Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's Today Again

Tuesday night was pretty emotional, as I've said before. Not, however, in the way I expected. The announcement itself seemed too early and unreal, so used have we become to legal battles following our elections. Then I went outside and I felt slightly weepy with a sense of relief but still so amazed I couldn't cry. Back inside my voice shook as I spoke to Zelda but I stayed together until President-Elect Obama came out for his acceptance speech.

Since I had heard about the passing of Obama's grandmother I had been thinking about Auntie Blanche. There hadn't been a lot of hope in her last year and this seemed like a moment she'd have liked. I don't know that for certain since we never talked about politics but I knew her values and priorities and this candidate seems like he's a good fit for those. I missed her and thought about how bittersweet this watershed moment must be for the President-Elect and how much more acutely he must be missing his grandmother as he starts the hard part of this journey. Crying in a cotton commercial way I watched him acknowledge the crowd and interact with his family and suddenly I thought of my grandfather.

Eight years ago today I was working temporarily in an office and got a phone call from my uncle letting me know that Robbie had collapsed at home and the prognosis wasn't good. Not long later I got the follow on call to let me know he'd died. Getting the whole story later it's clear that he died more quickly than those calls would indicate but the bottom line is that, with no real warning, he was gone.

Letting Auntie Blanche go has been brutal. Part of that brutality is that I know how much I still miss Robbie. I don't really allow myself to think about it in any sort of depth every day because you can't go on that way and he, of all people, would know that. At the times when I do, though, it's still bad and on Tuesday night it was as bad as it's been in a long while. I could barely take in parts of that beautifully crafted speech so consumed was I by thinking about how Robbie would have felt about this intense moment in our nation's history.

Robbie died about 10 months before 9/11. He exited in front of a number of truly appalling moment's in that same nation's history. My family has found some small comfort over the last 8 years in thinking, "Well, I'm glad he didn't have to see this." On September 11, '01 and March 19, '03 I was especially glad not to have him disappointed in us.

I didn't talk with my grandfather about politics much either but politics were an undercurrent in all he did. He was a proud and vocal supporter of George H.W. Bush's first presidential campaign who quietly and firmly withdrew all that support after seeing what his first term wrought. Robbie was even more active in local politics. At Robbie's funeral my uncle told a story about accompanying Robbie to the town hall on election day where my grandfather shook each voter's hand and called them by name before cranking their vote through the old fashioned ballot box with a ring of the bell. He was a member of the state legislature and, when that came to a close, he remained on the ethics committee. Robbie testified before Congress during the Savings & Loan crisis of the 80s. He was a fine public speaker, I'm told, and I know how well-informed and fair he was in everything he did .

So in being elected and in giving such a pitch-perfect all inclusive speech Barack Obama robbed me of a certain level of comfort. I am not comforted that Robbie wasn't here to see this. I think he would have taken great pleasure in watching this fine family and would have agreed whole heartedly with the message that each person must now participate in order to bring to fruition all the plans our President-Elect has laid out. Of course I could be wrong about that since I haven't had the opportunity to talk to Robbie about it and, selfishly, that is the worst part of all.