My mom tried to get a lot of messages across to me and many of them did not compute.
For instance, I don’t see the point of making my bed every day. Sure, it feels nice to get into a made bed and I make the bed when I feel like it. But I don’t make the bed because anyone’s going to see it. It’s purely for my pleasure.
I never thought my dad had a lot of lessons to offer me. My parents disagreed on most things. Even in politics my parents disagreed. Especially in politics. Her message was to vote Republican and his to vote Democrat. Neither told me why I should vote either way, just to vote the way he or she said to.
That left me to my own devices to decide who I would vote for and I enjoyed having my freedom in that arena.
One thing they had in common about politics: Be sure to vote.
The first year I voted, my dad was planning to vote for Carter and my mom for Reagan. I was committed to John Anderson of Illinois, a Republican who ran for president in 1980 as an independent.
One night at the dinner table, Dad suggested we all stay home on Election Day as we would just cancel each other’s vote.
My response: No way.
“This is my first chance to vote and I’m voting,” I said. “Besides, if we agreed not to vote this year, you’d just climb out the bathroom window and go vote for Carter.”
We had a good laugh, but we knew it was true. And we all voted our own way.
When Dad was in the hospital just hours away from his death, I couldn’t help but think it was a shame he wouldn’t get to vote this year. He was so close to Election Day and such a devoted supporter of President Barak Obama.
Just then, my cousin who lives in Dad’s town, spoke up as if he’d read my mind.
“I’m glad he got to vote,” my cousin said. “He wanted to vote early so I took him to the courthouse and he got his vote in for Obama.”
There wasn’t much anyone could say that would be uplifting when Dad was in his last moments of life, but it made me smile inside to think he took advantage of the opportunity to vote for the candidate he was so high on.
Dad was of the generation of Americans who believed they had some control over their destiny. They survived the Great Depression. They fought in World War II and they knew they made a difference. They saw their votes count.
Voter turnout stays low today because so many of us don’t believe our votes count.
I don’t know if Dad thought his vote counted, but he was determined to have his say.
Taking full advantage of living in a free country in which everyone has the right to vote was the most important lesson I learned from him.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.