Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Remembering President Ford
Gerald Ford was the first president I ever saw in real life. I was 5 years old in 1975, when my dad read in the newspaper that the presidential motorcade would be passing close to our small hometown of 4,000 people. He decided to take me and hoisted me up on his shoulders as the motorcade passed. Truth is, I really couldn't see anything. I do remember a lot of people cheering, though, and my dad getting really excited. My dad, who had emigrated from India just a few years before, had always dreamed of meeting a U.S. president, and he believed this was the closest he would get.
In the spring of 2006, I had a chance to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is on the campus of the University of Michigan, where Ford went to school and was a football standout. I went there with my dad, and we talked to some of the staffers about President Ford and his health. They said he was doing pretty well, aside from some "minor" problems with his heart and his lungs. He had a pacemaker put in this year and had been hospitalized for pneumonia. Still, he was fairly active and spry for being in his 90s. "But he is old," my dad said to me as we walked out.
It is true that Ford was 93 years old, the longest living president. Doctors, though, don't focus as much on age as they do on physiology. That means a 60-year-old could really have the medical conditions of a 90-year-old and vice versa. Most people would like to live like an incandescent bulb - shine brightly their entire life and then suddenly go dim. They would like to live long and die short, as Ford did. When asked what caused his death, the answer is not "old age." That hasn't been an official cause of death in this country since 1951. Most likely, it was a combination of heart and lung problems.
I called my dad early this morning to tell him Gerald Ford had died and he immediately recounted the story from 31 years ago. He also thanked me for introducing him to President Clinton a few years ago. His dream of meeting a U.S. president finally came true.
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