Stronger Together: Four Generations Cast Their Votes With Her

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, 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 Hillary Clinton volunteers reach out to voters across the country. It’s astounding how easy it is for people to get involved and to connect. I wanted 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 ever General Election Presidential ballot for a woman, while her great-granddaughter will cast her first General Election 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 Google 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;, and 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.

lilli-and-addie

 

Finding the heart for the fight.

On the wall above my desk, over my right shoulder, is a framed homemade Obama lawn sign created last October by me and my young sons. Bold block capital letters outlined in black markers, filled in with red and blue crayons, it said everything we wanted to say: “OBAMA.” Right next to that is a framed poster saying “Yes We Did. November 4, 2008.” My mom and my sister have matching posters.

Down the hall in the kitchen, a Hillary Clinton button still shines on a bulletin board crowded with family pictures, Bar Mitzvah invitations, and newspaper clippings, revealing my initial hero in the last Presidential campaign. My mother and I vied to be Hillary Clinton delegates to the Democratic Convention. When that didn’t pan out (for any of us), my mom and I hopped an airplane to canvas door-to-door for Obama in suburban Las Vegas.

I think you get the picture. I’m a born liberal. A lefty. A political being. I’m also a lawyer, a person comfortable with words, persuasion and argument. At least I should be. But start in on the merits of any emotionally-charged policy debate–health care, anyone?–and I go all floppy in the head. I forget my facts. I fall apart.

It is so embarrassing. I need a Democratic Toastmasters. Because when the facts start flying, I’m like the post-season Dodgers with runners in scoring position: I choke. I don’t get it. I should be able to hold my own against Limbaugh-ites and Fox-heads. But when the debate starts, I get so riled! My cheeks flush, my blood heats, my veins burst. My politics live in my heart.

Lucky for me, I know some others who don’t get flustered this way. When it comes to the health care debate, here is one person who said what I would have liked to. Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, California, nailed it. We are our brothers’ keeper. Lives are at stake. We cannot stand idly by, or we are complicit. And, oh yeah, government does a pretty good job with this sort of large scale thing. Check out the whole sermon/speech at http://www.kehillatisrael.org/prayer_holydays.php?id=2129 And when I find some more good posts, I’ll add them.

Happy reading, and remain calm.