Most of my life, it was my father who looked out for me. Rarely an opportunity to look out for him, and no opportunities to repay past kindnesses, through care in later life.
With one exception. In 1982, I was working in the Canadian tax department, on a short-term contract, based on my father having made me aware of the opportunity. He was also in the tax department (then known as Revenue Canada), where he had been for all of his career as a Chartered Accountant. Ended up as a rulings officer. The person who reviews proposed tax arrangements to determine if they are onside or offside, prior to the parties formally entering into the arrangements. He was on the line, no longer a supervisor. Loved the work. We grew up with him watching the hockey game on television, while reading the Income Tax Act at the same time.
In 1982, he was 60. Also flat. Moves afoot to get him to retire, old and in the way. Nobody saw him in front of the television at night. Nobody saw the piles of tax material that he read at home, many nights.
Christmas celebrations in 1982. Not yet a time when alcohol was so much less consumed. Ended up at a gathering of my tax group, at which my father’s boss attended, as a guest. He was drinking; so was I. He was drinking too much; so was I.
Found him alone in a corner. No social filter. Identified myself as the son of my father, who had just received news that he, like his father, had qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Talked about my father’s dedication, the Income Tax Act and the television. Asked him to please leave my father alone.
My father worked in the tax department until he was 73 years old, still a rulings officer, still reading the Income Tax Act in front of the television. He had earned his full pension years prior, but it didn’t matter. By most estimates, he was the oldest serving employee in the department at the time, and one of the oldest serving employees in the federal government.
He retired in 1995. He was dead, less than a year later, of sudden heart failure. Heart failure, not heart attack.
I never saw his boss again, and can’t remember his name. If he is still alive: thank you.
Postscript, October 9, 2012: “Found him alone in a corner” is a bit too euphemistic. We were side by side, at the urinals. Private enough.