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  • Meg Kinnard

Paul Ryan's fortunate kids

Today, as I watched Speaker Paul Ryan announce his retirement from the United States House of Representatives, I listened carefully as he spoke about his children.

"And I just don't want to be one of those people looking back on my life thinking, 'I should've spent more time with my kids.' When I know if I spend another term, they will only know me as a weekend father," he said, before finishing up his remarks and taking questions.

I've been in journalism for more than a few years. I've seen politicians resign because of something stupid they did, and cite "spending more time with family" as their excuse before news of the scandal broke. But I've also seen politicians truly grow tired of being in office - and desire the "normalcy" of family life before it's too late.

Perhaps you're skeptical.

But I have a good reason to believe Paul Ryan.

In 1988, a congressman who, like Paul Ryan, had served 20 years of his life in the United States House of Representatives, stood before the press and announced his intention to retire to "spend more time with his family." The congressman was a bit older, however, and at age 75, realized that he had an only-grandchild who needed him. So, after praising his wife of 50 years, he announced that he simply wanted to spend more time with his granddaughter, Meghan, and teach her about life on his farm in Yorkville, Tennessee - and maybe even buy her a horse.

This was a pivotal moment that would change my life for the better. And I had no idea.

Here's a quick clip from the announcement:

When Ed Jones first entered the world of politics, the year was 1949. My mom was only 3 - and he had just become Tennessee's youngest commissioner of agriculture. This meant that he would be leaving the farm in Yorkville, and going to work in Nashville while my grandmother stayed and tended to business and the family. Like Paul Ryan, he was about to become a "weekend father." Because of this, he would miss some of the most important milestones in Mom's life. She's never gone into much detail, but I know it impacted her. What little girl wouldn't miss her father in those formative years?

I suppose that, when you're 75 and you realize you've missed all of that - and you have one grandchild. And she's 8. And you're about to make the same mistake, all over again - you do a bit of soul-searching. I didn't get to see a lot of Grandaddy prior to this. It was the 80s, and he was a busy man in Washington. But when he made that decision to give it all up and come home, so that, in part, he could teach me about life on the farm in Yorkville - it was an experience that changed me and made me who I am today. I was a city girl in a private all-girls' school - and fairly smart. But I learned life's most important lessons in Yorkville with my grandparents. Fishing, playing in cotton, climbing in silos, running through fields and pastures - all became favorite summer pastimes. Of all of the memories in my life, none are as vivid - and none are as sweet. Don't get me wrong, Grandaddy had still been a wonderful grandfather while he was in Congress. When he was home, he took me campaigning with him, let me ride with him in parades, and I had a lot of fun experiences with my grandparents on the farm. But when he came home for good - it was different. And perfect.

Grandaddy only lived for another 10 years after he retired, but those were 10 important years to me. And I needed them. The same way Paul Ryan's kids are going to need him while they're still making their way to adulthood.

Life's short. And maybe you think the world needs you. And maybe it does. But no one needs you like your family needs you. Paul Ryan's kids are fortunate because of the choice he made today. Forget about the politics. If you're reading this and can only come up with hateful feelings because you can't stand Paul Ryan, then you're missing the point, and probably shouldn't read anymore of my blogs. I'm simply not partisan.

All I know is that, I hope he meant what he said. Because if he was sincere, his children will never forget this decision.

I don't know Speaker Ryan, and I have no idea what he'll do. I just hope he keeps whatever promises to his children that he's made to them through this process.

Grandaddy did.

And I named the horse "Chance."


Learn more about Meg's upcoming book, "Grassroots Politickin' - The Life and Legacy of Ed Jones," at or on Twitter at @EdJonesTN

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