Butterfield + Gourmet = True Love? Not quite.
Barbara + George = Love for a lifetime. Last year, the nation bid farewell to a Texas power couple and their passing was beautifully mourned. Our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush, died peacefully on December 1; he was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara Pierce Bush, on April 17. It’s so lovely to hear the world talk about this great man in retrospect—all political animus has been set aside and the reality of his life of service has been highlighted, broadcast and memorialized.
Recently, we were fortunate to be in attendance for the “Remembering President George H.W. Bush” event at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. It was a cold, rainy evening and it had been a long day at the kitchen. I was torn between staying warm, dry and snuggled in front of a fire or cleaning up, putting on decent attire and finding a parking spot to trudge in the cold and sit for two hours. We chose the latter and were infinitely glad later.
The 43rd president began the evening with a welcome and brought the president/CEO of his library to the podium, who in turn introduced James Baker as the first guest. The event was staged as a series of interviews, with Baker answering questions about his friendship with President Bush. It’s the little stories about their personal lives that really make us admire world leaders, don’t you think? He spoke of winning club tennis championships with his best friend, “Jefe” and how deeply competitive, and always optimistic, the 41st president was at each match. And how President Bush involved him in his run for Senate in 1970 knowing he needed some distraction, having lost his wife to breast cancer earlier that year. The personal anecdotes were many and all charming; it was obviously a special and mutually respectful relationship.
The next series of interviews featured a panel of three of the president’s former aides, each from a different period of his political life. What fun excerpts they shared, of his sense of humor (pranking with whoopee cushions), competitive nature (the list!) and kindness (giving a borrowed raincoat to a stranger). One story provided an insight into his integrity and respect for the presidency. On the day of his inauguration in 1989, it was a warmer than usual day and he did not intend to wear a coat. However, he saw that his predecessor, President Ronald Reagan, was warmly dressed in a coat and scarf. He then insisted on borrowing a coat from one of his aides because he did not want the visual message to be that he was heartier than the departing president. The aides shared that this type of thoughtful behavior defined President George H.W. Bush.
We also watched a video of outtakes from a segment that Barbara and George had filmed for a Bob Hope special. For this recording, Barbara was to read from cue cards something cute about humor in presidential life; however, she could never make it through the entire reading as her husband could not stop giggling, even snorting in laughter at one point! The clip ended with them sharing a kiss as she admonished him for ruining her efforts. It seemed so evident that theirs was a relationship of mutual adoration.
In their last days, the press published many cute exchanges shared by the couple…as when Barbara said of their meeting “I thought he was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on;” and how she awakened in the hospital when she was ill and said “My God, George, you are devastatingly handsome!” And he in turn, ever the letter writer, penned many sweet notes to his beloved “Bar” sharing some of these love letters with the public in 2011. “Will you marry me? Oops, I forgot you did that 49 years ago today. I was very happy on that day in 1945. I’m even happier today.”
In this decade when the world is telling us that our identities must be tied to our gender alone, I find myself with a big crush on this precious couple who hated being apart.