Listening and learning on November 6th…
As World War II raged during 1942, my Mom, Rita, graduated from high school. Her great generation lived history, knows history, feels history. Her great generation understands the privilege of their VOTE. I was honored to take my Mom to cast her vote yesterday…
My Mom began planning for November 6th well before the day arrived. My Mom plans way ahead for most appointments, events, activities… generally around how she’s going to get there (me taking her car away, as she puts it, is a post for another day).
There were senior community buses running to the polling places from her senior complex, but I was more than happy to combine a nice lunch date and some Target shopping with voting.
To Rita, voting is the great privilege. Like so many of her generation, Presidents and Senators and Congressmen and local officials shaped her history, her youth, her adulthood and now her senior years. My Mom listened to the stories of her Dad and her uncles, who served our country during World War I. My Mom watched her two brothers and cousins go off to World War II. My Mom married a serviceman, my Dad, who spent 20 years serving our country in the United States Navy…
And my Mom had two sons who came-of-age during the Vietnam era.
Rita was vested in the system, so to speak. She has always been concerned about who’s running our country, our states, our local neighborhoods and all the related whats, whys and wherefores. From my earliest memories, I remember my Mom studying the issues, discussing the issues, debating the issues and candidates. Our family dinner table was a forum for discussion. And dissent.
Yesterday was no different.
I voted at my district polling place before heading to pick up my Mom… and we decided to “do” lunch before she voted. While eating, my Mom pulled out a piece of paper with a list of people’s names on it; City Council, School Committee, State Offices, National Offices, etc. Rita told me that many of these state and local candidates had visited her senior complex (pasta express and all!), and had shared their stories, their views, their reasons for running for particular offices. Our choices were nearly identical.
Then Rita went on the tell me the Bond Referendum questions she’d be voting to approve.
Wait a minute, Mom…
The debate began. It was like I was in high school again, the 60’s rebel and the conservative. Only reversed.
But nothing. Rita had her mind set. It was a fabulous hour of lunch and opinions.
On the short drive to Rita’s polling place, the conversation went something like this:
Rita: Where are you going? This is not where I vote.
Me: I googled it. This is where you vote.
Rita: This is not where I voted before.
Me: I know. They change things sometimes.
Me: I don’t know. They changed my polling place, too.
Rita: What if people in my building don’t know? They may miss their vote.
Me: I hope not.
I knew that Rita thought I was at the wrong polling station.
Once inside, we saw a substantial line, broken into two shorter lines of A-L and M-Z. We got in the A-L line. An elderly woman who had come in behind us said that the line was out the door earlier in the day.
Rita was happy with the long line. She noted how encouraging it was to see the participation. While in line, my Mom reminesced about all the polling places she’d been in over the years while traveling with my Navy Dad. My Mom, who was born, grew up and lived in the same home in Boston until she was 25 years old, had lived the next decades of her life in Maine, Michigan, Illinois, California, New Hampshire and criss crossed the country several times with 1, 2, then 3 babies. Rita told of the candidates who ended up not deserving her vote. She told of the books she wished she hadn’t read about some of our presidents.
But Rita was there. Ready to exercise her great privilege. Jaded? Maybe. Optimistic? Completely.
It’s amazing to think of my Mom’s many, many votes cast, her part of history, her great effort in this great big thing we call our democracy. I felt honored to be there in line with her, soaking in her memories like some big history book.
Of course, I knew she still thought we were at the wrong polling station.
When we reached the desk and she told her name, there was my Mom’s name in black & white. I smiled.
Rita asked that I help her with the black felt pen used to fill in the names of the candidates. Her hands and fingers are so riddled with arthritis that she was afraid to scribble, perhaps making her vote illegible.
Of course, I would help… through the tears that welled up in my eyes.
I stood at the voting booth with Rita for quite some time. I helped her fill in the black felt pen markings of her chosen candidates, many scribbled on the paper she grasped in her hand. I helped her fill in the black felt pen markings on the Bond Referendum questions. She smiled at the ones I had rejected.
I had the best afternoon with my Mom. Making history with her. Perhaps changing history with her; filled with her years, her experience, her wisdom, her heart, her knowledge, her love of country, her history…
Before leaving the polling station, there was one more thing; of course, the lapel sticker that tells the story of a day, and a lifetime…
If you are a caregiver or know a caregiver, please visit/refer to aarp.com/caregiving for caregiving resources.
I am a member of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving and Caresupport. I am not receiving compensation of any kind for my opinions/views. November is NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH and I am helping to get the word out about elder care issues.