In the past, my Grandma has been game to share her hip-hop reviews with Indy readers, as well as her interpretations of contemporary art.
For those of you who don't know my Grandma, she basically is totally sweet. And by totally sweet, I mean completely awesome. She's 83. In her lifetime she's lived through and come to grips with the Great Depression, World War II, television, space travel, the birth control pill, Vietnam, the microwave, my mother coming out as a lesbian, Top Ramen, the death of her husband, going blind, hooking up with a new boyfriend, double knee surgery, Listerine breath strips and 9/11.
But despite her seemingly endless adaptability and open-mindedness, there's always been one thing she and I never talked about: Grandma was a lifelong Republican.
As is often the case in multiparty families, politics was pretty much a topic non grata. Still, it was hard to ignore the fact that someone in our bloodline had, in all good conscience, voted for Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and those whose names others in my family have beat around.
Then, just last week when my wife and I were up at Grandma's retirement apartment having orange spice tea, she announced the unthinkable: "I am never going to vote for the Republicans again."
I had been doodling on a notepad while she said this and found myself quickly scribbling this down for proof just in case it had been blurted in a fit of senility.
A few days ago I called her again to see if she'd changed her mind. She hadn't. But she'd been thinking about it, and she had cultivated some astutely studied words about the Shrubbya.
"I think that most of the decisions Bush has made have been ridiculous -- sending our troops to Iraq was a bad, bad choice," said Grandma, vehemently and with a brand of conviction I've not witnessed in the 31 years I've known her. "Afghanistan was bad enough. ... The billions we're going to spend on Iraq could be used on people in this country. Not everyone here is rich. There are lots of unmet needs, and those people get ignored. Even when he's passing a bill to enrich the populace, it's the well-to-do he's paying off."
I asked her why she had been a Republican all these years.
"I started out a Republican because of your Grandpa," she said. "I didn't give it any thought."
She fished for some other long-lost rationale. "In my younger days I probably wasn't that studious about the issues, but now I don't have anything else to do and I listen to a lot of news and watch a lot of people on CNN."
Always a bon vivant, Grandma recently lost some of her fervent vivacity and adaptability when she began to go blind from macular degeneration. After months of a brooding depression that seemed like it might carry her to her grave, Grandma finally seemed to have found an almost Tiresian way to channel her blindness into a passionate new raison d'etre.
When I asked her why she'd voted for Bush in 2000, she said: "I thought he'd be a good president, but I know now that I made a mistake." She's interested in Democrat Wesley Clark because she thinks he has the military know-how to figure a way out of Iraq.
Finally, when I asked her how, after all these years and all the changes she's lived through, she had managed to keep an open mind about it all, Grandma said: "I just try to learn all that I can. Now that I'm here [at the retirement apartments] and have so little to occupy me, I get a lot of [information] over the tube and over the radio, and I think I pay more attention and it changes my viewpoint a lot.
"I'll probably make some Republicans mad, but that's all right. You sometimes have to stand up for what you see happening and I just think so much of it's wrong."
Grandma, good for you. As proud as I might be that you won't be voting for Bush in 2004, I'm even happier that you've found a way to live with your blindness: by staying adaptable, thinking for yourself and seeing your own truth.
I miss you, Lenny! My family and I thank you for all the special times…
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