Barbara Bush died, which really isn’t that sad if you think about it. She lived to the ripe old age of 92. I think that’s about as much as anyone should expect in terms of time on earth, and her kids were lucky to have her that long. I mean, when someone dies it’s always sad for their families in terms of not being able to communicate anymore, but 92 is close to immortal in today’s terms of longevity. No one is going to say, “dear God, they took her too soon.” As a fellow Texan, I would like to be able to regale you with a story about how we met, but unfortunately, that never happened. We did go to the same church when I was in college, so I have met her husband. That will have to do.
So, it’s Easter Sunday in about 1999 or 2000 (I am really bad with dates). The men’s group was serving breakfast before service, and the president was going around with a pitcher of coffee for warm-ups. The Secret Service guys were stationed strategically around the room, constantly talking into their wrists.
The president comes over to me and fills my cup, and when I realized exactly who I was talking to, I began gulping down my coffee as fast as I could so he would have to come to my table multiple times, early and often. I am sure he knew my game, but didn’t seem to mind. We had very good, very short talks. I wish my memory was flawless, because I’d love to tell you what they were about. I do remember telling him that I was a political science student at University of Houston, and he told me he used to be a professor at Rice (like I didn’t know that. Didn’t tell him, though……).
I don’t think I’ve disagreed politically with many presidents besides him, although I definitely have a list. I was too young to care what was going on with Reagan, and I love Clinton & Obama. It was just exciting to meet anyone who’d been leader of the free world, as well as being Director of Central Intelligence the year I was born (1977), although he left in January and I wasn’t born until September. Close enough for government work. I don’t know how you get to be DCI if you don’t have any experience with espionage, so my guess is that he was OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the modern CIA) during World War II, and as a cook, I pretend that anyone who was OSS during that time was Julia Child’s best friend.
I was a spazzbasket of excitement, information, and caffeine. At this point, I have conservatively had, like, five cups of coffee trying to talk to him. I debate going over to talk to the Secret Service as well. However, they are designed to look absolutely unapproachable. They definitely pull it off.
What I hope I didn’t pull off was being desperately impressed, because no one that well-known wants to be “on” all the time. He was just there to be part of the men’s group, and I hope I respected that. But so many of my questions just swirled in my head. Did he like Helen Thomas? What’s it like being a wartime pilot? Was he ever under cover? Did he actually know Julia Child, or is that just wishful thinking?
There are so many things I would ask him now that I didn’t think of then, like what was it like for your wife and kids while you were president? It can’t have been easy to be in the public eye, whether there were things you liked about it or not. Also, what was it like to be president when the wall in Berlin fell? Was Ronald Reagan just as funny in private life as he was on television? At the time, all that was swirling in my head was about treating him like a regular human being.
….just like he is right now, dealing with the death of his wife.