Gerald Ford was the first presidential candidate I was eligible to vote for. My parents were republicans and I followed their lead in that election - my first as a voter. The race between Ford and contender Jimmy Carter was a close one and the latter squeaked to victory.
It was Gerald Ford who replaced the resigning Nixon; the Watergate scandal transfixed the nation. I remember spending my afternoons watching the daily hearings on TV. By the time of the Watergate scandal, we had witnessed the assasination of a President (Kennedy) and two other political leaders - Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. so the spectacle of a disgraced president wasn't exactly a raping of national innocence. The world and politics was ugly business and we knew it. Even as a teenager I knew this.
I liked Ford but questioned the wisdom of pardoning Nixon. It might have been very healthy for people to see a president being held legally accountable for his misconduct. Ironically, I don't question Ford's motive for pardoning Nixon as being a move to close the chapter on Watergate. I believe he thought that to be the best decision. Many did not share that view, of course.
In 1977 while a college student I got to have lunch with Jimmy Carter along with about twenty-five other people. It was interesting. Two decades later, I was attending a Broadway revival of "How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" and in the coat check area was ex-President Gerald Ford and his friend/colleague Henry Kissinger. I was trying to figure out whether Ford was very, very tall or Kissinger was extremely short. I do remember wishing that Ford's good looking son, Jack, was there. He was not. Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Kissinger were, of course.
I admire Ford for standing with his wife during her bout with alcoholism, her own work in setting up a clinic and encouraging those with the disease to take back their lives through treatment. Living with an alcoholic is wretched business.
And so now Gerald Ford has died. I just saw a photo of Betty Ford looking on her husband's coffin and feeling so sad for her. How hard it is to grieve in peace when you are someone like that.