From Farai

The Countdown: Day 4: Being There

Farai Chideya

Farai Chideya Geoffrey Bennett, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Geoffrey Bennett, NPR

As this campaign comes to an end, I've noted a slew of media stories and personal sharing about the people who won't see this election.

For example, a couple of days ago, novelist Susan Straight wrote in the L.A. Times about the passing of her father-in-law, General Roscoe Conklin Sims Jr.

She said:

He had looked forward to this election. "Oh yeah, we need some change," he told me not long ago. Barack Obama, he said, "could be a Sims, with those ears." Then he laughed.

On Nov. 4, the rest of us will vote here in Riverside — General's children, his children's children. For the first time, my eldest daughter, named for both her white and black grandmothers, will vote — but in Ohio, where she attends college. And I know I'll cry, walking home from the polling place at the church down the street from my house, walking past the yellow irises given to me 20 years ago by my father-in-law.

There are those lucky enough to literally stand the test of time. If you keep exploring our blog, you'll see the story of a 109-year-old woman — the daughter of a slave — who is voting, and God bless her.

Many of us are beginning to think about the folks we wish would stand with us on this historic voting day, and the wisdom they would share.

A couple of years ago, I did a story about putting together audiotapes of my grandmother's life stories. She was dying of cancer, and those moments we spent together were precious for me AND for our family. I made a CD of her stories and our conversations so other members of the family, now including my cousins' young kids, can go back and listen to do describe what SHE was like as a girl ... plus her thoughts on patriotism, civil rights, and service. Thousands of NPR listeners have heard a little bit of Mary Catherine's wisdom, as well.

I imagine the streets filled with shadows of the men and women who waited for this day but couldn't make it. Maybe as we rush busily to work or school, or to vote, we simply are too caught up in our own time and minds to take that leap of imagination. But stay with me for a minute. ... Imagine that on election day, there are otherworldly throngs watching us do our thing.

Add to that ethereal crowd, one smartly-dressed woman, with a wry smile on her face, and a pressed handkerchief embossed with a holiday decoration in her purse. If she were there, she would not be bitter that she missed this moment. Instead, she would know that she, like so many other people, made this moment. Her struggles and sacrifice and love gave us the gift of making political choices from a broader range of choices than we've ever had before.

P.S.: Add Studs Terkel, oral historian extraordinaire, to those watching from afar. He passed away today at the age of 96.

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