He turned and said “Everything is different, Diplomacy will never be the same again.”
My Father and I were sitting on the couch, watching the one symbol that summed up my Father’s career. The Berlin Wall. I watched grainy footage of various long lost family members embracing, crying, laughing, reuniting after an excruciating separation by one wall. I didn’t understand the significance, but saw the emotion and the feeling of light and hope. In my Father’s eyes, I saw peace. He joined the Foreign Service at the hight of the cold war, he wanted peace in the world, and like everyone of his generation, diplomats played a major role in the Cold War, and the wheeling and dealing of information. I never learned about the Berlin wall at school, or its history, that I learned mostly from my Father.
In one day, I felt the shift of what was about to happen in the world politically, and it was a strange feeling, still being a child, and one of a parent who had grown up as a Royal Air Force kid, and then joining the ranks of the Canadian Diplomatic Corps. It was a shift that would drive a wedge between the old political structure, and the emerging new.
My Father had spent his early years helping with defections, one of which was of someone famous. He never discussed what he did, until that day, watching the wall come down. His stories spilled out, in an almost trance like voice, relieved that there was hope for peace, for reconciliation. Throughout those years, he had travelled everywhere, but never to the wall, almost like he didn’t want to, because of what he knew, and what he would be forced to remember.
During a fluke, my husband and I decided that we were at a crossroads in our careers, we were unhappy, and needed to find ourselves. So we planned a crazy 2 month trip to Europe with our then 1 year old. We were going to fly by the seat of our pants, and just see where life took us. In the middle of 2 months, we arrived in Berlin. There I was, faced with my Father’s past. It was meant to be.
We decided to walk a huge loop and see checkpoint Charlie (now a ridiculous tourist attraction, sorry, but it is), but do the full length of the wall. I can’t tell you how emotional it was, it felt surreal to be standing and touching a wall that my Father remembered vividly going up, and one in which he fought so hard to bring down diplomatically. I stood there, touching it, and wept. My husband didn’t really understand the deep significance for me, my diplomatic career had nothing to do with the Cold War, it was about terrorism, but there was a significance to that history, that connection that I felt with my Father, the history of both sides, and being able to understand it standing there, seeing it.
It was a moment that brought me peace with Foreign Affairs, for some reason, it was a turning point in my perspective, over the years, I couldn’t open myself up to what my Father’s generation represented, what they had to live through as diplomats, what they were trying to achieve. It was at that point, I finally understood what drove my Father to use his ability to use words as a weapon.