Before my ebook hit 25%, Joe Biden’s family stories in Promise Me, Dad had me crying. There’s plenty of other content in this heartfelt memoir, but the focus is on Beau Biden’s fight with cancer. Beau is Joe Biden’s oldest son, technically Joe III. His life story is shorter than his father’s but full of public service in a similar way. They seem to be peas in a pod.
But they’re not alone in this story. Beau’s younger siblings, Hunter and Ashley are elemental. Matriarch Jill Biden and various spouses and children round out the crew. This is a family that just loves to be together. And that time and attitude is precious, since so many families today have rifts and losses dividing them. The Bidens realize they have a special bond. They revel in it, and I couldn’t help but love them for it.
If you pay attention to the news, you’ll know that while Beau was battling cancer, his dad was Vice President of the United States. After a long career in the Senate, Joe Biden joined Barack Obama to become the 47th VP. He talks candidly about the sometimes odd reputation of the position. And he makes it clear that Obama asked him to be a true partner in the executive branch. During his eight years in office, Biden logged over a million miles of airtime contributing to diplomacy around the globe. In Promise Me, Biden specifically discusses his efforts in Iraq, Central America, and the Ukraine.
And with each mission overseas, Biden misses more time with his son. I kept thinking what an amazing advantage those government aircraft gave him. He could meet with a key diplomatic player in Washington at 10am and spend the evening at Beau’s hospital bedside in Houston. The amount of time zone juggling was mind boggling. And also exhausting to contemplate.
Through it all, Biden tries to to determine if he’ll run for President in 2016. He shares the ups and downs, the nitty gritty of that decision. It took a long time to determine, and of course he chose not to run. We’ll never know how the White House would look today if he had run.
Every chapter about Joe is followed by two or more about Beau. Often it’s about Beau and Hunter. The two brothers started their young lives with the tragic loss of their mother and sister in a car accident. The three men know grief and loss intimately. The things Joe says about comforting people in tragic situations brought me to tears again. I’m not really a reader who cries often. But our family shares some common experiences with the Bidens. And with millions of other families who unexpectedly lost someone they loved too soon.
Despite the sadness and tears, Joe Biden projects his own (and his family’s) resilience and strength. He chose a quote from German philosopher Immanuel Kant as the book’s epigraph.
“Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”
It seems to me that Joe Biden has followed these rules to a “t.” His career and public service is “something to do.” His family and the American people are “someone to love.” And “to hope for?” A better world for us all. These rules, and this book, are worth your time. I’ll just recommend keeping a tissue handy for those stray tears.