As Spring cowers to the last vestiges of Old Man Winter, the blues have taken a choke-hold over those who reside in the Heartland. Farmers are unable to prep fields for planting, children’s sports are canceled due to snowstorms, and one determined soul in Indiana was captured mowing the first sprigs of grass wearing a down coat and insulated woolen cap. It’s a depressing time.
And to top off the doom and gloom reported through leftist media, well, there is almost an eerie silence in the usual gathering places. Then Americans heard the news of former First Lady Barbara Bush’s passing, capping a cumulative seasonal melancholy with the finality of death.
The plasma television in the luncheonette of a tiny burg in Eastern Illinois was tuned to the local CBS affiliate at noon, as a brief tribute to Mrs. Bush was set to air. An old man at the counter requested the volume to be turned up, “I’d like to hear this, please.”
The Mrs. Bush we Love
Pictures scrolled as the disembodied voice narrated a brief synopsis of a renaissance lady who was a major force in politics; a woman behind two men who would ascend to the nation’s loftiest position. There was almost complete silence from the cook, waitress, and customers as the report mentioned her pearls more often than her accomplishments. I wasn’t the only person in the diner to notice.
“She was the woman behind the man,” Orville Snedeker, 77, offered. “While GHW was making his millions, Barbara was home raising a family, keeping that family together. She supported her husband, didn’t steal his thunder, and showed her younger sons how to be good people.”
Mary Elain, 60, chimed in to Orville’s memories. “I saw a special on Mrs. Bush, oh, probably 20-years ago, and found her strength when her daughter died unshakeable. She credited faith, but what an awful thing to live through.”
Mary was referring to the death of Mrs. Bush’s middle child, Robin, who passed away in 1953 from Leukemia. In a conversation with her biographer, Susan Page, Mrs. Bush recalled the day with clarity, “For one last time I combed her hair and held our precious little girl.”
Off LimitsVice President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, arrive in New Orleans for the 1988 Republican National Convention. August 1988 New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Mrs. Bush was mostly respected during her time in the spotlight; although the snidest and meanest of leftists would comment that she was not aging as well as her husband. She didn’t pay an iota of attention to those few, and far between, insecure insults. Rather, she made her impact on this country with her campaign to end childhood and adult illiteracy.
Carolyn, a retired educator, shared a memory that made present company smile: “I taught school for 40 years right here, and my fellow teachers and I were so excited that we had a first lady who cared about education in the basest of all ways. When she and the president visited Illinois on a campaign stop, my friends and I stood on the sidewalk awaiting his limo just to wave at Mrs. Bush.”
Rural Folk Bid Farewell
Her legacy will live on through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy, headquartered in her youngest son’s chosen home state of Florida. But her presence will be sorely missed, especially given today’s crass, crude, and confrontational communication style. Those in the flyover states are still speaking quietly of the great lady and praying for a turn of events; both in the weather and our country’s unsettled and anxious social climate.
There was never a time more in need of Barbara Bush. Someone who will say and did say, “You need a friend, someone who loves you, who’s going to say, ‘You are great’.” Yes, the Heartland, and perhaps all of this great nation, will miss this classy dame.