Archive for November 2nd, 2010|Daily archive page

Voting with Mom

Four years ago, Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for a year, but she was still living in her apartment, still driving to the grocery store and to the occasional errand, and she still paid attention to politics. At least a little bit. She still took the daily paper and she watched broadcast television news, never having had cable. She wanted to vote in our gubernatorial election, and she wanted to vote for the Democratic candidate for governor. She didn’t know anything else about the election. But casting that vote mattered to her.

So I took her to the polls with me. There was a short line. I voted first, and then Mom took her place at a booth. And she was completely frozen. She didn’t know the first thing about how to operate the electronic machine. I walked toward her to help her, and a startled poll worker intervened, stunned that I was going to get involved in Mom’s private voting activity. “I want to vote for governor, and that’s all,” Mom said. The poll worker helped her find the candidate’s name. She helped her skip the rest of the ballot, and helped Mom finalize her vote. Mom was pleased. I tried to whisper that Mom had Alzheimer’s. But it didn’t really matter. The voting had taken place.

That was the last time Mom voted. Ironically, her assisted living facility functioned as a polling place. But by the time she had moved in there, she had lost interest in politics for the most part. A lifelong Democrat, she did retain some affection for Hillary Clinton. She never really seemed to understand the appeal of Barack Obama. I like to think that had her mind been clear, she would have been proud that our country elected its first black president in her lifetime.

Every time I go to vote, and I always vote, I have to sign the registration book so my current signature matches the signature on file. And every time I do that, I see Mom’s name right above mine. Bonnie Caldwell. She lived in my precinct, in an apartment around the corner, before she entered institutions. And her address has never been changed officially for those voting books. Because I would have to do that, and I haven’t done it. So she is still registered. So I think of her every time I vote. And I think about how her political leanings influenced mine. And that I am proud of my political views, and I’m glad I cast the same kinds of votes that she would if she still could.

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