My Nana was my hero. She was a strong woman who never looked at a mans job and assumed she couldn’t do it. She was my first mentor and my constant companion as a child. I lived right down the street and her living room was my happy place.
She shared all kinds of secrets with me. She told me about her childhood friends, the secret compartment in her dresser, and that she had once gone to charm school. She told me of her plan to especially spoil my brother Max because she had been a middle child and knew how invisible they felt – but that once she became a grandmother she knew she could never ever let any of us feel that invisibility or distance from her. She told me about her pentecostal mother and her fears that I might become a “holy roller” like her. She told me about trusting Jesus in the middle of an Ozark river on a hot summer day when she was 11, she encouraged me to do the same. She told me stories about her amazing grandpa and I knew that her love for me reflected his devotion to her. She told me that my Grandpa had secretly taken evening Bible classes to be able to hold his own when talking to her mother. She told me about her first marriage and how she had just left. She told me why and I’ll keep that to myself. She shared almost everything with me.
In the autumn of 1980 I was a freshman in college. I was going to get my first chance to vote. I got up before class and headed to my polling place, my elementary school. As I finished up I saw Grandma and Grandpa in the parking lot. Grandma had been very ill for several years and by this time she could barely walk. I helped Grandpa get her inside.
If I recall correctly it was only about the third time that year that she had left the house except to go to the doctor. She had not even been able to attend my high school graduation. If she went through all this it was crystal clear to me that this was important to her – doing her civic duty was a priority. This image has stayed with me my whole life.
Grandma’s hands had shaken as long as I could remember, but by now she could no longer write. She went into that booth and I stayed outside the curtain in case she needed help while Grandpa voted. It took her forever with to get the correct hole punched – and she would accept no help. When she was finished Grandpa and I helped her make the long slow walk back to the car.
As we got her into the car I bent over to kiss her cheek. I asked her who she voted for. She said, “I love you honey, but that’s none of your business.”
Sometimes I wonder if we would be a kinder and gentler society if we remembered the privilege of a “secret ballot”. I know that there has been a lack of civility with people putting an all-or-nothing spin on their political leanings. I’ll be glad to go back to hearing about everyone’s grandkids on Facebook tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong – I have strong opinions, I may not have posted a play-by-play on the presidential debates on my Facebook page. I didn’t put up any yard signs or plaster my Jeep with bumper stickers. I didn’t attend any fundraisers. I did my research and I did my talking at the ballot box.