Ronald Reagan lost his battle with Alzheimer’s after 10 years of the gradual loss of the man he once was. That’s what Alzheimer does. It’s a devastating disease with a very sad outcome.
We remember him first as a very handsome movie star. After playing the role of George Gipp, a doomed football star and a protégé of the 1940 “All American” Knute Rockne, he was stuck with the nickname of the “Gipper.”
He wore a winning smile, seemed to make friends easily, and came from a very humble beginning to holding the highest office our country has to offer.
We have learned since he became president that his father drank heavily and his mother was very devout in her religion, taking her son from an early age to church and instilling in him a belief he carried throughout life.
We are also told that his mother taught him to be tolerant of his dad because in her words, “He suffered from this weakness.”
They rented the house of his childhood for $15 a month and she went about teaching the Bible, always taking Ronnie along.
We also know he knew about hard work, but that he had strong desires to become a movie star early in his life.
History tells us he was a great supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and at one time a member of the Democratic party.
His children speak of him as a man who seemed to keep his distance from them and did not play an active role in their formative years and on into adulthood.
His eldest daughter, Maureen, seemed to come to the forefront during his presidency and continued to be one of his most loyal supporters until her death a few years ago.
His love affair with Nancy is revealed in the many letters he had written to her down through the years. Some husbands tend to forego the love letters after marriage, but he wrote to her as long as he could focus on their relationship.
His relationship with his children seemed to be at odds with the man who radiated warmth to the people of the United States as he sat in the oval office during his tenure. He was loved and respected by all and was elected to remain president for an another four years.
The day he was shot in the attempted assassination stands out in my mind. How frightful it was until we were told his life was not taken.
Mrs. Reagan seems very fragile in body but the stamina required by the caregiver dealing with a prolonged illness of any kind is very difficult. A disease such as he suffered requires much more. She has weathered the storm with grace, charm and fortitude, and we admire her in this.
When two people share many years together, they do indeed seem to become one and she will miss him. He, like so many husbands of 40, 50 years and beyond, have shared all that is required to live a life: joys, heartaches, mistakes, family troubles, loss of other loved ones, difficulties that arise in child rearing, disappointments in circumstances and in each other, missed opportunities, and much, much more.
She joins many women across this nation who find themselves alone due to the death of a spouse, having picked up the pieces and trying very hard to find some semblance of contentment and determination to go forward.
It is not an easy task, but is a continuation of the life you started the day you were placed in your mother’s arms as a newborn baby. Life can be hard and often is, but as one watches those they love suffer greatly, they accept the fact there are things even worse than death.
We wish for her the peace we all need to live out our twilight years. We will continue to pray that she retains her health and the twinkle in her eye that has shown through in every instance she has faced the cameras during her life as a celebrity.
She has maintained her composure and dignity and we admire her for this. She represents the role of a devoted wife for millions across our land. We wish for her Godspeed.
Mary Sauceman, a resident of LaFayette, writes a weekly column for the Walker County Messenger