I haven’t written anything substantial in recent days because, well, I’ve been nervous and anxious and so uber-focused on the election that I was, frankly, boring. I bored myself, and I didn’t want to bore you with anymore political stuff. Because really, we’ve all had enough political stuff.
And then, of course, Tuesday happened. Around 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, I cried a great big sobbing-laughing emotion-releasing cry when I realized that Obama would be our next president. Tears of happiness, tears of hope, tears of disbelief, and tears of a tiny bit of sadness that my mom didn’t get to see this happen. I cried throughout Obama’s speech, and all day Wednesday, my eyes teared up and the goosebumps reappeared every time I thought of his words, of this moment in American history, of the magnitude of what lies ahead.
Obama’s anecdote about the 106-year-old woman reminded me of my grandparents. They are in their mid-80s, children of the Great Depression, parents of the 60s revolutionaries, grandparents of the gen-X and gen-Y kids who have finally stood up and said “enough is enough,” and great-grandparents of a child who will grow up without even flinching at the notion of a black president, or even a woman president. I’m awed when I imagine what their eyes have seen.
Throughout this election season, I have not really discussed the candidates or the campaign with my grandparents because I know they have conservative views, both politically and socially, and I didn’t really want to get into any kind of debate. I mean, come on, they’re old, they’re set in their ways, and arguing would just upset us both. But last night I called them, just to say hello.
My gram and I chatted for a few minutes about the usual stuff—the weather, the kiddo, baseball (I told you it’s in my genes!)—and then Grampa got on the phone. Before I tell you about my conversation with him, let me tell you a little about my grandfather: A retired Naval officer and school principal, he was an imposing figure who raised my mom and her three brothers with a heavy hand. My brother and I were extremely intimidated by him when we were kids, but by the time my sister came along, he had mellowed quite a bit. He was (and still is) intensely intelligent and a consummate teacher, always drilling us on math or correcting our grammar. To this day he reads the Sunday NY Times cover to cover. Grampa always needed to be “useful”—he would visit our home and mow the lawn because he just couldn’t sit still. He was never overtly affectionate with his children or grandchildren and he was extremely frugal, but he showed his love by building us things—amazing, super-sturdy furniture that will be passed down for generations. (In fact, the photo below was taken in the gazebo he built by the bay in the town where my grandparents have lived for 50-some years.)
Grampa aged very well until about 5 years ago, around his 80th birthday, when his mental acuity and physical strength really started diminishing. Now he and Gram are pretty much house-bound, unable to drive, and when we speak these days, he has a hard time remembering my name or the names of my husband or my siblings; when we see each other in person, he often confuses me for my mother. These are the symptoms of getting old, I tell myself, the payoff for living such a long, hearty, good life. But his eyes still sparkle their brilliant blue; think Paul Newman-blue eyes.
When we talked on the phone last night, though, my grandfather was sharper than he’s been in months. He was chatty and light and knew not only who I was but asked questions about my son and my husband and my home. I didn’t bring up the election—but he did. And this is what he said: “We waited up Tuesday night to see who won this election. A late night, eh? And I am pleased that this young man will be our president. I can’t believe it, a Negro man is president! What a different world. But I’m pleased. It’s scary times right now, isn’t it, love? But I think he will be a good president. You kids will be ok. I think it’ll all be ok.”
And when I hung up the phone I got teary-eyed one more time about the gravity of this week.