“One Vote Counts,” Nov. 1, 2016

I remember when I was 8, watching my grandmother get all done up for what was clearly to be a very special occasion. It was so important she even let me stay home from school.

That morning my granddad drove us to the beauty parlor. “How long?” he said.

“An hour,” she replied. “And Fred? Get your haircut and trim up that nasty mustache.”

He grinned and drove away.

The beautician transformed my grandmother’s thin, gray hair into a thin, gray halo. Granddad was waiting for us in the car with his hair cut and his mustache trimmed. They traded nods of approval. Back home, they took turns bathing. He splashed on Old Spice. She dusted herself with talcum.

Then, while he knotted his tie and took care not to wrinkle his suit, she let me help her pick out her dress and her jewelry.  We decided on an ivory brocade she’d worn for the wedding of the last of her nine daughters, with pale blue beads and matching earrings. Finally, she pinned a pillbox hat to her halo, pulled on a pair of snow white gloves and let Granddad help her into her best coat.

I rode with them to the courthouse and waited in the car as they walked arm-in-arm, heads held high, up the steps to cast their ballots for president.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

Dwight D. Eisenhower would be re-elected by a landslide.

The next day a neighbor lady stopped by to gossip. “I didn’t vote,” said the woman, spitting tobacco juice in a jar. “I figure one vote don’t matter much.”

My grandmother smiled. “Maybe so,” she said. “But my vote mattered plenty to me.”

Born in 1894, my grandmother _ like other women of her generation _ had been denied the right to vote until passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She voted religiously, stepping out in faith, believing she was part of something bigger than herself. She treasured it as a birthright to pass on to her children and grandchildren and generations to come.

I could barely wait to vote. My first chance came in 1972, six months after my grandmother died. I didn’t get all done up. But I put on a clean T-shirt and tied my hair in a ponytail. Then I took my sample ballot and my 10-month-old baby (I dressed him up a bit, too) to vote.

“Look,” I said, closing the curtain behind us, bouncing him on my hip. “This is where we vote and here’s how we do it.”

Standing in that booth, wiping drool off his dimpled chin, I never dreamed that someday, my boy and I would volunteer to register voters together.

Since then, I’m proud to say I’ve never missed a chance to vote. I wouldn’t dare make my grandmother spin in her grave.

This morning, after a long slurp of coffee, my husband said, “Let’s go vote early.”

I gave him a look as if he’d said aliens were doing backflips in our pool. We live in the great state of Nevada, where early voting was underway.

“I don’t vote early,” I said. “I vote on Election Day, the day God meant for people to vote.”

“I’ll buy you lunch,” he said.

I didn’t get all done up. But I did my make-up, brushed my hair and tied an old scarf around my neck. It was one of my grandmother’s favorites. It’s a bit frayed at the edges, like some of my memories, but it still smells like her talcum.

Minutes later, my husband and I walked arm-in-arm into the polling place. We stood in line with 200 or so other early voters, talking and laughing about most anything, except who we planned to vote for.

Finally, it was my turn to step up to the voting machine.

I wish you could’ve seen me.

I voted, not just for president and the other offices. But for my grandmother. For my children and grandchildren and future generations.

Most of all, I voted for myself. It’s only one vote, but it’s my vote.

It might not matter much to some people.

But it matters plenty to me.

Comments

  1. Barbara Bryner says:

    Beautiful article! I went to the county board of elections to vote on the first day of early voting. Four years ago, my husband hoped to live long enough to vote for Obama one more time. He didn’t make it. At 83, I didn’t want to take a chance.

  2. Carl says:

    Beautifully expressed and I agree.

  3. Kate Sciacca says:

    Sharon this column was spot on! We (up here in the NV Capitol) voted early too… went to the courthouse, waited in line with about 30 folks and then cast our votes. It was my husband, our #7 son casting his first vote for President, and me. Our #5 son is in some deep trouble with us as he failed to register after moving to NV from California. He did NOT get to go out to breakfast with us (Heidi’s on Carson St., a great local place) or share in our discussions…. tsk tsk ?

  4. Jane Vickers says:

    Thank you for your beautiful story of your grandparents feelings about their ability to vote . God bless you .

  5. Thank you for sharing your wonderful voting story. I have been involved in politics since I was 16. I have already voted and pray our country does the right thing. This election is critical for the future of our nation. Voting is an honor and a privilege. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

  6. Joy A Smith-Briggs says:

    This column should be read by every American,especially those who have decided NOT to vote. If anyone can read this without getting chills and tearing up, I suggest they have ice in their veins. I’m still getting tears in my eyes. It is by far the most beautiful expression of ‘why’ we should vote that I have ever read. Yes, every vote matters. My husband and I and most of my children have already voted. My 20 yr. old grandson txted me as soon as he voted to let me know. And we each eagerly await Tuesday night to find out just how much our votes mattered. Thank you for those beautiful and inspiring words.

    • Rose DiMasi says:

      I agree completely! I have run into about 5 people now that have told me that they didnt vote because they didnt like the choices…i was very saddened…All i could say to them was…”that they missed a chance to be a true American and that you lost a right…the one that allows you to complain if you dont like anything that the elected officials do that you dont like!” And thats very sad.

  7. Jill Szyarto says:

    This was a fantastic piece! My Grandmother voted in the first election that women could cast a ballot. She never missed a primary or an election after that. Continuing with the tradition neither my mother nor sister nor daughter have missed an opportunity to vote. Our candidates may not alway have won, but we felt our voices were heard. Thank you for such for sharing your story.

  8. Ethel Lynne Dennet says:

    I was raised in the “boon docks” if the beautiful state of Kentucky and my mom rarely got to go anywhere, but on Election Day, dad would catch a ride with a neighbor since we didn’t have a car, and he and mom would go vote. Of course he would tell her who to vote for for days leading up to the election.
    Whenever they arrived back home, he would always be upset with the local politicians parked not far from the polls, who would offer the drunks a pint of whiskey to vote for them. My dad would say, “I’ll take their whiskey, but not vote for them.” Followed by a hardy laugh.

  9. shashi says:

    Cannot wait to vote on 6th Nov. Thank you. I wish there should be an off day for people who are working.
    In India it is off day in schools. Do not know now but in 2000 it was an off day and people gave free ride to go to polling booth.

  10. Linda Hill says:

    I voted today. It is the first of many firsts that I will experience over the months to come. My husband and I always voted together, but he died unexpectedly in August. I wish that he had been by my side today, but I wish that everyday.
    He and I had talked for months about this upcoming election. We even sparred a bit, but in the end we agreed about who we would vote for when the time came.
    Tonight our house is quiet. I miss our political discussions, but know in my heart that he is smiling down on me.
    Peace

  11. Judi Kalvelage says:

    I really enjoyed this column, as I always seem to do. You definitely have a flair to write great stories. I was wondering if my vote would count…but now I will be voting for sure! It’s my duty! Thanks again and God Bless!

  12. Betty Mcnall says:

    Love your story as usual! I to remember my grandmother dressing up to go vote, it must have been a tradition! My mother worked the election board as long as I can remember, until she fell ill. I’m not voting early, we will be there on the 8th!

  13. MaryAnn says:

    Even if you are in the hospital, as I once was, a person from the election board is ready to bring ballots and let us vote bedside.

  14. Johnsie Hale says:

    I was raised in a family that thought it was important to vote. My mom was in labor with me but my dad had to stop and vote on the way to the hospital. They made it to the hospital but I was born in the elevator on the way to the delivery room. I also cast my first ballot in 1972 on my eighteenth birthday and I have voted in every election since then. I work at the polls and I encourage everyone to vote because men and women have died for us to have the freedom to vote

  15. Debbie K. says:

    Though this year was very difficult for us, my husband & I have already voted also. Hoping that the very best candidate wins this election & our country continues to be the best in the world. What a beautiful couple your grandma & granddad must have been. I love the thought of getting all dressed up, like going to a wedding to go & vote. God bless.

  16. eLLIE Leake says:

    Thank you dor that beautiful story. I am forwARDING IT TO MY 2 CHILDREN

  17. Jeannette Buck says:

    Yes Yes Yes!!!!!

  18. Nancy says:

    A beautiful memory and beautiful way to show what good Americans do when it’s time to vote!

    Bless you.

  19. Garnett Zamboni says:

    Today I voted early too. What a great priveledge and honor it is to pay tribute to those who secured our place in line with their lives, just so we could vote. We are blessed indeed.
    Thanks for the memories.

  20. Doris Hudson says:

    Sharon:
    You brought back such good memories! My grandparents always dressed in their best ‘Church clothes’ and always went to vote together. It is very important to me to cast my vote, if only to honor those who who came before me, who worked so hard and knew that it was an honor and a privilege to cast their ballot. They didn’t openly discuss who they voted for, as they knew the value of the ‘secret ballot’. When we sorted through my grandmother’s things we found a receipt that my great-grandmother had saved. She had paid a poll tax of $1.20, which would have been a small fortune to her, at that time! It truly is a blessing to have the freedom to express ourselves with our one vote!
    I love your columns and enjoy reading them on-line. Blessings!

  21. Sheila says:

    Me too! And this time, it really matters! A few days ago we found ourselves in our local
    courthouse for an all together different reason, but my hubby insisted we vote early while we were there. Somehow it just didn’t seem right…casting my ballot a few days early. But it’s done. I can’t wait to see who our next Presidentbis! ??????

  22. Good for you, Sharon! Voting matters to me, and I’ve never missed an election either.
    Blessings,
    Bruce

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