Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grace Under Fire

by Patti Davis - January 27th, 2011 - Time

I often imagine what it would be like if my father were still here to mark his 100th birthday, if Alzheimer's hadn't clawed away years, possibilities, hopes. What would he think of all the commemorations and celebrations?

Basically a humble man, he'd be embarrassed, I suspect, although certainly flattered. He would cover his emotions with a joke — probably something about George Burns' living to 100 and how he just couldn't let George get all the glory for making it that far. I'm sure he'd be disappointed in the meanness of politics these days yet amused by all the politicians trying to adhere themselves to his legacy, even aiming to be "the next Ronald Reagan." He'd probably suggest, with a twinkle in his eye, that they should figure out who they are as individuals and be the best at that.

But most of all, I imagine spending time with him as a daughter — and his allowing the residue of my rebellious years and the hurt I caused him to blow away like dust, maybe with a bit of humor, since I did manage to snag his attention by being the bad girl. I'd like to ask him if he was ever really fooled by me.

I'd also like to ask him about the nearsighted boy he once was, whose father frequently disappeared on drinking binges so severe he'd pass out, often miles from home. Maybe my father would finally open up to me about the uncertainty and the waiting ... and the fear.

Yet he had no fear, and I wish more than anything I could sit with him by a window in the dying light of day and ask him about that. How did you come from where you came from and learn to be so confident? How did you learn to trust so completely in your faith that fear didn't stand a chance? I want to tell him I remember the nights when I was a child and he traced the constellations for me, showing me Pegasus and Orion. I want to tell him that even though light-years came between us later on, I never stopped believing he hung the moon.

There will be a lot written about Ronald Reagan in the coming days leading up to his birthday on Febraury 6th. It is unlikely that any will more eloquently express their love of this man than this homage by a daughter who was not always fond of living in his shadow. I think it expresses two things that are true of even Reagan's most devoted followers. Our admiration - and at the same time, our fear - that we are not living up to the greatness he showed us was possible.

He was not just a great statesman. Even more he was a truly good man.


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