President, vice president, U.S. representative, ambassador, and director of central intelligence are among the momentous titles under the name George H.W. Bush.
But President Bush, who died last weekend at the age of 94, said this, according to his grandson, Pierce — The titles that I still have are the ones that are the most important: Father, husband, grandfather, and friend.
Are you really surprised? I’m not. In addition to being an extraordinary soldier, public servant and leader, George H.W. Bush was a romantic, and a man who deeply adored and loved his wife and family. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a photo of George and Barbara Bush in which the two weren’t kissing, laughing together or holding hands.
To me, the Bushes seemed to be genuinely in love. All the ingredients of a successful marriage were there: attraction, likability, adoration, respect, trust, commitment, loyalty, and friendship.
Through several TV news shows I watched and online articles I read, here’s what I learned about the Bushes.
George and Barbara Bush met at a Christmas dance. He was 17; she was 16.
“I thought he was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on,” Barbara would say in an interview years later. In a letter from December 1943, George Bush wrote, “I love you precious with all my heart, and to know that you love me means my life.”
Wow. Kind of funny (but wonderful) to see such passion and romance in the president of the United States.
Like every marriage, the Bushes certainly had their challenges: Life in the public spotlight, Barbara’s suffering of depression in the 1970s, and perhaps the most difficult and painful tragedy — the death of their 3-year-old daughter, Robin.
Still, in my opinion, George and Barbara Bush remain the ultimate role models for commitment, loyalty and love. With 17 grandchildren who called George “Gampy,” the Bushes were married for 73 years, and have the longest marriage in U.S. presidential history.
“Will you marry me?” George wrote in a letter to his wife in 1994. “Oops, I forgot, we did that 49 years ago. I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I’m even happier today. You have given me joy that few men know.”
In a 2012 interview, George said of Barbara, “She’s just so kind, and a leader of our family. She’s an amazing, unselfish spirit. I just sit there now and watch her interact with the family. She’s just wonderful. And every night, there she is.”
“I love you, Barbie,” are the words George said to his wife every night before bed. First lady, Barbara Bush died last April, with her devoted husband holding her hand while she passed.
In closing, I think George and Barbara Bush left a legacy that goes far beyond the White House. To me, they were a couple that personified a fairy tale-like courtship, marriage, family, and a happily ever after. Not to mention, they did this while serving our country the entire time.
Rest in peace, Mr. President.
Some of my favorite George H.W. Bush quotes:
• “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”
• “What’s wrong with being a boring kind of guy?”
• “We know what works. Freedom works. We know what’s right. Freedom is right.”
• “I’m a conservative, but I’m not a nut about it.”
• “Let me give you a little serious political inside advice. One single word. Puppies. Worth 10 points.”
• “It’s a very good question, very direct, and I’m not going to answer it.”
• “You cannot be president of the United States if you don’t have faith. Remember Lincoln, going to his knees in times of trial in the Civil War and all that stuff?”
• “We don’t want an America that is closed to the world. What we want is a world that is open to America.”
• “Old guys can still have fun and still do stuff.”
• Jackie Pilossoph is a freelance columnist for Chicago Tribune Media Group. She is also the creator of her divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph lives in Chicago with her two children.