He’s best known as a member of America’s iconic Kennedy family but Mark Shriver, son of the late Eunice Kennedy and her husband, well-known Peace Corps founder and political strategist Sargent Shriver, has now become an author. His new book “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver “ is a love letter of sorts to his father who had Alzheimer’s when he died in 2011. And it has also become a touching and realistic tale of a child-turned-adult who is caring for an elderly and ailing parent. Besides being a new author, Shriver, a former Maryland legislator and Save the Children vice president, did we mention he is also a Connecticut matchmaker? He explains as he Spills the Beans with Java.
Q: Is this an extended eulogy to your dad or is there another reason for writing it?
A: After he died, so many people told me he was “a good man” and I wanted to understand what they meant. I wanted to dig in and understand that better. After the funeral was over I talked to my brother about it and he said ‘do it.’ It took me six months.
A: As far as Alzheimer’s, there were a lot of stories that we are all going through together I wanted to make sense of what I was dealing with the last 10 years of his life. I wanted to tell his story and how he did all the things he did. He was such a good father.
Q: But a lot of people reading it are more interested in how you handled an aging parent, aside from the fact that he was famous. Was that your plan?
A: I did not sit down to write it for baby boomers with aging parents but a lot of people who have read it see that story as well. I just knew the experiences I had gone through. Things like when we had to move Dad out of his home, it was gut wrenching. In conversations with editors I knew there are millions of families dealing with aging parents. I wrote it not so much as a tribute to my dad but what I learned from him. He had so much faith. He was very daring, and he did not kill anyone, have an affair, scream or hit me or my siblings or at my mother.
Q: Are you a Kennedy or a Shriver?
A: I consider myself a little bit of everything. You are always part of your mother and father. My mother did a lot of wonderful things and my father, I have wonderful attributes of his. I am proud of what the Shriver family did in Maryland and proud of what the Kennedys did in New England and the nation.
Q: I understand you have a Connecticut connection and are responsible for the marriage of a well-known West Hartford public affairs business couple, Mary and Chuck Coursey. Explain?
A: Chuck was one of my college roommates at Holy Cross. I was dating a woman from Minnesota my junior year and she was pals with Mary. I introduced Mary to Chuck and they hit it off and eventually got married. I also introduced Burke Doar, who is on the council in West Hartford, to his wife too.
Q: As far your book, what do you hope to accomplish? Would your family approve?
A: My wife asked me what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t really have an agenda, I just wanted to put it in writing for myself. I think it is never too late for parents to have relationship with their kids. My 14-year-old read the book when it was done. She did not realize all her grandpa had done historically. And then there were things like when I would yell at the kids, he would remind me, “Did I yell at you?” and once when I told her to move faster she reminded me about the book and my dad’s demeanor when it came to us kids. I imagine the book will means something different to her at 25 years old. I know I look at things differently know. My father wrote a beautiful note to me when I graduated. It was nice but when I reread it now it has a different message. I cherish it because it was not a text or an email but something in his real handwriting. He was a man of faith, a model of consistency. I had these stories in my heart about him and I wanted to understand him as a friend and son and husband. Everything he did in life he did with commitment and joy. I think my mother would have loved the book. His faith and love were her foundations of life.
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