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Last week, my 96-year-old mother voted in the 25th presidential election held in her lifetime. She was just a baby for the 1916 election, but even her mother could not vote in that one: the nineteenth amendment was not ratified until 1920, just in time for her mother to vote. My grandmother was a passionate, engaged activist, and she must have raised my mama to follow in her footsteps. Follow Mom's tracks, across the Doodle of Voting.

My mother grew up in the Depression in Texas, and she’s never forgotten the suffering of ordinary folks, or the haughtiness of many of those rich enough to escape that suffering. Her core values were set at that time: you work hard, care for those in need, and speak and act with integrity. Her first vote was for Franklin Roosevelt, though I think she’d have preferred to vote for Eleanor Roosevelt, one of her true heroes. Since then, she’s voted in every single election, and she has voted for the Democratic Party candidate every time.

At 96, though, she is suffering from early-stage dementia, and her vision is too poor to see the little boxes on the absentee ballot. My 96-year-old father was skeptical that she had paid enough attention to the election to have a real preference. “Just watch us!” I told him, and asked my mom if she knew about the election and was ready to vote.

“It’s a presidential election!” she said, “Of course I want to vote for President Obama!” And we went right through the ballot like Willie Mays, another of her long-time heroes, taking batting practice at tee-ball. Senate? Boom! “I like Feinstein; she’s been a good senator.” Representative? Pow! “Garamendi, of course; he has always supported education and health care.” Local elections? No problem. Even most of California’s 11 propositions elicited firm, thoughtful votes; for the last few, she asked me to read her the Quakers’ evaluation of the pros and cons, and decided to vote with the Friends. Every vote was a hit.

“Well,” my dad remarked, “she surprised me; she’s a lot sharper about this than I expected.”

I smiled at him. “If you have any questions about YOUR ballot, just ask Mom; I’m sure she can tell you how you should vote!”

3:11 PM PT: Wow, Community Spotlight - a great tribute to my mother! Thanks! Way to go, Mom!

Originally posted to Laurel in CA on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 11:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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