This morning, I took a walk in my old neighborhood, where the house I grew up in has been leveled and a e13-1new house is being built. I  hadn’t been there for a while, so I was surprised at how far along it is, and mostly at how massive it is. It’s a large piece of property. Our house wasn’t that big so we had a backyard and a wide turn-around at the top of the winding driveway where we used to play basketball, and where I used to ride my bike before I was allowed to go down to the street. This new house practically hugs the property lines and any child or pet who wants some outdoor space to romp will be disappointed.

I thought about the life we lived there — long gone now, and replaced by a house my father wouldn’t have felt comfortable in. Where is the yard? he’d have said. I thought about how the past often gets filled to the brim with a present that crowds out memories and imposes itself on what has gone before it. And I thought about last night’s Republican debate.

There has been a long pattern of candidates claiming the legacy of Ronald Reagan, and building their own agendas into it. Overbuilding, just as this house has swallowed the lawn where 2 children played, and the back area where my father and brother shot hoops and I learned to not fall off my bike. All the candidates at last night’s debate tried to stuff themselves into my father’s legacy, instead of carving out their own. I don’t know if he would be flattered. I do know he’d be puzzled. He never tried to imitate anyone.

For most of my life, I have felt that politics stole my father from me. I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate — he was an elusive man, and it’s possible I might never have known him as well as I longed to, even if politics hadn’t entered our lives. But it’s how I feel. I was 14 when he was elected Governor of California, and I quickly figured out that getting into trouble was a dependable way to get his attention. It worked sometimes, but it also left me with a boatload of regrets.

People keep asking me how I feel about the candidates invoking my father’s name so frequently. Predictably, I got e-mails and Facebook messages during last night’s debate with that one question over and over. At some point long ago I told myself that no one can really steal my father. They can’t steal him for their own purposes, although they will keep trying, and they definitely cannot steal him from me.

My history with him is book-ended by an innocent time before politics — long horseback rides,  ocean swims, windy days when we flew kites on the hill above our house, blue evenings when he showed me the North Star — and, many years later, the sad journey of Alzheimer’s. The world intruded on much of our lives, and still does. But at the beginning, and at the end, there was a father and a daughter creating memories, reaching out tentatively at times, unsteady in the tricky dance of parent and child. No pundit, or politician, or candidate can intrude on that.


16 Responses to STEALING REAGAN

  1. David Marks says:

    Patti is a richly gifted writer, and this one is so poignant and intimately brilliant, it’s a must read. There is no one who can take us into the heart of Ronald Reagan the way Patti can.

  2. Jeff Egerton says:

    Once again, thank you Patti. Your words, from the heart, are a gift to read.

  3. Jimmy Hall says:

    I didn’t watch the TV debate but wanted you to know that I read Stealing Reagan and enjoyed your human touch and sharing of a long gone past life of daughter and father, the true values of natural beauty and love of innocence. Oh no, they can never take That away from you.

  4. Dan Black says:

    We are all the children of our own parents. You’ve had to deal with a bit more because of that but your writing is brilliant and you’ve done well doing that.

  5. Michael Anketell says:

    Nice job Patti. My Dad was a big supporter of your
    Dad! I’m so happy to see the human part of
    him and the love you shared.

  6. Bob Dennis says:

    All those candidates invoking your Dads name
    and legacy are just like the kids who run up
    to the door, ring the bell, then hide so that
    they won’t be found out.
    Your dreams, memories and stories are safe
    In your heart, and it’s the heart that makes
    a home.

  7. Caren Kaye says:

    So many people our age spend years in therapy hoping to rewrite the old tribal legacy that altered them.. I admire your grist and compassion for a family that just didn’t know better. And no one was willing to say so.

  8. Lynda Wells says:

    Bravo, Patti, you are a gifted writer and do great honor to both your parents. Thank you for sharing who you were, and who you have become.

  9. patrick says:

    I love reading your blog Patti..this is particularly beautiful..I grew up with you guys

  10. Ervin Portman says:

    thanks for sharing a very thoughtful reflection that there are real people with real families that reach out to serve, sometimes at a great price few ever know or recognize.

  11. Rodney Wilso says:

    Poignant. Moving. Pertinent. Bless his memory and bless your memories of him.

  12. nancy.stout says:

    WOW,That was beautiful, it really touched my heart.

  13. David Deutsch says:

    Patti, this moving reflection on your family history and your sensitive perspective creates an aura of palpable emotion. You are a truly gifted writer. Anyone who has yearned for a closer or more understanding relationship with a parent will be moved by your words and find solace in them.

  14. Kim Sterns Lien says:

    Patti, what a awesome book it brings out that you father and you where still human and behind all the politics there was a family. I really enough how your writing is right from the heart!

  15. Kim Sterns Lien says:

    Sorry last part should have said “I really enjoy how your writing is right from the heart!”

  16. john stein says:

    Thank you for loaning your father to us for a few years. Many people are better off to day around the world because of your fathers pursuit of freedom for all mankind.

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