Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Memory

I think it was early 1979. Maybe March. I know I was in 6th grade.

My father had some business to do in Washington, D.C., though I have no idea what. He did these trips a lot, some or other meeting related to something judicial or legal (obviously).

This time Dad wanted to take me along, and after clearing it with school, I packed up my backpack and got on the plane with him.

Dad took me all over the place. He took me to the Lincoln Memorial where he recited the Gettysburg Address from memory, learned as a cadet at a Tennesse military academy decades previous. I met a couple of well-known judges - well, well-known in judicial circles; I can only remember one name of the bunch. I tagged along with my dad from meeting to meeting on Capital Hill, soaking in politics and the differences of the District from the desert I was used to.

Between two such meetings on the Hill, trudging along, I asked where we were going next. He told me, "Senator Kennedy's office."

"Senator Kennedy? Really?" I replied. I was impressed. Finally someone I had heard of! And a Kennedy!

My father, though, believing he was raising a very conservative, never-to-be-swayed-from-the-GOP kind of daughter, thought that he heard in my voice disdain. Because that's what he wanted to hear, really.

We continued on to Senator Kennedy's office and my father had his meeting with some of the Senator's staff, and, I think, the Senator's counsel (which, as I figured out this morning, might have been Stephen Breyer, a current United States Supreme Court Justice). I sat in the outer office, doing my homework. I remember it being fairly cramped. Stacks of papers everywhere. The staff was very nice to me. I tried to do my homework for the better part of an hour, but I was too excited and impressed. Eventually we left, on to another meeting.

For years, my father would recall that moment walking to Senator Kennedy's office at cocktail parties, using it as an example of what a good little Republican I was becoming. I never had the heart (or the guts) to tell him it was actually quite a different response. He wanted to think it, and I let him.

I remember some of that exchange as the first inkling that I might be different from my Dad, that I could have different political ideas.

Yesterday when we learned that Senator Kennedy had died on Tuesday, I was very sad. You didn't have to like him to see that he worked hard for what he would believe would better our country. You didn't have to be a Massachusetts Democrat to have been impacted - positively - by his legislation. Yes, he was a very flawed man and made some bad mistakes (particularly in his personal life), and I didn't like everything about him (his stance against wind power continues to perplex me, and the only letter to a senator I have ever written was to him on that topic), but he was an excellent senator, and his passing will be felt by many.

The Senator's procession is passing within a mile of my house, probably as I write this. My husband was hoping to take the kids to one of the overpasses to watch them pass and pay respects. I hope they were able to do so.