You remember him - a big, good-looking, aw-shucks kind of guy? He has been president of the United States for 4 percent of the time the country has had a president.

To hear George Bush tell it, Jimmy Carter was president until last Tuesday. To hear Michael Dukakis tell it, for the last seven years Bush has been president of the United States on its off days, and he says there were more off than on.

I remember sometime in August, Reagan said farewell to the Republican Convention in New Orleans, the balloons came down and he was gone. So was Nancy.

Did he ever come back from his ranch in Santa Barbara? He must have, because there was a sighting of the president in New York saying farewell to the U.N.

Long ago, it must have been back in the spring of '88, Reagan announced he would campaign on behalf of George Bush, but the news has been empty of Reagan.

During the Iran-Contra controversy, the public seemed outraged - maybe not outraged, but certainly irked - that Reagan was an aloof, out-of-touch president, delegating such chores as war and peace to hyperthyroid subordinates.

He might not be there at all right now for all we know, and nobody seems to care. It's a good thing all of his subordinates have deserted to the Bush campaign or we'd be shipping arms to Antarctica in hopes that Russian moderates would send us a basketball team.

And what of those scenes on television of Reagan, pretending to be deaf, on his way to a waiting helicopter? When the president and Mrs. Reagan left for Camp David at 3 p.m. every Friday, it was like the Statue of Liberty at sunrise or the Golden Gate Bridge rising out of the fog, a visible symbol that America was still strong and the old verities still held.

If you read far enough back in the newspapers, you see that Congress and the president are still battling over money bills. But Tip O'Neill is gone as House speaker, Robert Byrd is stepping down as Senate Democratic leader, and the arm-weary combatants seem to be going through the motions, like an old-timers' exhibition match in professional wrestling.

If you read closely, however, you find it's not Reagan himself who is battling Congress, but unnamed "aides" and "staffers," a collective nom-de-plume for Marlin Fitzwater, Frank Carlucci and Jim Miller. Who are they? you ask.

Reagan might not be in the Oval Office, the East Room or upstairs in the Family Quarters. He might not be at the White House at all.

He wasn't there much before, either, spending a lot of time out of sight at Santa Barbara and Camp David, but when his image wizards, now either facing jail or working for Bush, felt the public was in danger of forgetting the president, they would throw together an awards ceremony in the White House Rose Garden so Reagan could be photographed pinning a medal on some deserving human being.

Am I the only one who misses him?