Exclusive: Nancy Reagan Misses Husband Now More Than Ever

The former first lady talked about the release of her husband's diaries.

ByABC News via via logo
February 09, 2009, 7:21 PM

May 21, 2007 — -- Although nearly three years have passed since the death of her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, former first lady Nancy Reagan is still healing emotionally, she told "Good Morning America's" anchor Diane Sawyer.

"I keep thinking of all those people who said time ... it'll be much better in time," Reagan said. "Well, not for me. If anything, -- it's gotten worse. ... I miss him more. I'm remembering more little things that we did together. It's harder."

Watch the full interview on Monday and Tuesday exclusively on "Good Morning America."

Ronald Reagan, the United States' 40th president, died on June 5, 2004, of pneumonia, a complication of Alzheimer's disease, at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93.

A book of the diaries documenting his day-to-day life during his two terms of office in the 1980s will be released on May 22 as "The Reagan Diaries."

Only four U.S. presidents kept regular diaries, including George Washington. This will be the first time a U.S. president's diaries have been released.

In the diaries, no topic of presidential life is off-limits, including the president's own embarrassments.

While Reagan was in office, a very British Prince Charles visited the White House for tea. In England, a cup of proper tea is made with loose leaves steeped in water at the bottom of a pot. During the prince's visit, the White House served hot water with a tea bag.

"Poor Charles sat there and didn't quite know what to do," Reagan told Sawyer. "So he eventually put the cup down and after everybody had left, Ronnie said, 'Was something wrong?' And Charles said, 'Well, I didn't know what to do with this.'"

Ronald Reagan was a man so truly middle American he couldn't bear to write out even harmless little swear words, even "damn."

"He just couldn't bring himself to do it," Reagan said. "He just didn't like it."

He wrote that the movie "The Officer and a Gentlemen" was "good story spoiled by nudity, language, sex."

"He'd have a terrible time today," Reagan laughed.

Also on every page of the diaries is the president writing a love story. Over and over, he wrote, "Even six minutes without Nancy was an eternity." "Nancy in California, this place feels empty." "Didn't sleep well. Need my roommate."

Reagan said those entries didn't really surprise her.

"I suppose it might sound a little strange to say, it pleased me that he missed me. We didn't like being apart," she said. "Neither one of us. And it is true that when you're in the White House alone, it is a lonely place. Big and lonely.

Also in the diaries, Reagan's global enemies, like Soviet leaders, or domestic political enemies are regarded with equilibrium. He seems to feel they are misguided but are trying to do the right thing.

"He had them over a lot to the White House ... you know, the loyal opposition, and everybody got along just fine," she said.

"You always knew that he was really angry if he'd picked up his glasses and threw them on the desk. Then you knew he was angry."

Reagan's diaries make you wonder about the contrast with the abrasive political climate today.

Earlier this month the first Republican debate was held at the Reagan Library, and Reagan's legacy was brought up again and again.

"It's very flattering, Ronnie would say, I'm sure," Reagan said.

She added, though, that he'd be "worried" about the country and the war in Iraq.

Even though memories of her husband sometimes still hurt her, Reagan said she hopes people will learn something from the diaries.

"I hope they'll learn to get a complete picture of Ronnie in all of his aspects," Reagan said. "He was a very unusual man. Very. And I was so lucky."

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