This evening, at the age of 82, my stepfather, Bill Gettman died. There will be one fewer vote for Obama in Illinois this Tuesday.
I post this here because he and I attended the AnnualKos in Chicago last August. Our time in Chicago will be one of my lasting memories with him. We went to a Cub game (the one that put the Cubs back in first) and the Obama breakout session. At 82, he had to have been one of the oldest attendees.
He was energized. We sat next to the correspondent from Le Monde during the Presidential debate. We had a bottle of Scotch with us and one evening we sat outside and shared it with other attendees. He enjoyed talking to those much younger who shared his passion for politics.
(My mother tells me this was one of the last things he talked about yesterday before he was not longer lucid.)
I wish he had been my biological father. He was my father.
Bill was a lifelong Democrat and active in the Illinois Education Association and then the Peoria Area Retired Teachers Association. He understood that working people were only strong in union with other working people.
My mother had voted three times for Richard Nixon for President. When she no longer had any children at home, she went back to school to become a high school teacher. Her supervising teacher was to become my stepfather. Living with a lifelong Democrat and becoming a public school teacher cured my mother of her Republicanism.
I had the good fortune to see him teach several high school social studies classes. If I am half the teacher he was, I am one hell of a teacher. All of the students in the classes I saw were engaged. Bill had a way to reach them.
I live six hours away, but when we saw each other or talked to each other on the phone, we shared our disgust with the latest outrages of Bush and Co.
Bill lived in Peoria, Illinois. Four years ago he realized that a skinny state senator from the South Side of Chicago with a funny name would make one hell of a Democratic candidate for the US Senate. Before I left my home in Missouri yesterday, I voted absentee because I didn't think I would get back home to vote in person. For the first, and I hope not the last, time I voted for that skinny guy with a funny name from the South Side of Chicago.
I recognize there are hundreds of thousands of Americans like Bill Gettman. They grew up in poor working class families, but with governmental assistance they got a good education and contributed back to their communities. Bill had a comfortable retirement and his health care bills are not going to bankrupt anyone. He understood this was not an accident but the work of mobilizing teachers to demand the respect and support they needed. And, he understood that everyone should have the security in retirement he had.
For the twenty years we had a custom for Christmas. I gave him a bottle of single malt scotch or Calvados and he gave me a bottle of cognac.
I am having a glass of scotch now in rememberance. Please raise a glass to Bill and then on Tuesday, do what Bill Gettman would have done: vote for Barack Obama.
I know whereever Bill is he is casting his vote for Obama.
I miss him now.
I so wanted to share my joy with him when Obama wins big on Tuesday. I so wanted to share my joy when Obama is elected President in a landslide.