As the first anniversary of my mother's death approaches, it seems appropriate that it falls on election day — a day on which my mom was glued to the TV.
She came late to politics, having spent her younger adult years raising a family while attending college and working, and her middle-aged years working while caring for an elderly parent and a small farm and all it entailed. It wasn't until after she retired and moved to northern Michigan that she began to pay close attention to what happened in Washington and, to a lesser extent, closer to home.
Back in the Detroit suburbs, where I grew up, we retrieved The Detroit News from our porch every evening. I didn't know till I was older that this marked my parents as likely conservatives. But in her later years, my mother sometimes crossed party lines to vote, according to her conscience, the issues that most concerned her — health and Medicare, the environment, animal welfare — and sometimes to whim.
Perhaps the most notable time was in 2008, when she helped elect Barack Obama after eight years of George W. Bush, whose father — and mother — she admired. She'd voted for George H. in his race against Bill Clinton, whose photo — lip caught between his teeth in his signature expression of concern — someone taped to her toilet lid as a joke.
But she was sorry not long after she'd helped George W. to a second term. Down came the photo of Clinton, whom she fervently wished was back in office, and up went bumper stickers on her Jeep: "Give Bush An Inch And He Thinks He's A Ruler" and "Is It 2008 Yet?" She called Vice President Dick Cheney an "arrogant pup," her deepest expression of disdain.
Before Obama came on the scene, she was among the contingent that hoped Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of Bush's Joint Chiefs of Staff, would throw his hat in the presidential ring. Even when the 2008 race came down to Obama and Sen. John McCain, she would have voted for McCain but for his running mate, Sarah Palin, whom she couldn't imagine as vice-presidential — much less potential presidential — material.
It was Obama's eloquence and quiet common sense that ultimately brought her around to his side. She felt sure he would restore the country's dignity in the eyes of the rest of the world. Like many other Americans, she watched with tears as the new President Obama was greeted at the White House by a mostly black staff. Over the next three years, she became disgusted at the way a Republican-dominated Congress blocked his every move and both subtly and not-so-subtly engaged in bigotry disguised as politics.
Though she died six months after Gov. Mitt Romney formally announced his candidacy, I believe she would have voted for Obama again in November. As a nurse, she believed his plan for health care reform was second only to Hillary Clinton's. As a grandmother and great-grandmother, she was loathe to see his environmental gains reversed.
So instead of working in the newsroom on election night, I'll be raising a piña colada in my mom's memory and keeping a close eye on the TV. Whatever the election results, I'm sure to feel her presence.
Marta Hepler Drahos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.