The time I met the 41st President of the United States

The time I met the 41st President of the United States

I have talked before about growing up in a politically active family. The first rally I remember attending was for Nixon in 1968 at Fort Lee High School. I was only three and a half, but my memory of it is vivid. The future President came close enough to shake my parents’ hands and tug at my wool hat. I was wearing a “Nixon’s The One” button. Yes, back then I was a Republican.

Politics taught me that there are opposing sides and winners and losers. It was kind of like playing team sports, but the consequences much more serious.  I learned about ideology and how one’s beliefs fueled who they supported or with what political party they choose to align themselves. We had friends and relatives from both parties. That led to some heated debates at social gatherings, but it never ended relationships.

Waiting for Republican Presidential Candidate Richard Nixon. Fort Lee, New Jersey. November 1968.

I recall my parents having very emotional disagreements with elected officials during mayor and council meetings, and then shaking hands in church, lamenting about the weather, or patronizing each other’s businesses.  From where I sat, I saw a world where differences just made people interesting, not hated. And being involved in politics took me to some interesting places where I got to meet lots of interesting people. On the national scene, in addition to Richard Nixon, that included Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, and Ronald Reagan (I had to Google it, but yes, Bob Dole is still alive).

Not long after I graduated from college, my political views began to change, and I also decided to be a little more low-key in my activism. In my 30s I served my community through the non-profit sector as Vice President of Bergen County’s United Way.  In that roll, I continued to meet lots of interesting people. In March 2002, that included Former President George H.W. Bush.

The Northern New Jersey Business Volunteer Council, in which I was involved, was honored as a Point of Light at a luncheon in New York City. President Bush was the keynote speaker. Because I had met all of the earlier Republican presidents in my lifetime, I thought I had to seize this opportunity.  This was just six months after 9-11, so security was heightened. The former president was behind the head table, which sat on a low riser in the front of the Marriott Marque’s ballroom (which, by the way, can hold 2400 people for a sit-down lunch). Secret Service blocked every path to him.

While everyone was taking their seats, before the program was to begin, there was a lot of milling around. I was seated at a table with my boss, who had always said that it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission. With that in mind, I took a deep breath and just walked up to the head table, around the big, burly, scary Secret Service Agents, acting like I was supposed to be there, and found myself standing alongside George H.W. Bush.

There I stood patiently waiting for him to finish his conversation with another man – just like you would for anyone you were trying to network with at a luncheon. Mr. Bush noticed me and said hello. I told him who I was and why I was there and how much I appreciated what he created with the Points of Light Foundation. He was charming and gracious. And tall. That was my immediate reaction to seeing him in person. He was taller than I thought he would be.

He saw my camera and asked the man he had been speaking with to take our picture. He then told me to send him a copy of the photo so he could sign it and send it back. That photo and the letter that accompanied it, is framed and proudly displayed in my home office. I had a copy of the photo printed for my dad too and he had it framed on display in his home office as well.

Of course, I never told President Bush (or my dad) that I only voted for him once.  Because I didn’t support his bid for re-election, didn’t mean I didn’t support all the good he had done since. Politics isn’t what it used to be. There was a time when you felt that even when people didn’t agree on how to solve problems, at the heart of their solutions was the desire to do what they thought was best for America.

Rest in peace Mr. Bush.

The photo and the letter as seen on my office wall. Chicago, Illinois. December 2018.
Quiet and peaceful defines the empty nest

Quiet and peaceful defines the empty nest

Although my daughter went “home” to New Jersey for the better part of the Thanksgiving break, we did get to spend some time together before and after her trip. And you know what? I’m starting to understand why empty-nesting parents miss their kids. Or rather “young adults” and that’s the difference.

My mother and I grew closer after I started college which I always attributed to her missing me and learning to appreciate me more when I wasn’t home. Sure. How things change when we can finally see them from the perspective of another. I only wish now that my mom was around, so I can share my revelation.

I picked her up on Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving. We went to the movies (only $5 for AMC Stubs members on Tuesdays!), something we’ve started doing fairly regularly in the past month or so because she doesn’t have classes on Wednesdays. We just relaxed around the apartment on Wednesday. Thursday, she slept in while I ran my early morning Turkey Trot and then we had a nice lunch just the two of us before she began her journey back east.

Nothing really exciting. No monumental story to be shared with her children someday down the road. Just a very quiet and peaceful time together. The “difficult teenage years” (as my own mother referred to that time in my life) were behind us. I recall mothers of older children telling me that it would get better, that they grow out of it; hard to believe when you’re in the thick of it.  I found myself having that conversation with the mother of young teens this week. It’s nice to finally be on the other side.

I still believe that my own mother would say the turning point in our relationship came as I matured, and from my new perspective as the mom, I wouldn’t argue with her. Although I think the responsibility for the transformation in the mother-child relationship is everyone’s. Yes, I will admit as the mom, that my daughter is not the difficult teen she once was. It would appear that in living with three other girls she has finally learned to clean up after herself and put things back where she found them. She also confesses to actually “liking” laundry day (“it’s meditative”)!

While my daughter has matured, I also miss her. And now that I don’t have to clean up after her when she is at home, I miss her even more. She’s also less argumentative. Maybe has come to appreciate me? Perhaps. Regardless of what’s changed, I enjoy her company. I enjoy her stories about her new experiences and her excitement about what’s she learning. She’s funny and cleaver. We have similar interests. She teaches me new things and she is my go-to person for help with social media.

Someone told me a long time ago when I was a new parent, that you have 18 years to impart as much wisdom on your kids as you can so that you can let go and trust them to make their own smart decisions. I know I’ve made mistakes (what parent hasn’t, right?). I feel now though that I’ve done a pretty good job navigating some difficult terrain over the last five years.

There’s no finish line in parenting. I will of course continue to be there to support her (and pay the college tuition bills) and make sure her basic needs are met for a few more years. Beyond that though, there’s a lot less “parenting” to be done. And I can now say that my daughter is one of my best friends. I am very grateful for that.

Alone time with another close friend. Diversey Harbor. Chicago, Illinois. November 2018.
3 Reasons to Run a Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving

3 Reasons to Run a Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving

Running a “Turkey Trot” – that is road race on Thanksgiving morning – has become a tradition that started for me 10 years ago. While there were a couple years in there where injury or family plans prevented me from doing so, I’ve really come to feel that it’s not Thanksgiving if I don’t start the day running. Read more

New city. New traditions.

New city. New traditions.

The tradition in our family was to put the holiday decorations up after Thanksgiving. Never earlier. They stay up until January 6 (“Little Christmas” or the Feast of the Epiphany), although when I was working full-time outside the home, I’d put them all away on New Year’s Day in order to feel a fresh start going back to work on the 2nd. Once my daughter came along and developed an opinion, she objected to both. Read more

Settling into mundane reality

Settling into mundane reality

This is actually last week’s blog. 🙂

Not sure what happened to last week. Would love to report that I took the week off and had my feet up someplace or was vacationing on a sunny beach. No such luck. Although if that were the case, I’d probably have something exciting to write about. Can’t even say I filled my time voting last week. Thanks to early voting here in Illinois, I did that the week before the election. Read more