Happy Birthday Mr. President

I missed saying Happy Birthday to Lincoln yesterday so I’ll do it now since he’s my favorite president. I like him not for all those myths about reading by firelight but for the things we know are true: The way he remained loyal to his poor crazy wife, difficult as she was, a shopaholic blithely sending the bills for her lavish wardrobe along to the government. The way he comforted her after their boy Will died in the White House even though he himself was devastated by this  loss and even had the child disinterred and his coffin pried open so he could look once more upon his face.

But he was funny too and speaking of funny I guess we might as well get that Geico ad out of the way right now. It’s disrespectful but there’s something so universal about the way his wife fumes and stalks out of the room. Marriage!

According to his friend Judge David Davis, Lincoln’s rib-tickling tales were really just   “devices to whistle down sadness,” a tactic that I for one understand completely.

Finally, I love what he told the crowd in February of 1861 when he left Springfield to take the oath of office. “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything,” he said that day at the train station.  “Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return…Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

This speech is in my head all the time for some reason, the passing-from-a-young-man-to-an-old-man part especially.Also in my head often is the memory of these chairs set up by his closest associates who stayed with him as he lay dying from that bullet fired into his head at point-blank range.

I took this picture three summers ago.

the same room, filled

reportedly the last photo ever taken of the man