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On My Fatherís 92nd Birthday

On My Father's 92nd Birthday - Recalling The Gift of Peace He Gave Me.

By Michael Reagan

As I look back at my Dad's life and celebrate his 92nd birthday, there are a lot of things that I'm reminded of. I'm reminded of the times that he would pick me up when I was a young boy and we would drive out to the ranch on any given Saturday morning and ride horses and swim together. He would talk to me about politics in a way that I, as an eight-year-old boy, would understand. Once, for example, when I asked him for an increase in my allowance he told me, "Michael, the government takes 90 cents out of every dollar. When a president gives me a tax cut I'll give you a larger allowance." And I found myself as a young boy, praying for the president to give him a tax cut because I wanted more money.

I can think about the times that we spent together as a father and son, sometimes just literally talking about nothing, but just being there and being in awe of him. I think about those days when he was governor of California and how wonderful a job he did for the state. I can think about the times that he allowed me to be in his presence when tough decisions were ready to be made.

For example, on the evening that he chose George W. Bush's father to be his running mate as the candidate for the Vice Presidency he invited me to be in his inner circle as those decisions were made.

I remember the night in 1976 when I asked him what he missed most about not winning his party's nomination as their presidential candidate. He said to me, "Michael, what I miss most is not being able to sit down with the Russians and saying to them 'nyet' because it's been so long that we've been giving up too much to get along with them. It's time for the Russians to get along with us."

I can think about the time ten years later when he was in Reykjavik, Iceland where he finally got to say 'nyet' to Mikhail Gorbachev when Gorbachev wanted him to give up the Strategic Defense Initiative and my father used that word. Of course everybody remembers that the Cold War ended then and they rightly gave my dad the credit for that.

But what I remember the most about my dad, and what puts me at peace with where he is today, is a conversation I had with him as he was flying back on Air Force One and he allowed me to accompany him back to Point Mugu. It was Easter Week in the last year of his presidency, and he looked at me and he counted out "nine" on his fingers. I asked what that meant, and he said, "Michael, it will be nine more months when I will be able to feel the freedom once again to go to church each and every Sunday. You know, Michael, ever since I was shot I have worried about putting other people in harm's way by being among them, so I haven't been to church on a regular basis and even though I have offered my presidency up to God I haven't been with God on Sundays.

"That's what I'm looking forward to."

And as I look back over Dad's ninety two years, what puts me truthfully at peace, with this terrible Alzheimer's Disease my father has, is that conversation - knowing that my father knows who his God is, and not only did he offer up his presidency but he offered up his life a long time ago to serve his God.

And so now in the final days of my father's life, the peace I feel is knowing that when my father goes home, he will go home to be with his God and his Lord and that is the greatest gift that he ever gave me.

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