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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why Bloggers Blog: Part III-C

A 20th Century Example of
Writing Words that Last by way of a Letter

I had the honor of visiting briefly with President George Herbert Walker Bush (41st POTUS and father of 43rd) after a fundraising event in October of 1999. I’d brought with me a copy of All the Best, his memoirs in letters. His son had already signed it a month before and the father was happy to grace the fly leaf with his own brief note and autograph.

If you have ever seen the elder Bush talk of his children, you know there is a deep affection that quickly finds its way to his tearful eyes. That happened in our brief conversation. Regardless of any other feelings some may have about these two men and the times through which they met the challenges of their presidencies, I will forever feel that they are the most tenderhearted leaders I have ever looked in the eyes, and I believe time will bear this out.
In the spirit of civility and the respect due to letters of this nature, I invite us to set aside current public opinion and think back more than fifty years to when our current President Bush was six years old, the year his little sister (nearly four) Robin died of leukemia. In the tender years to follow, he and his brothers watched their parents work through the grief of losing their daughter.

On page 81-82 of that historic collection of letters, All the Best, there is a letter the elder Bush wrote to his mother one evening in lieu of visiting his daughter's grave. I found no copy of the text on the internet, so I’ve presented it here as Part III-C, since it is a modern example of the vulnerable eloquence discussed in Part III-B. [This was written in 1958, years before he held any political office.]

Dear Mum,

I’ve jotted down some words about a subject dear to your heart and mine….I sometimes wonder whether it is fair to the boys…to “fly high” the portrait of Robin that I love so much…every time I sit at our table with just our candlelight, I can’t help put glance at this picture you gave us and enjoy a renewed physical sensation of closeness to a loved one.

This letter… is kind of a confessional… between you and me….
There is about our house a need….We need some starched crisp frocks to go with the torn-kneed blue jeans and helmets. We need some soft blond hair to off-set those crew cuts. We need a doll house to stand firm against our forts and rackets and thousand baseball cards…. We need a legitimate Christmas angel—one who doesn’t’ have cuffs beneath the dress.
We need someone who’s afraid of frogs.
We need someone to cry when I get mad—not argue.
We need a little one who can kiss without leaving...jam or gum.
We need a girl.
We had one once—she’d fight and cry and play and make her way just like the rest.
But there was about her a certain softness.
She was patient—her hugs just a little less wiggly….
She’d stand beside our bed till I felt her there. Silently and comfortable, she’d put those fragrant locks against my chest and fall asleep.
Her peace made me feel strong, and so very important.
[Her saying] “My Daddy” had a caress, a certain ownership which touched a slightly different spot than the “Hi Dad” [of the boys] I love so much.
But she is still with us. We need her and yet we have her.
We can’t touch her, and yet we can feel her.
We hope she’ll stay in our house for a long, long time.”

Love, Pop...
[a nick name he used in his letters to his parents]
Thirty years later he was sworn in as President and attempted to cast a vision for "a kinder, gentler America." Detractors mocked it at the time, but perhaps he was referring the kindness so evident in this letter and to the civility that we've been talking about in these posts. Part IV covers some of the gathered input from comments in this series as well as some remaining thoughts on Why Bloggers Blog. [It may even be followed by a Part V prompted by a comment below.]
[George H.W. Bush speaks at Ronald Reagan's funeral.]

Note: Based on last week's hint about this post, some of you may have thought it would be a letter from President Ronald Reagan. He was an avid letter writer--especially prolific were his notes to his wife. She later compiled in this book. Because of his Alzheimer disease, Ronald Reagan is probably best known for this letter, which closed with "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead." I used those images and farewell letter in a poem entitled A Mourning in America .

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Blogger Nancy said...

WOW, that made me cry. I didn't know about the daughter that died or the letter. The father/son Bush combo have always touched me as compassionate, kind and gentle. I agree that history will portray them that way in the end. The letter also says volumes about his relationship with his Mom and sharing his pain through written words (it is very good therapy). You can feel his pain and vividly see the image of the daughter with her Dad. It really made me think of the pain on my Dad's face the day that I had to tell him, his first and only grandson was going to die. He had 3 daughters and so wanted a son and a grandson was the next best thing. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. Thankfully, 18 months later Ben was born but our lives were forever touched by "the first".

Words are powerful and should be selected carefully and if you can't say something good... then just don't say anything at all. That is the same civility you spoke of in blogging.

One thing that has surprised me about blogging is the relationship that develops between bloggers. Just through words... friendships are formed, connections are made, and you really do care about fellow bloggers and their well being.

Thanks for sharing this today, you gave me insight into the soft gentle side of several men.

24/4/07 9:10 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

President Bush and his wife Barbara were on Larry King Live last night and they talked about their little girl and how she had died of leukemia. They have a room in their house dedicated to her, with her things in it and with the walls covered with her drawings. They said it keeps her alive and keeps her with the family. They gave a tour of her room. And when President Bush talked about her, he had such a sweetness, I was quite amazed. It gave me a different perspective of him. It's nice to read this letter and see his words as a "private person" rather than as a president.

Blogging is a permanent record of our words, and as Nancy has so eloquently said, "if you can't say something good... then just don't say anything at all." That is so true. Even debates can be civil.

What a great series of posts this is. I wish the whole blogging world could read it, and participate.


24/4/07 11:19 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

You are right about the sense of friendship. I think I'll give it a slightly different twist in a future post: "Who is neighbor unto thee?" I'll have to think about that.
I can read between the lines of what you've shared but don't know the details. Have you ever posted about it? If so, could I have a "link"... if not, I understand.

I can't believe I missed that interview--didn't even know about it. I would have liked to have seen it. I actually wrote this post last Friday night to post Sunday night, then my mom's visit and birthday rightfully bumped it to last night.
That is a very nice thing to say about this series. It has been very beneficial for me to write and get input from others. There are still "new" comments coming on the old posts. That does not always happen. I hope it continues in this case.

25/4/07 5:38 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

As you might guess, I was an avid letter writer and journaler as a kid. I still have a box of letters and poems and prayers that I both wrote and received through the years. Chip has a hard time with the fact that I keep Christmas cards around all year, sometimes two or three, before finally tossing them out. I think it is the connection. I think it is that words are so personal. This is what makes blogging even more interesting to me. What started out as a way for me to share pictures and updates of my family for friends and family members, has gone far beyond that...to complete strangers around the world.
I loved this note you shared from President Bush Sr. How thoughtful and moving, and the sensativity is thick throughout. SOmething that oftentimes, especially men, are expected to avoid. Yet, I think of the most compassionate 'man'- sensative to the needs and hurts of the hearts of ALL people, and it makes me pause and think wonder why such tenderness is "taught" to be avoided. If we are to be like Christ, then surely, that means we should all be clothed in humility and gentleness. Seems to me that our American society is trying to do away with the very character we need most in men- especially our leaders. Maybe some are beginning to see it in the likes of Arnold Schwazzanegger...tough, but still a caring family man to those he has been blessed to call family.
I have really enjoyed your 'series' here at POI. It has affirmed the questions and concerns I often have in my own mind about blogging and whether or not it is worthy of my time and energy.
In my own life, my grandmother lost a 6 year old son in a fire, her husband spent 2 years in the U of MN burn unti, only to be killed in a car accident a mere 3 weeks after his discharged. She (and my mother) have told me stories and shared their heartaches through the years, but I still fear that much will be 'lost' as it has never been written down. That is one of the reasons I write. To remember...and to share my journey...thinking that down the road, someone may benefit from reading about my struggles and dependence on Christ.
Words are powerful and far-reaching. Precisely why God chose to inspire the Scriptures. HE knew that they would span generations...and beneift ALL of us.

25/4/07 7:39 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I wrote about the death of my son Joe, on my blog, titled March 19, 1980 and I posted it on March 1, 2007. A very deep valley to go through but the blessings were just around the corner. Thanks for the interest. http://carson132.blogspot.com/2007/march-19-1980.html

25/4/07 11:11 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I tend to be a keeper as well. A card has to be pretty special for Julie to keep it. One time she walked up behind me in Hallmark as I was trying to decide between two cards for her. She read them both; put one back; read the other one again; kissed me; said "Thank you, Honey," and put it back with a smile. "Just saved us three bucks!" I do admire her efficiency.
I'm very glad I had an upbringing of "manly" things, tough "boy stuff," wrestling, etc. because the softhearted side of me would have been picked on otherwise. You're right. Most men avoid showing that side for that reason.
Write those family stories. If you don't, who will?

I went back and read that account. I remembered it well. I misread your comment and thought it was leukemia. It is so hard to lose a child at any age. I can't imagine how hard it would have been to tell your father. Those moments become part of who we are.

25/4/07 6:06 PM  

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