One of my fondest memories from childhood is the family wood stove. My parents have an old, iron stove in the basement that they used for primary heat most of the 1970s and 80s. It is a modest stove, measuring roughly 24 x 15 x 15 inches with a heavy, right-handed door and two spinning dampers. I fondly remember helping my father stoke its fire on cold, winter days and feeling its energy pulse through the house as it raged hotter and hotter. There was never any question that the stove would bring us warmth on those frigid days. It is solid, straightforward in construction, and properly ventilated. When I came home from school, its fire comforted me. When I awoke in the mornings, its fire energized me. When I was wet, its fire dried me. When I sick, its fire healed me. It was a faithful companion--a reliable friend.
Starting in the 1990s, however, my parents began using the wood stove less. By the time I graduated college in 1998, the oil furnace was used most of the wintertime, and today my parents rarely burn wood. On the few occasions that I go home each year, the stove is cold and lifeless--its sides scorched white but only as a record of its once heroic deeds. There it stands . . . burning nothing but memories.
I guess this is how I'm feeling about George H. W. Bush today. From ages 6 to 14, he was my Vice President, and then from ages 14 to 18, he was my President. I grew up with him! He was one of the national leaders whom I admired, if not for his politics, at least for his familiarity. He was someone in whose shadow I awoke every morning and under whose protection I went to bed every night. I was comforted by his humble and dignified presence on the evening news, inspired by stories of his character and wartime heroism, and stimulated by his confident, steadfast demeanor before a nation at both peace and war. An unassuming man, he was nonetheless reliable--solid, straightforward, well ventilated. He was the wood stove I called my President.
As we learned this morning, though, his fire has gone out and will not burn on this earth again. Yet, he leaves behind a white scorch, which stands as a stark reminder of the man whose fire once burned with vigor and consistency. Sure, I can't say George H. W. Bush was one of the greatest Presidents in history--I can't even say that history will be kind to his memory--but I can say I will never forget the warmth, reliability, and familiarity he brought to my life. I will never forget my President. And there he stands . . . burning glorious memories.