If you had asked me two weeks ago to rate the presidency of George H. W. Bush, I would have said he was OK – kind of a one-term placekeeper for the presidents to follow.

This past week we mourned with the Bush family, our country, the world, over the loss of our 41st president. I was a young mother when he served. I had two young children, was running my own business and helping my mother care for my aged grandmother. I was busy. I was certainly aware of events happening in the world, but they were outside of my world.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union; the Berlin wall coming down; the liberation of Kuwait; the first Iraq war – I was aware of them all, but I didn’t understand the fact that any one of these events could have thrown our world into chaos if not for the experienced, compassionate management of Bush 41.

He was manager-in-chief for the world.

I was simply too busy to understand the intricacies, the nuances, the complexities that probably no one else could have handled better than our president.

With children grown, elders departed, retirement from business, I had the time this week to watch some of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the laying to rest of Bush 41. I sat amazed at the list of accomplishments, both national and international; his expert handling of situations that could have so easily spun out of control. But what touched, and frankly embarrassed me most was the obvious gentler side – the loving, funny side of this life-long civil servant of which I was totally unaware.

He was the “real deal.” Certainly not perfect; he was the first to admit that he made mistakes. He owned them – the buck stopped with him and he was very willing to shoulder the criticism. He governed with dignity and respect for those who disagreed with him, and was tireless in not only his public life but his private life as well.

You couldn’t watch the coverage of his funeral without coming away with a sense of the love he shared with his family and friends.

We all know death: the famous, the not-so-famous, the powerful, those with little power, the kind, the unkind, the just and those who are not. Death is the great equalizer. Death is universal. We have all felt the unique loss that follows in death’s wake.

But, for me, there was something more to this past week than the man’s death. I realized it was a lesson in the history of our country, our world, that had somehow passed me by at the time of his presidency.

I had always thought of myself as a pretty astute voyeur of events happening around me. This really pulled me up short.

If I could, I would tell that young me that the complexities of any presidency can never truly be known unless you are the one sitting in the Oval Office, but I think it is our responsibility to pay more attention.

I wish I would have recognized our manager-in-chief at the time. I am grateful that this past week provided that history lesson.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at wendylevenfeld.com.

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