Former Vice President Joe Biden returned to the Massachusetts island of Nantucket this weekend as part of an annual Thanksgiving family tradition,
It is the third Thanksgiving for the family since since his son Beau passed away from brain cancer in 2015.
Biden is scheduled to speak to a packed audience at the Nantucket High School auditorium on Saturday as part of the ‘American Promise’ publicity tour for his new book, according to the The Inquirer and Mirror.
The former vice president is promoting his heartbreaking memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose.
In it, he writes about Thanksgivings that he and his family spent on Nantucket.
They included a 10-mile run (‘turkey trot’) to the other side of the island, where Biden would play football with his then-young sons Beau and Hunter at the bluffs.
Just weeks after he was elected vice president, Joe Biden (third from left) and his family and friends walk down Old Colony Street in Hyannis, Massachusetts on November 26, 2008, to board a mid-day ferry to Nantucket for the Thanksgiving holiday
The family would also take a group photo near a small house above the dunes at ‘Sconset Beach.
They called the house ‘Forever Wild’ because of a ‘carved wooden sign on its porch’ with that inscription.
In 2014, one year after Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer, the Bidens once again gathered in Nantucket – this time with their three children, their spouses, and five grandchildren.
In an excerpt from Biden’s book published in Vanity Fair on Thursday, the former vice president described the 2014 visit – particularly in light of his son’s deteriorating health.
‘Beau kept to himself our first day in Nantucket,’ Biden wrote.
‘His Secret Service detail had become really good at walling him away.
‘He was easily fatigued and increasingly shy about interacting with people.
‘He was losing feeling in his right hand, and it wasn’t strong enough for a good firm handshake, and he had been wrestling with a condition called aphasia.
‘Radiation and chemotherapy had done some damage to the part of his brain that controlled the ability to name things.
In his revealing memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, the former vice president recalls the last Thanksgiving he spent with his cancer-stricken son, Beau (seen above at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver)
‘He had been going from his home in Wilmington to Philadelphia most days for an hour of physical therapy and occupational therapy and then an hour of speech therapy, all above and beyond his regular chemo treatments.’
Biden writes that Beau had difficulty remembering words like ‘mayor’, which he referred to as ‘You know, that guy who runs the city’ or ‘dinner roll’, which he said was ‘the brown thing you put the butter on.’
Biden writes that as Beau’s health was fading, so were other memories of his times in Nantucket.
When he took a look at ‘Forever Wild’ he noticed a lot had changed.
‘This year, the lot was ringed with yellow police tape.
‘The house was gone, a victim of rising ocean tides that had been washing away three or four feet of the ‘Sconset Bluff every year for the past 20.
‘Bad storm years might take out 10 times that in certain places.
Biden is in Nantucket this holiday weekend to promote his memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose
‘“Forever Wild” had finally run out of safe ground, and run out of time; it had been swept out into the Atlantic.
‘The only thing left behind was a piece of the foundation.’
Biden revealed that during his stay in Nantucket that year, both his ailing son and Hunter both strongly encouraged him to run for president in 2016.
The then-vice president said he was surprised that his sons encouraged him to run.
‘I knew there were plenty of good reasons not to run, and uncertainty about Beau’s health was at the top.
‘And I really suspected that my sons, whose judgment I had come to value and rely on, did not want me to put the family through the ordeal of a presidential campaign just now.
‘“Dad, you’ve got it all wrong,” Beau said. “You’ve got to run. I want you to run.”
‘Hunter agreed: “We want you to run.”’
Biden writes that ‘it was the conviction and intensity in Beau’s voice that caught me off guard.’
‘At one point he said it was my obligation to run, my duty. “Duty” was a word Beau Biden did not use lightly,’ Biden writes.
Biden said that ‘no Thanksgiving would ever quite be the same’ because of the disappearance of his beloved house on the bluff.
‘I kept seeing the little “Forever Wild” house, undermined by the powerful indifference of nature and the inevitability of time, no longer able to hold its ground; I could almost hear the sharp crack as its moorings failed, could envision the tide washing in and out, pulling at it relentlessly and remorselessly until it was adrift on the water, then swallowed up by the sea,’ he wrote.
As he did every year on Thanksgiving, Biden wrote down a Christmas wish list.
‘I pray we have another year together in 2015. Beau. Beau. Beau. Beau,’ Biden writes.
Beau Biden died on May 30, 2015. It was his last Thanksgiving alive.