I was watching the news about former President George H. W. Bush’s death last week when my 9-year-old daughter walked in the room.

“The president died?” she asked, worried.

“No, not the current president, but a former president, the one who was president when I was your age,” I told her.

“Whoa. And he was still alive?” she asked, inferring that my childhood must have been eons ago. I suppose in the political world, it really was.

I was born in the early days of Reagan and spent the bulk of my formative years with Reagan and Bush in the White House. There are a few major news events I remember as a kid — for instance, the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember Bush coming on TV and announcing the start of the first Gulf War when I was in fourth grade. I was 9. When Bush lost his second run for president in 1992 to Bill Clinton, I was 11, and I remember feeling such a loss for the 41st president. My parents weren’t overtly political, and probably voted for Clinton.

But I remember feeling so bad that Bush wasn’t re-elected that the day after the election, I pulled my scented Lisa Frank rainbow stationery out of my desk at home and wrote him a letter, telling him I was sorry, but thanking him for his service. I also drew him a picture. To this day, I can’t remember what the drawing was of or what exactly I wrote President Bush. But I still distinctly remember how sad I was for him.

It was the first and only time I wrote a president. Not sure if the letter was ever mailed, as I never got a reply. But that letter came to mind on Nov. 30, when the news broke of Bush’s death.

As my oldest daughter watched the news with me last week, watching a clip about Bush’s service dog standing watch over the coffin as it laid in state — I couldn’t help but be thankful to grow up in a different political time, when society wasn’t as seemingly divided.

Sure, there was the Cold War, but it was over before I was even really aware of what it was. I grew up in a time of relative peace and economic prosperity — before 9/11, before the second invasion of Iraq. It was a time before school shootings — or mass shootings of any kind — became a common occurrence. It was a time when you didn’t worry about terrorists or global warming, when social media didn’t exist — because the internet wasn’t widespread, yet, either. Only one of my friends’ parents had a cellphone, and it remained in a bag in the car.

As I watched dignitaries on TV pay their final respects to Bush last week — as I witnessed 95-year-old Bob Dole struggle to stand and give a final salute, I mourned for Bush, and in a way, for so many other leaders of the “greatest generation.” I’m worried for this country’s political future, for my children’s future. And Bush’s death marks the loss of a humble leader who dedicated his life to this country. Bush, like John McCain, nearly died fighting for it.

I don’t consider myself a member of any political party. But I am thankful for Bush’s leadership and legacy — and hope that younger generations take note and try to follow in his footsteps.

 

Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.