BLOG #19 SERIES #9
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
FIRST LADY OF THE GREATEST GENERATION, PART 2
MAY 9, 2018
In all our nation’s history, only one other President’s wife, Dolly Madison, ever gave birth to another President. The May 4 issue of This Week titled its obituary:
THE FORMIDABLE FIRST LADY WHO RAISED A PRESIDENT
It begins with these words, “With her brilliant white hair and trademark fake pearls, Barbara Bush was viewed by many Americans as the nation’s kindly grandmother. But within the Bush family, she was known as ‘The Enforcer. As the matriarch of one of the nation’s most powerful families, Bush employed her own considerable political skills to help her husband, George H.W. Bush, and her eldest son, George W. Bush, rise to the presidency. When George H. W. Finally reached the White House in 1989, their Christmas card list had grown to more than 10,000 names. Throughout her husband’s career, she meticulously maintained an index-card library detailing the family’s social and fund-raising contacts.
Through all her husband’s perigrinations (Ambassador to China, CIA Director, Ambassador to the United Nations, Vice President, and President), she remained the rock of the family. In her own words, “This was a period, for me, of long days and short years, of diapers, runny noses, earaches, more Little League games than you’d believe possible.”
Those were heady years, not least the eight years as Ronald Reagan’s Vice President, four years as First Lady, and eight more years as First Matriarch during her son’s presidency, with the ever-present danger that her five living children would be wrecked by all the media attention and adulation.
When you see photographs of the wall of Bush people (including grandchildren and great grandchildren), it’s kind of overwhelming, just thinking of how she found time to be family “Enforcer,” to this throng, and keep all these far-flung families intact, it boggles the mind—especially when you compare them to other recent dynasties such as the Kennedys.
But perhaps the most poignant photo of the funeral weekend was the one titled “Last Respects” (Mark Burns/Office of George H. W. Bush via AP), in which the now widowed President, in a wheelchair, is attended by his faithful daughter, Dorothy, and he drinks in the sight of the flower-bedecked casket in Houston’s St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. His bride of 73 years. A romance for the ages. Sixty years after their wedding, she described her husband as “That 80-year-old whirlwind who makes my life sing.”
Mark Burns/Office of George H. W. Bush via AP