Friday, February 1, 2008

Til Death Do Us Part – The Reagans

For the month of February I thought I would like to share some love stories of couples that lasted a lifetime. Marriage takes work and the couples I will highlight had the additional burden of having their lives examined before the eyes of the world.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan
The first couple that came to mind was Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Years before her husband showed signs of Alzheimers I was impressed by a response to a reporter when she was asked about marriage. She stated that marriage was not 50-50 as is the common thought, but that each partner had to commit to giving 100%, some days you may be required to give 80% while other times you may only be able to provide 10% to the relationship. The Reagans' love and devotion throughout the trials they endured is legendary.

"My life really began when I married my husband," said Nancy Reagan, who in the 1950s happily gave up an acting career for a permanent role as the wife of Ronald Reagan and mother to their children.

Nancy Davis was an actress whose name had mistakenly appeared on the mailing list of a Communist newspaper. “I was doing a picture for Mervin Leroy and I complained to him about it,” said Nancy. “And he said, ‘I know Ronald Reagan. And he’s the president of the Screen Actor’s Guild and he’ll be able to straighten out your problem.’” “At that point, I just wanted to meet Ronald Reagan,” she added. “He called. And he said, ‘You have a problem and we -- are you free for dinner tonight?’ Yes, I was free for dinner,” said Nancy, laughing. “And he said, ‘Well, I have to make it a very early dinner, because I have an early morning call.’ And I said, ‘That's all right. I have an early morning call, too.’ Neither one of us, of course, had an early morning call. So we went out to dinner."

She met Ronald Reagan in 1951. The following year they were married in a simple ceremony in Los Angeles in the Little Brown Church in the Valley. Mrs. Reagan soon retired from making movies so she "could be the wife I wanted to be ... A woman's real happiness and real fulfillment come from within the home with her husband and children," she says.

“For all the years we’ve been married, it’s been we, not you and I,” said Ronald Reagan. “It would be inconceivable for me to go my own way on something without her. And I think it would be the same with her.”

The First (Couple) Dance
She was also there as caregiver when Alzheimer's disease stole his memory. "I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience," Reagan wrote in his poignant November 1994 letter to the American people disclosing that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

When asked about the president during those declining years, Nancy said, "We've had an extraordinary life ... but the other side of the coin is that it makes it harder," she wrote in I Love You, Ronnie, "There are so many memories that I can no longer share, which makes it very difficult. When it comes right down to it, you're in it alone. Each day is different, and you get up, put one foot in front of the other, and go — and love; just love."

Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004. Toward the end of his life, Nancy proved she was willing to give the 100% she spoke about earlier in their marriage.


Kelly said...

This post got me all teared-up, Kim...and it's not even 10:00 am! ;o)

Nancy Reagan rocks. Her demeanor and feminity have always inspired me.

Kim said...

I agree, I love that she is a strong woman, but has not lost any of her feminity. People tend to think you have to be one or the other but she is both. I found lots of great quotes from her, but kept them out since they weren't about marriage.
Here is one of my favorites: “A woman is like a tea bag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”

Have a great week-end. It is rainy and icy here. Luckily, I went grocery shopping yesterday so it's a stay inside day.