Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Nancy Reagan Story

Well, doesn't everybody have one?  A Nancy Reagan story, I mean.  Gary Coleman had one.   She was on his sitcom just saying no.   I saw a photo of her sitting on Mr. T's lap.   Not everybody got a chance to sit on Mr. T's lap.

After her recent passing, I salute her.   Mainly for shepherding over that beautiful Reagan Library out in Simi Valley.   The view from that hilltop is truly stunning.  So is the fact that they built a whole hall to house Air Force One.

But I have an even closer connection to the former First Lady.  Even though I never met the lady.  Read on.

About eight or nine years, I happened to work in proximity to Nancy's stepson, Michael Reagan. Actually, his office used to be right next door to mine. We spoke casually and he was pleasant enough. His fatal flaw was that he liked to conduct his phone conversation and retrieve his voicemail messages on a speaker phone. 

Why is that a flaw? Because I was in the next room, straining to hear every goddamn word.

One afternoon, Michael came in and, as per his daily routine, he immediately dialed up his voicemail on the speaker phone. That day's first message really peaked my interest. It was from a Palm Springs TV station looking to confirm a rumor that his father had died.

I almost fell off my chair. I tuned everything else out. I could be one of the first people in the country to know that a former President was dead. I made a mental list of the friends I would call, in descending order, to share this juicy piece of gossip. My friend in NY, the Bibster, would get the first honor.

Michael sprung into action. He immediately deleted this message and then dialed another number. On the speaker, once again. The other end of the line picked up. 

The voice was unmistakably Jane Wyman's, his adopted mom. 

Michael explained to her the call he had gotten. Since she lived in Palm Springs, had they tried her? She had heard nothing.  Probably too engrossed in that day's episode of "Days of Our Lives."   Michael said he would get back to her. They hung up.

Michael quickly dialed another number. The other end of the line picked up. 

The voice was unmistakably that of Nancy Reagan's.

Michael: Hey, it's Michael.

Nancy: Hi.

My good fortune was snatched at this juncture. He picked up the receiver. The rest of the conversation was all one-sided as far as I am concerned.

Michael (on phone): How's Dad?


Michael: Sleeping? Are you sure?


And he then closed the door. Crap.

I sat for several minutes, but there was no subsequent flurry of activity. Obviously, Ronnie hadn't checked out just yet and it would be another four or five years before he did. I did not have the scoop of the ages. But, I sat in the now-silence of my office to relish a delicious mental image. 

Nancy Reagan holding a mirror under her sleeping husband's nose to see if he was still breathing.

How's that for a Nancy Reagan story?  Just say yes.

Dinner last night:  Trip tip dip sandwich at Claim Jumper.

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