- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 10, 2011

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) - Patrick Kennedy, a former Democratic congressman from Rhode Island and son of the late Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, said Tuesday that his departure from Congress has given him a chance to start building private relationships and taken him “off the beaten path” in a life that has largely been led in the spotlight.

“I have a personal life that’s not just a sound bite, but it’s real,” Kennedy told The Associated Press. “I’ve had a little foreshadowing of what it could be like.”

Kennedy announced last year he would not run for a ninth term in Congress, a decision he made a few months after his father died. He told the AP he is focusing on building his life with his fiance, 32-year-old middle school social studies teacher Amy Petitgout, and her 3-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Harper. They live together in New Jersey, and Petitgout plans to continue working as a teacher after they are married, Kennedy said.

He makes it a point to be home at 7 p.m. every night to read to Harper at bedtime.

“I love Harper. I love her mom. I love reading ‘Fancy Nancy’ every night, or ‘Curious George’ or ‘Clifford,’” he said. “I recall how important that was to me when I was growing up when my dad would read to me.”

“I want to make a difference in a different form in life,” he added. “For me, this is a whole new journey.”

Since he’s left Congress, Kennedy has been busy working on a push to improve scientific research related to the brain. He has organized a conference on the subject to be held this month at Massachusetts General Hospital and the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston to coincide with the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s speech calling for the nation to put a man on the moon. He starts a two-year visiting fellowship at Brown University’s Institute for Brain Science this summer.

Kennedy, who has struggled with addictions in the past, said his recovery is going well and calls family life and love a “miracle cure.” He said his life as a congressman was “antithetical to good sobriety.”

“I have such a better sense of well-being in the situation I’m in today,” he said.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will preside over the couple’s wedding at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis, Mass., in mid-July, he said.

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