details…little known facts

Secret Service agents in response at the assas...

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In summing up what I’ve learned about President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan from reading I Love You, Ronnie, a couple of details came to light which I’d not known before. And according to Mrs. Reagan, only those close to what occurred at the time, knew. The first dealt with the assassination attempt on the President’s life 3 months after he took office. The second was an incident that probably caused the premature onset of his Alzheimer’s. Only a handful, it seems, were privvy to both occurrences.

Waiting for news, Nancy Reagan sat with Sarah Brady, whose husband Jim had also been shot in the attempt on the President’s life.

As we waited, I looked out the window and saw how, in the buildings all around the hospital, people had thrown sheets out the window saying things like GET WELL, MR. PRESIDENT and WE LOVE YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. Every now and then, a nurse would come and report to me on Ronnie’s progress. At first, the doctors were having trouble finding the bullet, which was a devastator bullet, the kind that explodes inside. One time, the nurse came and said, “We just can’t seem to get it out. We may just have to leave it in.” Well, that didn’t sound so good to me. And then another time, she said, “They’ve found it, but the doctor is having a hard time removing it–it keeps slipping from his fingers.” Finally, she came back and told me that the doctor had gotten it out, but I almost lost him then. The bullet had been lodged an inch from Ronnie’s heart.

We were lucky–we didn’t realize how lucky, in fact–because when Ronnie had arrived, all the doctors were in the hospital for a meeting. No one had to be called in. Everyone Ronnie needed was right on hand, and there was no waiting. …

I wanted to stay there all night, but the feeling was that it would be better for the country if I left and went back to sleep at the White House. Otherwise, people would have assumed the worst and there would have been panic. As it was, Ronnie’s aides had to do all they could to calm the country down. The briefings made to the press were partial, to say the least. The assassination attempt was really a much closer call than people were led to believe at the time. Everyone was trying not to frighten the people in the country, but the fact was, Ronnie almost died. It was a miracle that he didn’t. And I knew all along how serious things really were. …

Needless to say, I was terrified. After the shooting, every time Ronnie walked out the door to make a public appearance, my heart would stop–and it wouldn’t start again until he came back home safely. Ronnie knew how scared I was. But if he was frightened too, he never let me know it. As always, he was cheerful and optimistic. God had spared him, he believed; there had to be a reason why. By making jokes…he tried to take the edge off my fear.

The Reagans wave from the White House after Pr...

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Who could fault the First Lady’s hovering over the President thereafter? No wonder her seeming control of his life, personal and public, for which the media liked to criticize her. I know because they had me convinced she was running the country with her husband, an unofficial cabinet member, as was constantly written and spoken of in the news. How the spinmeisters love to slant the facts. Readers, beware!

Fast forward to July 1989, after the Reagans had left the White House. Visiting with friends Betty and Bill Wilson at their ranch in Mexico, the President went riding. An accident occurred.

Ronnie had been thrown off his horse. He was riding with some other men, going up an incline, when one of the ranch hands had hit something that made a loud noise and spooked Ronnie’s horse.

The horse reared once, and Ronnie stayed on. It reared a second time, and Ronnie stayed on again. Two Secret Service men tried to move in and calm the horse, but they couldn’t do it. The horse reared a third time, bucking so hard that Ronnie fell off and hit his head on the ground, miraculously missing the jagged rocks all around.

President Ronald Reagan

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We got him on a plane and immediately took him to a hospital in Tucson, Arizona. He should really have stayed there, but it was my birthday and the Wilsons had planned a celebration, and Ronnie was determined to go back to the ranch. We went back–but at my insistence, we took a doctor with me.

The day after…we flew home. I was very uneasy and kept at Ronnie until he agreed to get his head X-rayed. We went to the Mayo Clinic, where we’d gone every year for checkups. It turned out that Ronnie had a concussion and a subdural hematoma. He needed to be operated on right away. It all happened so quickly that I think, once again, I was in shock. …

I’ve always had the feeling that the severe blow to his head in 1989 hastened the onset of Ronnie’s Alzheimer’s. The doctors think so, too. In the years leading up to the diagnosis of the disease, in August 1994, he had not shown symptoms of the illness. I didn’t suspect that Ronnie was ill when we went back to the Mayo Clinic that summer for our regular checkup. When the doctors told us they’d found symptoms of Alzheimer’s, I was dumbfounded. Ronnie’s fall from the horse had worried me terribly, of course, and I’d had to urge him to take time out to recover after his operation. But I had seen no signs of anything else.

There’s no telling if President Reagan would have enjoyed more years of retirement, free from the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s. How fragile the brain, with only the skull as protection from the hazards of everyday life…like horse back riding. Spared from the assassin’s bullet, Reagan succumbed to no less a devastating end. As his devoted wife, and true witness to her husband’s last 50 years on earth, Nancy Reagan suffered Alzheimer’s alongside him.

Senator Corker greets former First Lady Nancy ...

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…First of all, there is a feeling of loneliness when you’re in this situation. Not that your friends aren’t supportive of you; they are. But no one can really know what it’s like unless they’ve traveled this path–and there are many right now traveling the same path I am. You know that it’s a progressive disease and that there’s no place to go but down, no light at the end of the tunnel. You get tired and frustrated, because you have no control and you feel helpless. We’ve had an extraordinary life, and I’ve been blessed to have been married for almost fifty years to a man I deeply love–but the other side of the coin is that it makes it harder. 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.

I try to remember Ronnie telling me so many times that God has a plan for us which we don’t understand now but one day will, or my mother saying that you play the hand that’s dealt you. It’s hard, but even now there are moments Ronnie has given me that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Alzheimer’s is a truly long, long good-bye. But it’s the living out of love.

Photograph of Newlyweds Ronald Reagan and Nanc...

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…blest by true love…even in the face of adversity…hugmamma. 

 

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where were you…

…when Diana, the Princess of Wales died? I can only think of one other person for whom that question has been asked…John F. Kennedy, our President. I know I was in school when he died, because classes were suspended. Instead we all walked to church to pray for him. In Diana’s case I think I was asleep, and learned with disbelief, about her death early the next morning.

Unlike President Kennedy‘s death of which so much has been written, documented, and analyzed in books and on TV shows, Diana’s death has been treated more gingerly it seems, at least here in the U.S. Either that, or I didn’t bother to read about it in the tabloid magazines because of their tendency to sensationalize the facts to make a profit. I didn’t set out to learn about them even now, they just fell into my lap, by way of Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story

I chose to share this with you because as in life, in death Diana’s beauty remained intact. Her serene appearance belied the inner damage that resulted from the horrific car accident.

It took almost an hour to free Diana from the wrecked car. She appeared to her rescuers to be the least injured of the four: only a slight trickle of blood from mouth and nose indicated that anything was wrong. Yet her internal injuries were life- threatening. After the initial impact the Mercedes had spun away, rotating at high speed before crashing into the tunnel wall on the right. At the first impact Dodi and Diana had been thrown violently forward against the backs of the front seats (not having worn their seat belts), then the rotation of the car had flung them around against the interior. When the Mercedes finally stopped, pointing back towards the mouth of the tunnel, Diana was slumped on the floor, against the back of Rees-Jones‘s seat, facing down the tunnel. Her legs were twisted, one under her, the other on the seat. With her eyes closed and her face undamaged apart from a cut on her forehead, she looked beautiful and as if she were asleep. But the shock of the impact and deceleration on her body had displaced her heart from the left to the right side, severing the pulmonary vein and rupturing the pericardium (the protective sac round the heart), flooding her chest cavity with blood. …

Photo of the Chapel at the Pitié-Salpêtrière H...

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Yet to the first doctor on the scene, Frederic Mailliez, who had been driving through the tunnel in the opposite direction, she ‘looked pretty fine…I thought this woman had a chance.’ He put an oxygen mask over her face while attempting to clear her air passages. When the ambulance arrived, Dr. Jan-Marc Martino, a surgical anesthetist and resuscitation specialist, worked on Diana. Before they could transfer her to the ambulance, she suffered a heart attack. She was given cardiac massage and a respiratory tube was inserted into her mouth. Then she was lifted on to a stretcher and placed in the ambulance which crawled its way with a police escort to La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, stopping once on the way as Diana’s blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level. She was put on a ventilator. ‘She was unconscious and under artificial respiration. Her arterial blood pressure was very low but her heart was still beating. X-rays revealed the horrific state of her internal injuries and afterwards she suffered a second heart attack. An incision in her chest revealed that bleeding was coming through a hole in the membrane round her heart and later that her superior left pulmonary vein was torn. Adrenalin was administered and cardiac massage kept her heart going but only just; there was no independent rhythm. Diana was to all intents and purposes already beyond help. Electric-shock therapy was administered, to no effect. At 4 a.m. (3 a.m. British time) on the morning of 31 August, she was pronounced dead.

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...

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And while it was rumored at the time that Diana allegedly spoke a few words to Prince Charles, that was obviously not the case. “When Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters arrived in Paris, they found Diana looking serene and composed in death, wearing Lady Jay’s black cocktail dress and shoes, her hair freshly blow-dried, the rosary which Mother Teresa had given her in her hand. After Charles and her sisters had spent time alone with her, she was placed in a coffin for the return journey.” 

According to those who accompanied the hearse through the streets of Paris, there was an outpouring of support for the People’s Princess.

‘They do it differently in Paris–they applaud. With the coffin, Prince Charles, the President, millions of police by now,…and the vicar (the Rev. Martin Draper), the whole of Paris was applauding…

Sadly Diana’s body was not received with the same honor bestowed upon it by the Parisians and the British masses, when it came to rest in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Good friend, and the woman thought to have been most like a mother to the princess, Lucia Flecha de Lima flew from the U.S., where she lived, to London, upon learning of Diana’s death. To her amazement the coffin lay “…in lonely state, without flowers.”

Flowers for Princess Diana's Funeral

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‘The first day when I arrived at the chapel there was not one single flower on her coffin. Then I said to the chaplain that if he didn’t allow flowers in, I would throw open the doors of the chapel so everyone could see her there without a single flower and all the flowers outside that people had brought. I said, “Tomorrow I’ll come back with my flowers for her.” And I came every day. And from then on I brought flowers, not only mine but from friends and people who knew her. And I went to a flower van outside the Michelin restaurant (Bibendum in the Fulham Road) and he said: “What are they for?” And I told him, and every day after that he insisted I take flowers to her for nothing…’ ‘And they (the flowers) were around her, over her coffin representing the flowers of the world, and I said to Prince Charles, “These flowers represent the people, thousands and millions of flowers all around the world that people want to give to Princess Diana.” I’ve never felt like that in my life. I have experienced personal loss…but the public’s reaction was extraordinary…’

 One other item mentioned in Bradford’s book caught my attention. While Queen Elizabeth seemingly struggled with her decision to recognize Diana’s death with the pomp and circumstance demanded by the people, personally she too had to deal with the passing of her former daughter-in-law, the mother of the queen’s beloved grand-children. Bradford wrote of Dickie Arbiter, the most experienced of royal officers who had worked for the Waleses before their divorce,

The coffin passing through one of the streets.

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Contrary to public perception, the Queen was, Arbiter said, ‘very grief-stricken’ by Diana’s death. ‘On the day of the funeral when the Royal Family came out of Buckingham Palace as the gun carriage carrying Diana’s coffin passed, the Queen bowed. And the only other time that the Queen bows is at the Cenotaph.’

…there are the rumors…there are the myths…and then there’s…the truth…hugmamma.

Rose, Diana Princess of Wales

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…princess diana…england’s rose…

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Cannes film f...

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“a sweetie,” but

I totally agree with the author of the following article, Taylor Swift is a sweetheart, but I think her time has passed. And she really can’t sing, especially in person, without the help of technology, without backup. I applaud all the accolades she has garnered at such a young age. She was surely in the right place, at the right time, when all the stars in heaven were perfectly aligned. Again, good for her, her song-writing ability, her fashion style, her self-confidence, her down-home personality. But fantastic songstress, she is not. I like her, but…

In Awe of Taylor Swift–But Enough! by Joe Queenan

Like everybody else in America, I am in awe of Taylor Swift. Complete and utter awe. Even when she sings off-key with Stevie Nicks. She writes catchy tunes, makes clever, self-deprecating videos, and has an elegance rarely found among country & western artists. I really admire the way she handled that nasty incident with Kanye West at the 2009 MTV Music Video awards, and I love the way she uses her songs to turn her ever-growing pile of ex-boyfriends into chum.

And even if some of her songs seem a tad derivative–“You Belong With Me” sounds like Liz Phair channeling Suzanne Vega reworking the Bangles songbook–what’s the big deal? All New Country sounds like that Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The only thing I don’t like about Taylor Swift is that she has now become remorselessly ubiquitous. In the past few months, Ms. Swift has achieved the sort of global media saturation that was once associated with Madonna and, more recently, Lady Gaga. If you turn on the television, Taylor Swift is there, receiving yet another award. If you turn on the radio, she is there, crooning about yet another fallen swain. If you open a tabloid, she is there, the gorgeous ingenue, posing disingenuously for the paparazzi. If you pass a newsstand, she is beaming out at you from the cover of People, US Weekly, OK, Seventeen. As Entertainment Weekly, whose cover she currently graces, puts it: “Congratulations, Taylor Swift on achieving total world domination…in just 12 short months.”

When a star achieves this kind of overnight intergalactic suzerainty, the rest of us end up knowing things about them that we do not really need to know. This occurs through the process of supernoval osmosis, whereby people who haven’t the slightest interest in a famous person, and who only watch PBS and the Sundance Channel, nevertheless know that Danny Bonaduce just got married for the third time. I myself only watch sports and TV shows where people get shot or stabbed, and I only listen to radio stations that play Bela Bartok or Miles Davis, yet by paging through magazines in checkout lines and reading tabloids strewn around the diner and just generally being a sentient human being on this planet in the year 2010, I have come into possession of all sorts of minutiae regarding Taylor Swift’s daily life.

I know that she has moved out of her parents’ Nashville home. I know that her fling with Taylor Lautner ended amicably. I know that she plays Taylor guitars. I know that not everyone is crazy about her new hair style. I know that she sometimes changes outfits four times a day.

I know that the breakup call she received from one of the Jonas Brothers only lasted 27 seconds, even though I can never remember which of the Jonas Brothers made it, or why she timed it. And while I have no idea where most of my friends spent Thanksgiving, I know that Ms. Swift flew to Brooklyn to be with her new boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal. And I have it on the highest authority that while visiting Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, Ms. Swift giggled while sipping a maple latte. Jake’s maple latte.

I do not begrudge Ms. Swift her wealth, her fame, her utter hegemony over every medium known to man, her maple latte. I simply wish that she would occasionally give the rest of us a day off.

Apparently that is not going to happen. Last week I locked myself away to see if I could get through a single day without having Taylor Swift infiltrate my consciousness. I didn’t read the papers, or watch TV, or turn on the radio, or log onto the Internet. By nine o’clock I seemed to have this thing pretty well under control. Then I called a close friend and asked if his daughter-in-law had delivered her baby, and he replied: “Yes. They named her Ashlee Taylor. They picked ‘Taylor’ because…”

Don’t tell me. I know.

Wall Street Journal, Saturday-Sunday,December 11-12, 2010

I actually feel similarly about the Kardashian sisters. They’re beautiful, but…

in small doses, maybe…hugmamma.