My parents were children of the Great Depression. They were intelligent people of limited education. My mother’s parents believed that girls only needed basic reading and math skills, so at the end of fourth grade my mother stayed home to work in her father’s woods, cutting cross-ties for the railroad. My father was four years old when his mother died. His older siblings took care of one another while his father worked the fields, and my father was sent to live with his aunt, then another aunt, and another. He told us he went to fourth grade in school, but I don’t recall ever seeing him read anything.
They were quiet people, my parents, not given to lengthy explanations or discussions. Hugs and kisses disappeared as soon as I no longer needed to be carried, and the phrase “I love you” was never spoken. Yet, as a child, I never doubted their love. They did without their own pleasures and did the best they could to provide for their children. They led by example, brief statements, and simple directives. The strength and the weakness of their parenting being that I and my siblings were left to our own individual interpretations of these examples.
I believe I grew up freer than many because of their parenting. They taught me right from wrong through their examples. Hard work, honesty, perseverance, and getting along with one another was rewarded. Foul language, fighting, and being “too big for your britches” was frowned on. They had their own opinions and biases , but they did not talk of these unless something or someone else initiated the conversation. Being more introspective myself, I often did not discover how they felt about an issue until I overstepped some previously unidentified boundary. Until then, I was free to consider ideas and concepts I’d read or heard about in school.
When I was old enough to vote, my father, who rarely spoke of politics, shared with me the way he decided his vote. “The Republicans,” he said, ” are for the businessman. The Democrats are for the working man.”
In my world today, there is no limit to the influences out there. Before elections my mailbox is stuffed with campaign flyers. My TV flashes one attack ad after the other. My phone rings with robo calls and surveys. My neighborhood is littered with campaign signs, and the young men at my door have come to pass out one more piece of propaganda.
A lot has happened since my father last decided his vote. The country has changed, the politics have changed, and I have changed. I love the way my father simplified his voting choices, and I believe those simple distinctions are still accurate today. I am inspired by this memory to verify and simplify the principles that guide my own decisions as a voter.
- Yesterday & Today: Stories (decemberdaily.wordpress.com)
- War Against Voting (talkingpointsmemo.com)
- Those Words My Father and Others Said and Say (themoderatevoice.com)