Michael Reagan says his 17-month-old daughter, Ashley, has never met her grandfather, who is the president of the United States, but she already knows him when she sees him on television.
"She says, 'Papapapa,' when Dad appears on the screen," the second oldest of the president's four children -- and the only one who is a parent -- said in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles.
Describing his daughter as brunet with hazel eyes and "cute as a bug's ear," Michael Reagan said he really would like his father to see the child but that their paths just never cross.
"I guess the family could be closer but we are 3,000 miles apart. It just seems that when Dad is in California, we're someplace else. It's really been tough to connect," Reagan said.
Denying that he is estranged from his father, Reagan, 39, said, "If you use Dad as a center point, all of us would walk a plank to help him. We're so beholden to Dad that we forget to talk to each other."
As for his stepmother, First Lady Nancy Reagan, who also has not seen Ashley, Michael Reagan said, "I'm sure Nancy is waiting for her children to have children. I'm sure she would feel closer to them."
Michael Reagan said that "Nancy and I have had our problems over the years. We're both very strong and we both love Dad very much. It's probably a communications problem."
He may have exacerbated that communications problem last winter when in an article in Redbook he criticized Nancy Reagan's work with Foster Grandparents when she never sees her own step-grandchildren.
Michael Reagan was 2 weeks old when Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, then Hollywood's model couple, adopted him. When they divorced, he and his sister Maureen, now 43, went to live with their mother. Ronald Reagan started his second family, Patti, 32, and Ron, 26, after he married actress Nancy Davis.
"What really has put me in the 'dumpers,' " Michael Reagan said, "is that I have been reading stories for the past four years about how I was adopted at birth. My mother was adopted, Nancy was adopted and I was adopted -- this whole family has been pieced together. The only one who has any real roots is Dad."
He said he knows his mother and father love him but every time it's brought up it's as if there's something different about him. "What I don't want to happen is to have his son Cameron ask what does being adopted mean and if his grandfather really is my dad."
President Reagan and Cameron, 6, do talk on the telephone from time to time, Michael said. Cameron was in the Reagan family box with his parents at the Republican National Convention in Dallas the night his grandfather made his acceptance speech.
Ashley, however, came down with a cold and could not attend, so missed out on meeting her grandfather. Michael Reagan said that it might have been possible for his father to meet Ashley had they invited him out to the friends' home where they were staying.
"But then he has to bring a 26-car motorcade and then you get people like [ABC White House correspondent] Sam Donaldson, the whole program. And instead of it being a loving relationship between grandfather and granddaughter it becomes a media event."
The younger Reagan said Cameron, a first-grader this year, recently came home from school with his first grade reader in which there is a picture of his grandfather.
"He was surprised to learn that all kids don't have personalized readers with their grandfathers' pictures in them," Michael Reagan said.