I had the blessing and privilege to grow up living next door to my paternal grandparents. There was hardly a day that I did not see them at least once, but several times a day until I graduated high school and moved away to follow a Navy guy around the country.
If I could wish that experience on every person I would. If I could give that experience to my grandchildren today, I would. As much as I would like to, it is not in the plan God has for us at this time.
I was treated like royalty every time I opened the noisy screen door of my grandparent's front porch and walked into the kitchen. Everything stopped when I walked in, and no matter what Grandma was doing, her kind voice would greet me, "Well, there she is," she would say, "I was wondering if I would see you today."
Then she would tell me what there was to eat - cold macaroni in the fridge, cookies on the counter, cheese and crackers. It was an unspoken rule that I could help myself, but always with the reminder, "Don't fill up here or you won't want to eat supper" (or lunch, depending on the day).
Of course I did fill up, and of course many times I was too full to eat the supper or lunch my mother had fixed. When I'd get my snack, and depending on the time of day, Grandma and I would watch The Price is Right or "the stories" or play cards, Yahtzee, or Trouble.
There were days though that she wasn't home and when I walked into the house, it would be empty, quiet, her absence palpable. If I found my Grandpa out in the garage, I'd ask, "Where's grandma?" I think the word "ugh" became part of my vocabulary in these moments when he would say, "It's election day, she's working at the town hall."
I hated election day. It wasn't like the day when she was gone into town to get a perm or groceries and then back in the afternoon. Election day was the WHOLE day. And the WHOLE night. She would work till midnight, counting votes, and doing all the tasks that Voting volunteers do.
If I rode my bike to where she was and enter into the town hall, echoes of whispers falling on my ears, I would see her, sitting at a long table in the front, doing who knows what. If she saw me, she'd put a finger to her lips to shush me as I walked up to her.
"I'm working here, Ronda. You can't be up here," she'd say distractedly. "I'll see you tomorrow," as she pointed with her eyes to the door.
I'd walk back the way I came in, shoulders down, muttering to myself, "I hate election day."
The next morning I can remember always walking in her kitchen bright and early. Eager to see her. We had time to make up for, games to play, cookie batter to sneak from the bowl.
And there Grandma would be, sitting in her recliner, eyes closed.
"I'm really tired today," she'd say, "I didn't get home till nearly 1 o'clock this morning. We had a a good turnout, lots of ballots to count."
Grandpa would usually say then, "Leave Grandma alone. She's tired."
I'd go into the kitchen, scrounge around, pouting the whole time as I looked for something to eat.
"I hate election day," muttering under my breath and then taking my goodies into the living room where I'd sit down till they were eaten.
I'd look up every few bites to see Grandma still hadn't moved in the recliner, so finally I would just take my dishes into the kitchen and go home.
"I hate election day," I would said as I got on my bike and rode around the block.
Whatever compelled her to volunteer her time, along with the other ladies of our community, I will never know. By the time I appreciated what they had done, it was too late to ask why they did it. Maybe there were no volunteers and they got roped into it. Maybe they enjoyed the company and the time to catch up on the Villages gossip, but it seemed to me when I went into the Hall, there wasn't a lot of talking going on, but serious business. I mean, Grandma could barely talk. To me. Her granddaughter. Her royal granddaughter!
I can only guess now the reasons why she volunteered for years in that cold Town Hall with only a small wood stove for heat on those cold Wisconsin Tuesdays in November.
She was the second generation born of German immigrants. She knew nothing other than her American upbringing, yet her grandparents, as far as I know, left everything for a new life. They said their final good-byes to family I doubt they ever saw again.
It's too late to ask them, but I think I know part of the reason. At least I saw part of the reason on those election days of my childhood.
So that their future grandchildren could someday live in a place where they could work in a free country and vote without fear of losing their livelihood, their home, or their lives.
I don't hate election days anymore. I hate the process to election days, certainly, especially the upcoming Presidential election. I rejoice that we still have the opportunity and the freedom to vote in our country. To make a difference. To live out the legacy our ancestors sacrificed for us.
My vote matters. Yours does too. Don't throw it away.