Reagan's 'Long Goodbye' -- Nov. 21, 2004

A weekly feature on This Week.


In her new book, "The Long Goodbye," Patti Davis remembers her father, President Ronald Reagan. They weren't always close, but she was by his side as Alzheimer's, in her words, "snipped away at the threads" of his personality.

Patti Davis: "My father still stands up when I come into the room, but he has to hoist himself out of the chair. Weaker now, he uses a combination of arm pressure and momentum to bring himself to his feet. When I was seventeen and had reluctantly agreed to be a debutante, I danced on his feet at the debutante ball. I didn't know how to waltz, and he said, 'That's okay-just stand on my feet.' It felt like floating. My father was tall and strong, and he glided around the floor with me balanced on his feet as if I weighted no more than a pair of laces. Now I hold his arm as we walk through my parents' careful living room -- everything tastefully placed -- and I notice his weight pressing into my hand.

"He was happy to see me when I came in. 'Oh, you've come to visit me,' he said, his face brightening. A moment later, he added, 'Where have you been?' And I felt the now-familiar thud of pain inside me. … Maybe the times I shunned him -- those long, frozen years -- are still bright, prominent in his mind. Maybe the years get jumbled, past and present turned upside down. I try to tell him, with my eyes more than my words, that I'm here, that I won't abandon my family again.

"Sometimes he is right there, watching and listening. Other times, he floats off, content to drift away from us. There's a strange beauty to it, a peacefulness. The silence feels silken. 'It's like talking to a cloud,' my mother has said of those moments. I'm not sure she realizes how lovely that image is."

Patti Davis reads excerpts from "The Long Goodbye" on Random House Audio.


Saturday Night Live:

Bush Impersonator: "I have to make a decision. Donald [Rumsfeld], you made a mistake. You started a war without enough troops. You got no exit strategy. You let things get out of control at that Abu Ghraib prison. But you know, you refused to take the blame, and I liked that. And you know, clearly I am afraid of you, or I would've fired you months ago. …

"Condi [Rice], here's what you got going for you: You're easier on the eyes than Colin. And as an expert on Soviet affairs, you're perfect for the current world situation.

"And that leaves you, Colin [Powell]. Turns out you were right about the war. We do need a heck of a lot more troops. You're the only one in this administration that seems to know anything about fighting a war. Obviously, you don't fit in. Colin, you're fired."