In January of 1995, I started working on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Canada. My father died in February of 1996. Between those times, in those thirteen months, my father visited me often, on Parliament Hill. He had been born in Ottawa and had spent most of his life there, but did not have the access accorded to people who work in the Parliamentary Precinct. The first person he knew who was working there there was me. I found this to be one of the most profoundly postive aspect of parliamentary employment: unrestricted access to the parliamentary buildings, coupled with the ability to introduce others, in a manner not available to the general public. On certain days and times, in my capacity as parliamentary staff, I could take my father to the Parliamentary Restaurant, which I did. He also enjoyed the other restaurant facilities on the Hill. I was able to introduce him to various Members of Parliament, including my then employer, Ian McClelland. My father had the same sense of wonder as I did, being that close to the same people one sees on the evening newscasts, or reads about.
He would call me regularly, to get out to lunch. He had an interest in where I was working, and liked the environment. When I was teaching full-time at the University of Ottawa during 1984 to 1987, no similar calls, perhaps because I didn’t emphasize the availability of a Faculty Club, which existed for nearly forty years, until its demise, in 1994. My brother came to the Faculty Club, but not to Parliament Hill.
After my father’s death, I went through the old photos. Actually, mostly slides, because my parents became interested in slides early, and never lost the preference. Came across a series of slides from 1964, when my then Saskatoon-based family was visiting Ottawa. My father and his best friend on Parliament Hill. Posing beside the car of that particular year. During the times, pre-9/11, when one could drive up the Hill and actually park there, while taking photographs. In 1964, he was limited to the tourist visit. In 1995, I could walk with him everywhere. I also now realize, with surprise and regret, that I took no photographs of his later time on the Parliament Hill. Circumstances turning the mind into the best camera.
Wonder how many people have missed positive connections to another’s work environment, perhaps because the environment is not viewed as being as special as it is. When I was 10 or so, I had a sense that my father had a special job in Saskatoon. Didn’t matter what he was actually doing; it was special to me. Took the bus downtown, in days when that was not uncommon. Walked into his office. Big, wooden desk and large wooden meeting table, with people all around. He was pleased to see me, but shooed me out. Saw me afterwards, amazed and pleased that I would come down to his office, on my own.
Thirty years later, he came to my office, on his own. Was similarly amazed, and similarly pleased.
Postscript, December 26, 2015: Another take, and turning to grey.