Nancy Reagan is dead.
She is not the last of her era, George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush remain with a few other senior hands, but the Party she knew is dead. Bob Dole was complaining on the news that he was a conservative, but that Kansas had become extreme. Whatever was good or bad about her time is fading and today, I recall the good.
Nancy Reagan made her husband governor and then President of the United States. She did this in the way all good spouses do: love. She was bright and ambitious, but so was Ronald Reagan. He had gone to college during the Depression, turned to radio, and then traveled to Hollywood and become a star. He was a hardworking success, but she loved him and saw he could be more. Rare is the person who is a success, but then to find a person not blinded by the success who sees more is possible is even more rare.
She made him happy and that happiness made him President. One never saw President Reagan, even during the tough days of his Presidency, when he looked as if he could fail. Why? Nancy was home and Nancy loved him. She made that enough and if (sometimes) she was too much, all his life and all his friendships, Nancy Reagan made Ronald Reagan a rock, impervious to the temptations of despair or overconfidence.
He had Nancy.
Nancy Reagan had style. Her style was not one I appreciated at the time. . . the entire 1980’s were not Victorian enough for my taste, but she was the one person in America who could pull the look off. God helps us all. Am I the only one who looks at today’s Republican Party (or Hollywood) and wishes for a shot of classic style?
She was, from what I read, eccentric in her views, but well educated and strong. She had opinions and expressed them freely. Nancy Reagan mastered, however, the sublime gift of being with Reagan without needing to overshadow him. She was there. She was mocked for being able to look adoringly at him during a speech she must have heard one hundred times, but people missed the point. Her performance was powerful. We knew she would tell her “Ronnie” what she thought of his delivery, but she was strong enough not to need to send her message to the audience. Her audience was the leader of the Free World: Ronald Wilson Reagan. He always listened.
Maybe that way of being has mostly died. There were bad sides to it and limiting women to that role was wrong. Men have done well at it. George H.W. Bush was the greatest Vice President in the history of the United States because he mastered the role of subordination without servility. Leave aside her sex for a moment and see the power of love and the strength of subordination.
She became his strength, his confidence, his Nancy. She publicly decreased, so she could privately increase in power. That is a role that too few are taught. We are not all Captain Kirk, most of us have to be Spock or McCoy. We need a good Captain. If we have made the mistake of shoving women into the role, we can stop doing this and remind ourselves that many of us should play that part. We must serve quietly so a Margaret Thatcher can serve publicly.
I know this fact: a man worthy of a Nancy Reagan understands the worth of the role. He never forgets that everything he does is because of his Nancy. She has gone to be with him now in a place where everyone is a servant of God and gazes awe struck at His face. We all play that role in Paradise. She certainly had practice at the part.
May the soul of Nancy Reagan rest in peace.