He loved to laugh, especially at himself. He could tease and needle, but never out of malice. He placed great value on a good joke. That’s why he chose Simpson to speak. On email he had a circle of friends with whom he shared and received the latest jokes. His grading system for the quality of the joke was classic George Bush. The rare sevens and eights were considered huge winners, most of them off color. George Bush knew how to be a true and loyal friend. He nurtured and honored his many friendships with a generous and giving soul. There exist thousands of handwritten notes encouraging, or sympathizing, or thanking his friends and acquaintances. He had an enormous capacity to give of himself. Many a person would tell you that Dad became a mentor and a father figure in their life. He listened and he consoled. He was their friend. I think of Don Rhodes, Taylor Blanton, Jim Nantz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and perhaps the unlikeliest of all, the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton. My siblings and I refer to the guys in this group as brothers from other mothers. He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted. He played golf at a legendary pace. I always wondered why he insisted on speed golf—he is a good golfer. Here’s my conclusion: He played fast so that he could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expend his enormous energy, to live it all. He was born with just two settings: full throttle, then sleep.
He taught us what it means to be a wonderful father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He was firm in his principles and supportive as we began to seek our own ways. He encouraged and comforted but never steered. We tested his patience. I know I did. But he always responded with the great gift of unconditional love. Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy answering the phone said, “I think he can hear you, but he hasn’t said anything for most of the day.” I said, “Dad, I love you, and you have been a wonderful father.” And the last words he would ever say on Earth were “I love you, too.”
To us, he was close to perfect. But not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us. Finally, every day of his 73 years of marriage, Dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart. He adored her. He laughed and cried with her. He was dedicated to her totally. In his old age, Dad enjoyed watching police-show reruns, the volume on high. All the while holding Mom’s hand. After Mom died, Dad was strong, but all he really wanted to do was hold Mom’s hand again.
Of course, Dad taught me another special lesson: He showed me what it means to be a president that leads with integrity, leads with courage, acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country. When the history books are written, they will say that George H. W. Bush was a great president of the United States, a diplomat of unmatched skill, a commander in chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.