Goodbye to a president

I played hookey after all.

How could I not when it was all so close? When President Ford’s funeral was taking place mere blocks from my home on a bright January afternoon.

I planned to take Juliette along with me. And my camera, of course. Luckily I was able to snag my husband on one of his last days of unemployment (yeah, you read that right!) to be my companion. To walk with me in the sunlight.

We headed out as we would on a normal go-to-the-dogpark outing and turned onto Plymouth instead. We immediately merged into a line of people who were trooping companionably along the street. Couples. Friends. Families. The whole gamut. We walked quietly to the intersection of Hall and Plymouth where we passed by dozens of television crews before we collected with the hundreds of others who had already gathered across the street from Grace Episcopal Church. With their children, their cameras, their video recorders and assorted American flags.

Then we waited. We watched as the police cars quickly and quietly passed the intersection with their lights flashing, sirens silenced, leading a motorcade of black cars. We watched as the honor guard lined up on the steps and flanked the entrances. We watched as the band came out to the front lawn. We watched the various mourners enter through the side door. We peered to see the roof of the hearse as the unloaded the President’s casket and waited patiently (even sweet Juliette who was so, so confused) until it was borne by the pallbearers into the front door of church.

Then we all simply turned away and headed back. Back to the cars that lined the streets in such an unfamiliar way. Back to work. Back to our homes.

We took Juliette over to the park to reward her for 75 minutes of being on her best behavior. It was so surreal to walk past Ari’s house, practically kitty-corner from the church, and wind our way the couple of blocks from the park. Such familiar territory on a normal day, but a bit alien when hordes of others were accompanying us.

Even the park itself, normally populated by a random kid or two and groups of dogs and their owners, became a strange place. People walked through to reach their destination. Juliette stood confused and unwilling to partake of her normal sniffing routine.

So we headed home and watched President Carter deliver a moving eulogy. Live. Just down the street from me. Brought to tears by losing a friend who meant so much to him. Bringing me to tears too. The ones that had stung the back of my eyes as I’d stood watching, quietly, in the bright sunlight.

Goodbye, President Ford.