ronald reagan as father

Although I was not a fan of most of Reagan's policies or social views, I couldn't help but be touched by all the TV and print shots in the last week of tiny, frail, elderly Mrs. Reagan grieving. Her love for her husband was manifest in every look and gesture, and her grief was palpable. Their love story is fabled and the photos of the two of them together over the years make it clear that they meant the world to one another.

All of this is obviously a beautiful thing. I'm all for passionate love, romantic love, enduring marriages and all the rest.

But I also found myself wondering, "what about their children?" They were all present and accounted for, but little attention was given to their relationship with their father -- in life or in death. The family's estrangements with one another over the years has been well documented and thanks to Patti Davis's many, many essays on the subject, everyone knows that they all made their peace in the end.

But still, the lack of deep connection between father, mother, and their adult children was as evident as Mrs. Reagan's misery and loss. In the coverage of the events, and the discussions by people who knew the Reagans over the years, it was as if the Reagan children and grandchildren were sort of an afterthought.

All families are complex in their own way, and no one can really understand intra-family relationships from the outside, but I think it's safe to say, based on the history of the Reagans (much of it verbalized or written about by family members themselves) that Nancy and Ronald Reagan didn't ever really get the hang of developing strong bonds with their kids.

Maybe they were too focused on one another, as Patti Davis has suggested in her writing. Maybe they were too busy running the state of California and then the free world. I don't know. But I know that at my own funeral, I hope that the first thing anyone feels like saying about me is that I loved my children fiercely and that being their mother was the most important role in my life.

As Jackie Kennedy once famously said:

"If you bungle raising your children, nothing else much matters in life.