What gave me some of the best experiences as Senator Abdnor’s driver was the unexpected. One day after classes and getting back to Capitol Hill, I was informed tonight’s itinerary was the Senator was having dinner at Vice President Bush’s House with other Republican Senators. The issue or agenda I don’t recall if I ever knew it.
On the way, the Senator asked if I had eaten anything and I told him no thinking he’d either bring me a box of the dinner or have one ran out to me. Jim Abdnor didn’t like being hungry so he always made sure those around him were well-fed.
When we got to the Naval Observatory, Senator Abdnor told me to come along and not sit in the car. Not knowing what to expect I did as I was told but was sheepish as I walked by the other Senator’s cars as their drivers sat in their car. Drivers just don’t go to meetings with other Senators and certainly not with the Vice President.
When we got in the door, Senator Abdnor grabbed one of the waiters and told him I needed something to eat. This guy was good as he knew I wasn’t supposed to go into the dining room with the others yet not wanting to offend an obvious VIP (Senator Abdnor) so I was escorted into what I assume was the family eating area, a small functional kitchen with a kitchen table and four chairs. The waiter asked me to sit down, left the room and soon came with a salad.
Shortly after I received the main meal, a “side door” which I presume went into the family living quarters opened and in entered the Vice President’s wife, Barbara Bush. As surprised as I was to see her, she was even more surprised to see me as she was dressed not quite in lounge wear but certainly not what a person of her background would wear to meet a stranger or entertain guests.
After finding out who I was and how I got there, she said she was getting a snack, poured herself a glass of milk and got a couple of cookies from the pantry and proceeded to sit down with me. What struck me about the entire exchange is she not once made me feel uncomfortable for being there, made it seem natural she’d eat her snack with me, and, most importantly, she acted like my grandmother would have treated a stranger in her kitchen, with kindness and hospitality. Two other times I saw her up close. While we didn’t ever talk again, she acknowledged me both times with a big smile and a wink.
There has been much said about Mrs. Bush’s steely resolve and capacity to chop off heads of anyone threatening her family, her humor, and her public interest in literacy. What I hoped to confirm what I think we all suspected- she was also a kind and gentle grandmother.
May the soul of Barbara Bush, by the Mercy of God, Rest in Peace.