Romano, Lois, Newsweek
Byline: Lois Romano
The woman 'Teddy' called the love of his life struggles to find a new path without her husband.
Fresh grief overcomes her at unexpected times. A note in his handwriting slips out of a book. An elderly woman grabs her hand on the street to relate how "Teddy" affected her life. "It's still hard," says Vicki Kennedy in a rare interview. Even answering the simple question of when she most misses her husband seems painful. She later responds by email. "Missing someone you love is an always thing. But there are certain times that have been especially difficult. I recall being in the Senate chamber to pay my respects to Senator Byrd after his passing. It was incredibly difficult to look even in the direction of Teddy's desk."
For many people, nostalgia for the era of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy may seem more acute in the past year--one of the most politically paralyzed in recent history. The Massachusetts Democrat--the Senate's liberal lion--has been fondly recalled for his ability to cultivate Republican allies. He loved "the chemistry of people working together, that you felt that there was something bigger than yourself," says Vicki. And he left his mark on a vast array of legislation aimed at helping the little guy--health care, voting rights, airline deregulation, labor.
In the two and a half years since Kennedy was felled by brain cancer at 77, the woman he called the love of his life has been dedicated to preserving his legacy while trying to define her own path. It hasn't been easy. There was intense pressure on her to run for his Senate seat, and private grumbling from the storied family about her role and influence going forward. "There was a lot of pressure [to run]," she says--some from Teddy himself. "I would never discuss it [with him] because I always felt that he was the senator." In the end, Republican Scott Brown won the seat in a major upset.
These days, Vicki devotes her energy to speaking as a surrogate for her husband and his causes, and to developing the Edward M. …