Reagan was at Roxbury Park, and another one in nearby Holmby Hills, a lot during 1997 and 1998. And though he gradually stopped speaking to us--and our children--we never stopped speaking to him or having the kids play close by where he could watch. Then he went away. I'd heard he was doing poorly and assumed he wouldn't be back. But there was one last time at Holmby Park. My children were discovering the wonders of sunblock that came out of the bottle purple. They were covered in it. And so was half the sidewalk. As I bent to clean them off, I glanced up, and under the brim of a baseball cap that seemed 10 sizes too big was the former president, on the bench in front of us. He was very gray and very thin. His body looked as if somehow it had lost its purpose. His familiar half smile was gone. The gaze was faraway.
I sensed that the time to speak with him had passed. And I remember thinking how sad it was that my daughters were so young that they would probably never remember having met the 40th president. I realized last week, as I reminded them of those days, that not remembering meeting the president was not nearly as sad as not remembering being president.