I was swimming toward a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, so far away from the shore that I could barely see it. Several yards ahead of me was Barbara Bush, with Secret Servicemen swimming on either side of her. I've got a healthy fear of sharks and things that might be in the water, but I knew that there was nothing dangerous in this part of the water world. And I'd been told that if I couldn't make it, someone would come and get me. The salt water was so buoyant that I could swim, or stop and rest and just lie back. Barbara turned around and shouted, "You know, the Secret Service is here for me, not for you! So take care of yourself."
Vince and I had been invited to go on a trip that the Bush family has taken every year since George Bush Sr. left office. With them, they take their extended family and a circle of friends of their choosing. They like music, and almost every year they invite someone musical to come along. This particular year they invited Vince and me. And they told us, "Please bring your guitars, but you don't have to sing."
The trip was filled with hiking, backgammon, wonderful meals, and great conversations. Most of those people whose company I enjoyed I will probably never see again. We walked remote, narrow roads on little Greek isles, and at one point we took a bus ride that scared me to death, up a winding road. We discovered a little, family-owned museum. The owner had married an Englishwoman. They showed us ancient relics, and when we left, we promised to send music. (I've yet to send the music, but I still have the address.) At a seaside trattoria, under the stars, we danced wild, reckless Greek dances.
That's not the first time we'd been invited to do something with the Bushes because of music. Twelve years earlier, when President Bush Sr. had lost the election to Bill Clinton, he organized a farewell gathering at Camp David to thank people who had supported him through his time in office. I was invited to come and sing at a Sunday-morning chapel program. Gary and I went, and my mom came along to help with six-week-old Sarah.
It was a quick trip. We arrived at our cabin around dinnertime on a Saturday night and were told that if we were hungry, we should walk to a particular cabin a short distance away. I figured it was a cafeteria or something. It was dark, and I couldn't get a feel for the place. When we knocked on the cabin door, it was opened by George and Barbara. It was just the five of us having dinner. And then we all watched a movie—Of Mice and Men—together, curled up on the sofa with their dog, Millie.
I had met them once before, on a tour of the White House, when Matt was a baby. Years later, they came to a Christmas show and sat in the audience. At the same time, Vince was getting to know the Bushes through his music. He sang at the dedication of the Bush Library.
Life takes some interesting turns. Here in a remote cove, stretched out under the stars around a bonfire, Vince and I sat at George and Barbara's feet, and played guitar and serenaded President Bush on his eighty-first birthday. They watched the stars and heard the waves lapping. It was beautiful.