November 2, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
November 14, 1994. That’s when we got the voter registration letter.
From my dad. We being myself and my three younger siblings.
They were midterm elections – two years into Bill Clinton’s first term. Our family had moved from Michigan to Tennessee in July so my husband could go to graduate school. We hadn’t taken the time to learn the players in Tennessee. And somehow the registration date had just slipped by us.
The letter was printed from a ditto master.
Some of my readers will have no idea what that means. Ditto was used in schools and churches before there were copy machines. The masters were usually a purplish blue, and printed using wax and a duplicating fluid that was half rubbing alcohol and half methanol. A freshly printed ditto was an experience for a sixth grader to inhale.
My father had a ditto machine at home because he had retired from his job as an elementary school principal in 1983 at the age of 55 – he took an early retirement package – and when he left he took some outdated equipment with him. And some furniture. And a few paintings. I guess his retirement package needed some rounding out.
It wasn’t the first time we kids had gotten a letter from my dad on a ditto.
There was the one we received in 1986, three years after that early retirement, congratulating us all for not being in Prison or in Rehab or the Psych Ward or Divorced like some of the other kids in the neighborhood.
OK, that changed.
My father raised us not to make mistakes. It was a heavy burden. And when we made mistakes, he let us know.
I don’t know where that earlier letter is. But the letter I received in 1994, I still have.
The purple of the ink has long since faded. But in my father’s jagged hand, corrected from the sinister side in the one room schoolhouse where he was educated, the words are hurled at us like lightening bolts from Mt. Olympus. (For those of you who don’t read cursive – let alone my father’s cursive – there’s a transcription below.)
Dear Children and Spouses,
S H A M E
None of our four children are registered to vote. Only one of their three spouses are registered to vote. Bless you Mary Jo for being the only one of seven who voted in the recent election.
Educational Degrees of this illustrious Seven: Seven Bachelors, Three Masters, One CPA, One Doctorate and One Near Doctorate.
Can it be the responsibility of children, moving or working?
Dorisanne and Harold have always been registered and have voted in every election since they were 21. During this time they have moved four times and lived in three different states. Also they had four children to raise while both worked most of their married lives.
APATHY has overcome VALUES.
Mother and I are telling you to vote – not how to vote. Get yourselves registered so that you can vote and participate in our great democratic process of determining our own destiny.
P.S. – There will be follow-up and I welcome comments.
That’s my dad.
Defending Truth, Justice and the American Way using the best tool at his disposal – Shame. My mother was always added on to these proclamations. She may have agreed, but you can be sure they were not her idea.
Of course voting is important. But the irony of being ordered to determine my own destiny was not lost on me.
My father used to be conservative.
You know that old saw about liberals and conservatives – the one they attribute to Winston Churchill? If you’re young and not liberal, you have no heart; if you’re old and not conservative, you have no brain. For my father it’s been the opposite.
During the Vietnam War he got school-sized flagpoles for everyone on our block – we lived on the edge of a golf course – and the whole neighborhood raised and lowered their flags together, My Country Right or Wrong. We got a write-up in the paper.
But in the last decade he’s done a 360.
He used to be a rabid Republican, and now he’s an equally dogmatic Democrat. I think it was the Second Gulf War that did it; that seems to be when he decided that Republicans were not about small government, but about big industry. My cousin served in that war.
My dad is older now.
His veins throb. His eyes are bad. He falls asleep when he doesn’t want to, and can’t when he does. The layers of his bullying have peeled away like an onion, revealing his anxiety, and underneath, what I’ve always known to be there, a deep, fierce, abiding love.
So it’s the midterm elections. Again.
I’m registered to vote. And I’m informed: on both sides of the ballot, through the school board and all the way down to the district court judges.
What about you?
If you’re a U.S. citizen looking for a quick guide to what candidates hold positions similar to your own, look for your state on isidewith.com. You can also look up basic information through the Voting Information Project tool below.