Paul Ryan had a GREAT NIGHT, and he delivered a speech that had the GOP delegates on their feet.

But the moment that humanized the event came as he spoke of his mother and her courage after the death of his father in August 1986, 26 years ago. As the VP candidate spoke and looked up at his mother, who was full of pride as any mother would be, her eyes teared up, her 10 year old granddaughter Liza put her arm around her and embraced her, and the son on stage paused to wipe away his tears.

APTOPIX Republican Convention

From an interview that Paul Ryan’s brother, Tobin, gave last week, one gets the picture of the dynamics that has shaped this man, the first of the Gen X’ers to be on the stage as a candidate for VP:

His father, Paul M. Ryan, age 55, was dead.

 Tobin’s younger brother, Paul D. Ryan, nicknamed P.D. by his three siblings, was inside. Paul, then 16 years old, had found their father while Tobin was at breakfast.

P.D. was alone. Their mother, Betty Ryan, was in Colorado visiting her family. Janet, their sister, was away from home, as was Stan, their older brother, who was working for IBM in upstate New York.

Their father’s secretary had called the house, frantically asking whether their father, a prominent local attorney, was coming to work. There were clients at the firm and they were getting impatient.

Paul put down the telephone and strolled down the hall to check on his dad. “Even though he had probably been dead through the night, Paul tried to resuscitate him,” Tobin says. His brother, this carefree teenager who flipped burgers at McDonald’s, did not panic. He tried mightily to do something, Tobin says, but their father’s heart had stopped.

“I’ve done a lot of reflecting in the past few days about what makes Paul tick,” Tobin says, and to him, much of his brother’s life can be understood by considering the events of that summer morning and their aftermath. Paul Ryan’s steadiness that day was impressive, Tobin says. But it was his perseverance after their father’s sudden death, through the end of high school and beyond, that defined him.

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