Today is the day that the Bush family says farewell to it matriarch, Barbara Bush. In June of 2016, the Powell family bid farewell to its matriarch, Elanor Powell. For me, this only serves to make the passage of the one that much more difficult because in many ways these women were very much alike. Barbara Bush welcomed immigrants to this country. Elanor Powell was herself the daughter of immigrants. Barbara Bush loved books and supported literacy programs. Elanor Powell loved books too, going so far as to earn her bachelor's degree when in her 60's. Both women were rock-ribbed Republicans, who nevertheless were tolerant of other points of view. Both women intimately understood the loss of a daughter. Barbara Bush losing her baby girl at age three, Elanor Powell losing her baby girl as an adult of 35 from a pulmonary embolism.
The differences between the two women may have been striking, but by and large, they were accidents of birth. In ways that really mattered they were so much alike. The word that comes to my mind is character. They both possessed a firm grip on what was right and what was wrong and would not compromise on their principles. They would give you their understanding if you were to go astray, but neither one would justify what was wrong for mere convenience sake. Both women possessed what can only be described as presence. You knew they were there even when they tended to shy into the background. Both had subtle senses of humor, which they used frequently, especially on the puffed up and the pompous, never mean-spirited but with an uncanny sense of the appropriate. Both women loved fiercely and woe betide you if you were to attack those they loved unfairly. Not that they had any illusions about them but out of their strong sense of fair play.
Both women symbolize an age, the age of what was RIGHT with America. Neither of them was at the forefront of the feminist movement for example. But at least in the case of Elanor, she raised strong, independent women who stand up for what they believe, who take strong leadership positions, and who express their opinions forcefully and intelligently. Neither of these women may have marched at the forefront of the civil rights movement, for instance, but by the same token neither one would accept intolerance or prejudice. They encouraged people to speak their minds and to stand up for their principles.
By any measure, these were extraordinary women. Both will be missed. What strikes me most about them was their capacity for unconditional love. It's easy to love children who are achievers, or those who obey promptly and willingly. It's the difficult child who tests a parent's capacity for unconditional love. George W. Bush was one of those children. He had an undiagnosed learning disability that made school a real trial for him and doubtless for his parents too. But Barbara never let him ever feel he was a failure. She didn't upbraid him when he encountered problems with alcohol and she didn't put him down when he had two companies shot out from under him. All of which served him and the country in good stead during the dark days and weeks following September 11, 2001.
I'm no George W. Bush. By most measurements I'm a failure. Lots of promise. Lots of potential. Little performance. But not in Elanor's eyes. I was the guy who made her daughter happy and that was good enough in her eyes. I may not have been a paragon, but in matters that counted, I too, was a success.
So we close a chapter today. I offer my sincerest sympathy to the entire Bush family for their loss. But each woman's story goes on in the many ways in which they are influencing future generations of strong, independent, productive people. While they will be missed, they will never be forgotten.
Filed under: Politics