Family

For All the Saints

This morning Don and I went downtown to stand in a long line. No, we didn’t go to vote. I’m saving that up for tomorrow. Going to vote with my dad is a thrilling childhood memory. In Virginia in those days we still had the lever machines. Daddy always took me in with him. He would pull on the handle and the curtains would swing shut snappily. Then he turned the levers, each with its little click. Finally, he would pull the handle again to record his votes, and I knew that was it! We were finished. And what we had done was important work.

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Sometimes one of the names listed on the machine was his.

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(Daddy, when I was little, and he carried me to the polls on his shoulders.)

Today’s line was also related to politics. Al Franken brought his radio show to Portland, and we went to the Merrill Auditorium at City Hall to be in the audience. At one point, after a funny little song about bringing a book to stand in line at the polls, accompanied by banjo and tuba (!), Franken called his show the “Liberal Home Companion.” Funny.

But none of this is funny, of course. I think of my father, who died in 1997, and I wonder what he would think of the state of affairs today. I think of how much equality and education meant to him, and how he instilled those values in me. And I think of his mother, who was afraid of no one when she served on the Portsmouth Virginia School Board and supported integration, yet was such an enthusiastic preservationist that she was rounding the corner with a court order as a wrecking ball hit the historic Crawford House. They taught me how to differentiate between things that deserve preserving and things that deserve overturning.

How did they know the difference so well? As my grandmother used to love to say, “In 1772, the Methodists came to town, and we got religion.”

For those two saints, who from their labors rest, today I say, “Alleluia!”

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