GOODBYE, RONALD REAGAN
The death of former President Ronald Reagan has conjured up many memories for me. Some are of President Reagan, others are of my brother, my grandfather and others. Reagan was president while I was in junior high and high school, before I could vote. Politics, in my world, was mostly locally focused during my teenage years, but I remember the assassination attempt, the Berlin Wall speech, the speech after the Challenger tragedy and many more. I remember he was a popular president and I remember he was a classy one as well.
The first memory that popped into my head that wasn’t of Reagan personally was of my older brother. Scott absolutely loved Ronald Reagan. Remember the show Family Ties? The character played by Michael J. Fox — Alex P. Keaton, who idolized Ronald Reagan — had a picture of Reagan hanging on his wall, and so did my brother. He was a total devotee of Reagan and all he stood for. I know Reagan inspired him to be more than he was, and he often said that Reagan was classy and he wanted to be like that. Those memories of Scott still make me smile and miss him that much more.
The second memory was of my grandfather, who like Ronald Reagan, suffered from Alzheimer’s for years before he died in May of 1987. I remember one of the last times I saw him before he went to the nursing home. During a rare moment of clarity, he spoke my name. He rarely, if ever called me by name…he had a nickname for me or often went down the list of his daughters before he’d get to my nickname, but at that moment he called me by name and told me he loved me. At a time when Alzheimer’s was still largely misunderstood and everyone around me told me he really wasn’t “in there,” he looked me in the eye and let me know he was still in there. I grieved for him in that moment, because he was an intelligent, articulate man trapped by a disease that took away his mind, the ability to enjoy his life as well as the ability to let us all know how much he loved us.
I don’t know if Nancy Reagan or the Reagan children had any moments like that with President Reagan over the last ten years. Something in my gut says that though they said goodbye to the man they knew a long time ago, that there were some moments, some signs that he was still present with them in mind as well as body. I’m sure those private, wonderful and gut-wrenching moments will be cherished as much as the memory I have of those last shared moments with my grandfather.
I watched a good portion of the state funeral last night and will watch the funeral tomorrow. My heart is warmed by the outpouring of sympathy from all over the world. Though I knew Reagan was a popular president, I am still grasping the scope of what he meant, not only to this country, but to the world.
Some of my favorite Reagan Quotes:
“Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.”
“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.”
“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.”
— Said during a radio microphone test, 1984
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved goodbye, and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”
— Speech about Challenger disaster, Jan. 28, 1986
“The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.”
“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”