The Cruelest Month

November.  The cruelest month. A reminder of how quickly things can change.  The days get shorter, winds start to get stronger, things get shut down.  Pools get drained and covered, patios closed, baseball is done, temperatures go up and down like a pogo stick.  The warmth of the summer, gone. The color of Autumn, fallen and crumpled to the ground.  Cold rain falls from the sky, chilling the bones. Snow comes.  Hunters hunt for deer, with rifles. Sometimes, they hunt for more than just Bambi.

“We interrupt this program…”

I was five.

November.  It is where life and legacy intersect, where families gather for Thanksgiving and feast on turkey and all the trimmings, where generations interact and feelings, jealousies and hard feelings are put aside, if just for that one day.  

One day.  In November.

It is the last time I saw my grandfather alive, in 2007.  He was 93.  He died the following April a month after turning 94.

“Shots at the President’s motorcade in downtown Dallas”

He was a young man. He never saw his children grow up, never got to grow old like his brother. His other brother ran for President and never got out of the hotel after winning the California Primary. He had, in two-and-a-half years, set this country on a course that, had he lived, would have looked a lot different than the country we live in today.  

November. The cruelest month. Relationships end, lives altered.  The fates intervene.  

“You can’t say the people of Dallas don’t love you.”

It was the last time a President rode in a motorcade topless.  No President since has ever ridden in a crowd of people without a bullet-proof car.  

“The flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time. Some 38 minutes ago.”

The cruelest month. November.  Abrupt and sudden, like a cold front coming down from Canada. Or shots coming from the Texas Book Depository on Elm Street, Dallas, Texas.

“I’m just a pasty.”

Maybe, maybe not.  We’ll never know. Movies, books, novels have been written. Fifty years later, no one knows the facts or the truth.

The fates intervened that day. A marriage ended.  Two children lost their father. A country lost its way. 

A few years ago, a friend was part of a focus group. They were each asked “What day changed America?” Almost in unison they said “September 11, 2001.”  My friend said “November 22, 1963.”

He was right.



11 Responses to “The Cruelest Month”

  1. Dan Riley Says:

    Nice job, Kent.

  2. Karen Says:

    Great piece Kent, I love this part especially “The days get shorter, winds start to get stronger, things get shut down. Pools get drained and covered, patios closed, baseball is done,” and I also really like the style and pace of the piece.

    • rollingwheelie Says:

      Thanks Karen. I thought it was a bit short, but maybe fewer is better. Enough has been said about the events of that day to read for 1000 years aqnd still not make sense of it all.

      • Karen Says:

        I don’t mind short at all. The piece had a very nice rhythm almost like music. You know Kent, there may be young people who have barely heard of JFK. Terrible but true.

  3. rollingwheelie Says:

    I’m aware of that…Thanks for commenting on here and facebook.

  4. Bob Quinn Says:


    Well written. Thank you.

    Bob Quinn

  5. rollingwheelie Says:

    You’re welcome.

  6. Andrew K Says:

    Well done, Kent.
    By the way, I always say when I’m cranking out a bunch of stuff for my twice-weekly rag that I don’t have time to write short. Short is good.

  7. Mark Hermann Says:

    Took me back to age 9 and I don’t think I have been so scared since then, even with 9/11. 9/11 was sort of confusion slowly revealing, whereas 11/23 was just plain horror. Great piece, Kent.

  8. rollingwheelie Says:

    Thanks, Mark. There was confusion around the assassination, too. People started running towards the infamous Grassy Knoll and a friend of mine told me he was shot by a panicked Secret Service Agent after Oswald (supposedly) shot him in the neck. As I said, we’ll never know.

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