My Father, if you hadn’t already guessed, was British. Every once in a while, he had a little Whiskey, usually when tensions in a country were high, and he needed to have some thinking time.
Every morning, over coffee, and getting ready for the day, my Father had the news on, whether it was on radio, or t.v. That is what I vividly remember as a kid. He would sit down at the table, he would have 4 newspapers waiting for him to skim, he had the news on. We lived and breathed, the news, written or read.
He never allowed us to have an alarm clock, he would in fact wake us up each and every morning. He wanted to be part of our day. In retrospect, it was a lovely way to wake up.
When I sat down at the table, he didn’t read, he would ask about what excited me about the day. For the morning before school, I got his full attention. He often walked me to the bus stop, made sure I got off to school. I always knew, I would not always see him at night, so it was special to see him every morning.
In the very wee early morning, I was woken to gunfire, and massive explosions. The t.v next door was blaring, my Father was already on the phone. My room was connected to a small family room, which was in between my room and my parents room. It had a small sofa, and upholstered chair, a t.v, of course, floor to ceiling books, a desk with a phone with 3 lines. We had a private line that only head quarters called on.
My Father was standing, stern looking, but in pj bottoms and no shirt, no socks or shoes. He looked at me, snapped his fingers, and pointed to the chair. I sat, I knew instantly, we were in the middle of a coup attempt, it was 1am. The t.v didn’t need to tell me anything. My Father and I had spoken about the political climate for the past month.
He hung up, looked at the t.v, muted it, and looked at me “and said, we are in the middle of it. You know the drill, if things get rough, you get you and your mother to the pantry.” The pantry was the only interior room, it was 2 ft. of cement, had no windows, and could be locked from the inside. We had a massive emergency phone that had been installed, as well as a satellite phone for backup. This was not standard procedure for diplomats, this was made by a man who had grown up abroad himself, and had lived with a military father. He created these things for our protection.
My Father left, the phone kept ringing, when my Father was on one line, my mother and I answered the other lines. We had so many citizens calling us in a panic, asking for us to save them. We didn’t ask them how they got the private line of their ambassador, we simply told them, there was nothing we could do, we were in the same danger.
My Father went, showered and dressed. I looked up, a little terrified, my Father was about to drive himself to the Embassy.
We went downstairs, and realized, my Father’s driver, an amazing man, had arrived through the bombs, and was standing in the door way of the kitchen, fully dressed, and ready to drive my Father to the Embassy. He had already put on coffee.
My Father up until that moment, had never really shown that much emotion for anyone but his kids and his wife, but he had tears in his eyes, and asked this locally engaged staff member why he risked his life to get to the house. The driver just looked at him and said “Sir, this is a coup attempt on all of us, I don’t want this for my country, I know it will be the international community that will help us, I serve god and my country by driving you to do your duty.”
I was shocked, and emotional. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my Father, but I knew he had to go. How could he not be brave, his driver had already shown the definition of brave. We all hugged and kissed each other. He left for the embassy, as we sat in the house, watching bombs drop close to our house, and watching planes overhead.
My Father arrived back in one piece. This particular coup attempt only lasted 16 hours, but made significant damage to the city. It would be one of many.
That night, after checking in with each and every single staff member, locally engaged, or one of his staff, he finally sat down, instead of pouring a small glass of whiskey, he had the whole bottle in front of him. We said nothing, he needed to be alone. I went to my bedroom, and heard my Father weep.