My family and I go to our vacation spot at the beach every chance we get. It’s our favorite place, and it was also Blair’s favorite place. In BG, she was always happy. Blair loved boating, golf carting, and shelling. I think that’s part of the reason that we still enjoy going so much… because we can feel her there with us.
We’re a pretty cool family, but for the past several years, we’ve had to settle for second coolest family on the island. Ever since a family of two presidents started vacationing there, BG became a more interesting place, to say the least. We loved seeing George W., George H.W., and the whole Bush family around the island. Blair even got a picture with George W. Bush once! My parents and I were out on the boat, and Blair was with a caregiver at the beach club. Suddenly, we were sent a photo of Blair with the 43rd President of the United States! He was so nice to B and even commented about her watching Barney.
Two years later, Blair passed away. That’s when I decided to start this website, to help siblings like me who are often overlooked. The B.L.A.I.R. Connection is a space for siblings and only siblings. We needed that. I have posted a few guest blogs, which made me realize that other perspectives are really important, too. That’s part of the reason that I’ve decided to start a podcast. I’ll be interviewing people from all aspects of sibling support to help siblings and others gain knowledge. I came up with this idea over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, on my way to the beach.
That’s when my parents told me about George W. Bush’s sister, who passed away from Leukemia at age three. I never knew about this connection, but it’s always eye-opening to hear about people in the spotlight with a similar situation as myself. A main goal of The B.L.A.I.R. Connection is to make siblings of the terminally ill feel less alone. With this goal in mind, I knew I had to share Bush’s story. But it’s not my story to tell, so I decided to ask him for an interview. I know, it’s a crazy idea. But with our super sib connection and the photo above, I figured he couldn’t turn me down. I’ve pitched ideas related to fundraising and my website to some crazy people before, including Alex Morgan, the owner of Orlando City, and my middle school (that one was probably the scariest). A former president, though, is a whole new level. My parents were all in on the idea. I contemplated my plan for the next several hours. I found the photo of Bush with my sister to show him initially. I decided what to say in order to get my point across without causing too much of an interruption. Then, I waited at the beach club. For … a while (secret service, please don’t come for me). He never came. The next day, I saw him sitting down to eat at the club. This was my chance. I was so nervous. I was confident he would say yes, but I understood what a big ask it was, and I hate asking people for favors.
I walked up to his table, my heart pounding. I realized why he had been gone the day before, he was picking up a friend. Not just any friend, his former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who was sitting next to him. No pressure. Here we go. “Excuse me, Mr. President? You took this photo with my sister a few years ago. She passed away in 2017 and I wanted to tell you how appreciative my family is of your kindness that day,” I said. But of course, at the worst time, my eyes started to tear up. I wasn’t sad, I give that same spiel all the time that it barely even registers in my mind what I’m saying. I was just so nervous. Then, I saw the look in his eyes. I know that look. He thinks I’m a victim. He feels bad for me. I hate that. I’m the strong super sibling. I’m not just the girl that lost her sister. I know I’m being hard on myself, but I think I lost my case as soon as the first tear dropped. I strive to present myself as a professional, but at the end of the day, I’m 16… super sibs can’t always be strong.
Bush saw the tears and tried to break the tension by asking for a picture with me. It was really sweet, but I didn’t need a picture… I needed an interview. I tried to pull myself together and explain to him how I’ve turned that pain of losing B into passion through my website. I told him that I read about his sister, and even though I already had a feeling it was over, I asked for the interview. Once again, I could see the look in his eyes. He wasn’t gonna say yes. He explained that he doesn’t really remember losing his sister. I understand this completely, but there are so many super siblings out there who have gone through a similar experience and don’t know how to deal with their emotions. I just met a sibling at the MPS Conference that was only one when his sister passed away. I can’t imagine. It doesn’t make his feelings of grief any more or less justified. We all need the support. But, again, I get it. He ended the conversation by saying, “Let me think about it.” I thanked him and walked away, pretty disappointed with myself.
I took that response as a “no,” and I think that’s what it was meant to be, but I’m not giving up. After all, it’s much cooler to have a president as my 100th podcast than my first. I am so thankful for the Bushes’ constant kindness towards my family, and that just wasn’t my day. At least now I can tell my story of pitching the president on MLK weekend. I’ll give Bush some time to think about it… super sibs always bounce back.