The news will be filled with memories of Senator Edward Kennedy—I’ll leave the important milestones to other news outlets. Instead, allow me to share a story about the day Senator Kennedy and his dog held the elevator door for me at the US Capitol.
I was working at one of the networks, producing live TV from the Hill. Most of the talking-head shots you see from the Capitol happen steps away from Sen. Kennedy’s office in the Russell Senate Office Building.
By the time my path crossed with Senator Kennedy, he was an old man. Forget “spring in his step”—the man could barely walk. It was more of a pained shuffle, the result of an injury sustained in a plane crash earlier in his life. I couldn’t help but think he was feeling the pain (and the weight) of what life had delivered him and his family over the years.
Typically, you could tell that Kennedy was coming down the hall because he was grumbling at someone or talking to his large dog, a Portuguese Water Dog named Splash. The Senator wasn’t particularly sociable on these occasions; he was heading to work after all. Plus, I think his dog held a higher favor with him than the press camped out in his hallway.
Late one night in the Russell Rotunda by his office, I was packing up after filing a story. The rest of the crew had gone home and I assumed the Senators had done the same. I realized my assumption was wrong when I heard the click-clacking of Splash’s nails hitting the stone floors as he and his owner came toward me and the elevators.
There are two types of elevators in this particular building at the Capitol: one for “Senators Only” and one for the rest of us. They’re the same kind of elevator, but one is labeled with an LCD screen that indicates that you’d better wait for the next ride (assuming you don’t have a constituency somewhere or a bill to pass).
So there I was, standing in Russell Rotunda with Senator Kennedy and his dog. HISTORY was standing next to me. The best thing I could think to say was, “Can I pet your dog?”
He obliged. As I was scratching behind Splash’s ears, the “Senators Only” elevator dinged, the doors opened waiting for someone important to step inside. Now, last time I checked, I didn’t have a bill pending in the world’s greatest deliberative body, so I stood there as I watched Sen. Kennedy and his pup shuffle in to the elevator.
He got in, pressed a button, but the door didn’t shut. He was holding the door. I looked over my shoulder half expecting Senator Kerry to come running in. (His office was in that hallway too.)
That’s when Senator Kennedy—not the dog—barked something like, “Are you getting in, or what?”
Senator Edward Kennedy, youngest brother of the Kennedy clan, liberal lion, prolific legislator, patriarch of Hyannis Port … Teddy. Teddy Kennedy was holding the “Senators Only” elevator for me.
And that made me smile.