I am sitting in the “Bistro” area at my grandmother’s assisted living home this morning. Picture a grand but casual hotel, a deluxe joint I have told her is like an ideal college dorm, with exercise classes, lectures, parties and movies, staffed by the type of kind, warm folks you’d want caring for your grandmother.
“Really? A college dorm?” she responds with a smile and surveys her surroundings with new eyes, this woman who hopped a bus to Hollywood at 18 and never attended college.
The Bistro is laid out with tables set for four, with a small kitchen offering light breakfast of fruit, toast, juice and coffee. Some residents are watching CNN. It is 9:00 a.m., and with nine hours to go before “tip-off” for tonight’s Presidential Debate, the pundits are already discussing the potential pitfalls and highlights of tonight’s clash. I am on edge. I turn away. So much rides on this.
The Bistro is awakening with activity, as men and women who have fought in wars, raised children, created industries (and ask for no credit), arrive for breakfast and tune into the debate coverage.
My grandmother sits next to me, a vision. Her auburn hair is set off perfectly by her light green jacket and pants, and her sharp wit reminds you that you can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl.
Two of her favorite friends, Addie and Arlene, join us for breakfast and conversation. Turns out the four of us have a lot in common. We talk about our children, our increasing memory loss, and our strong feelings about the election.
I pull out my laptop to show them a campaign website I had described to my grandmother last night, the one that lets volunteers reach out to voters across the country. It’s astounding how easy it is for people to get involved and to connect. I want to show my grandmother how far technology has come.
This is a milestone election for our country. It is also special for my family, but not only because we will have four generations voting for President for the first time. (That itself is cool, but mostly a testament to longevity). What’s truly noteworthy is that in this election, my grandmother, born before women could vote, will cast her first Presidential ballot that is for a woman, while her great-granddaughter will cast her first Presidential vote ever, and it will be for a woman. (And it’s not just “a woman.” It’s this indefatigable, qualified, hard-working, smart, tough, compassionate, imperfect-as-humans-are, brilliant, problem-solving, dedicated-to-service woman.)
It shouldn’t have taken so long for my grandmother to get here. But here we finally are, in a world in which my nieces and my sons, and their cousins and friends, can believe that anyone — any-qualified-one — man or woman, can and should follow their dreams, unlimited by the invisible weighty burden that “no one has ever done that before.”
Our table’s conversation turns to voter registration. One woman isn’t sure if she is registered here, or in her home state of Michigan. We do a quick search (after she asks me to “Google her”), and get her registered. Two ladies at an adjacent table come over to confirm they are registered; they are. My grandmother calls over the activities director and tells him we have to set up another voter registration day! He agrees. She gets things done.
I’ve sat here an hour longer than I expected, and if I could I would stay all day. The activities are just getting started. And with every minute, I’m feeling less anxious about our country’s future.