There were few bigger fans of Barack Obama than 12-year-old Rory Staunton. His father, Ciaran, had brought him to the White House to the Irish celebration on St Patrick’s Day in 2011 and he had met the president and the first lady.
To say he was proud as punch was an understatement. When the president stopped on the rope line and briefly chatted with him,Rorywas in seventh heaven.
Rory was the kind of kid who lived and breathed politics anyway, so the Obama meeting set him even more on a course that his parents and I, as his uncle, thought would surely bring him into politics some day.
He worshiped John F Kennedytoo and featured him on his Facebook page as a hero. He already understood what it meant for an Irish Catholic in 1960 to make it to the White House at a time just one generation removed from ‘No Irish Need Apply’ signs.
Rory was already spreading his own civil rights message. In his school he began a campaign to “Spread the word to end the word,” the word was “retard”, and Rory was determined that its use be ended.
In late March when Rory became ill with sepsis after receiving a cut in a basketball game at school and was misdiagnosed at NYU Langone hospital, he was rushed back there the second day when he was clearly very sick.
Doctors wanted to measure his mental status and asked him two questions.
“Who is President of the United States?”
“Who will be the next President of the United States?”
Those were the last words he ever spoke before going into a coma.
After he died the President sent a beautiful letter. To say we were rooting for his re-election was putting it mildly.
That is why I missed Rory so much on election night this week. We sat in Rory’s house in Queens watching the returns come in, missing the big redhead on the couch who would surely have thrown a wad of facts and figures at us to beat the band and bore us all explaining the electoral college to anyone who would listen.
Though the race seemed close in the early states we figured Rory would take care of any minor problems in Obama’s path to re-election.
We all sensed he was with us -- just a feeling, hard to explain. To me there is far more to this world than we have figured out just yet.
Election night was just one more instance of that.
Twice that night the doorbell rang in Rory’s house and when we went outside to open the door there was no one there.
I remember sitting with Ron Clifford who lost his sister and his little niece on 9/11 when the television in his front room suddenly came on, frightening the wits out of me as no one was near.
Ron explained to me how the lights often flickered mysteriously especially when he was discussing them.
So, yes I do think Rory was there in some way with us on election night and that he celebrated with us around 11.15pm when Ohio put the president over the top.
Yeats wrote: “Come away O human child
To the waters and the wild
With the fairies hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
And more full of wonder and mystery sometimes too. Like when a doorbell rings and no one is there.