and with my father, the sentinel, parallel and poised - you were certain you were out of harms way.
But the sentinel was not on duty the night Kerry weakened. The blanket lifted, he lie motionless on the living room sofa - in the center of our haven.
I should have known. Why else would I have changed the classic children's prayer back when he was a boy of eight. I remember the moment well. We were sitting at the kitchen table, having just ingested an unbalanced dinner of cereal and banana’s. “I’m the luckiest kid around,” he said “I get to have cereal for dinner!” Kerry didn’t mind what we had for dinner as long as there was milk. He would drink a gallon a day if I’d let him, convinced dairy was the key to a statelier physique.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake....
The words gnawed at me. So much so, that together, we re-scripted the prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep;
Make my days, happy and bright,
and all my dreams be sweet tonight.
When I wake tomorrow morn’,
keep me healthy, safe and warm.
When I wake tomorrow morn’, when I wake, when I wake... as though somehow, on some level, I knew. I knew he would ingest a fist full of sleeping pills and slip into a permanent slumber.
Green Monkey Tales © 2007 Shannon E. Kennedy
to be continued...