It’s Wednesday, November 4, 2015. Last year, November 4th fell on Tuesday. I sat by my favorite curmudgeon’s side watching the election and holding his hand. On Monday, November 3rd, I had fulfilled one of Jay’s last wishes, cajoling the Johnson County Election Board into commissioning me as a ballot assistant, giving me a ballot, and allowing me to be the person who assisted Jabez MacLaughlin in casting his last vote.
Jay slept while his Republicans swept countless elections but I’m sure he could hear me report success after success of the party in which he believed and which he wanted to prevail.
Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the death of my favorite curmudgeon. I had only a five-year claim on Jay, but I owe him more than our short relationship would typically seem to warrant. Jay accepted me; he loved me; he took me into his heart even though he disagreed with most of my political positions and all of my social ones.
Jay’s children and grandchildren have the first place in the mourning line. He talked to me of how much he valued each of his children and their offspring, sometimes telling me his thoughts and feelings which he could not express to those more dear to his heart. He missed his wife, who had died a year before him; he ruminated about their relationship to me almost as though he was speaking outloud to his inner soul.
When I entered Jay’s room on the morning of November 3, 2014, he took my hand and said, “I’m not going to get to vote, am I honey?” We had been trying to get a ballot for some time and he did not believe it would ever arrive. But I had not surrendered, and several hours later, I helped him vote for candidates whom I myself would never have chosen. Each time I read an entry in the ballot, he’d respond, “vote for the Republican”, and so I did. He scrawled his name at the end of the ballot and then fell silent, a satisfied smile on his weary face.
I’ll make a visit to his resting place tonight or tomorrow. I’ll trace his name and the date of his death — November 5, 2014 — on the granite stone. I’ll thank him, again, for teaching me so much. Though in my heart, I’ll lament my inability to honor the lessons he wanted to impart, at his graveside I won’t complain about anything. As I promised, I will bring a cocktail and toast his life, pouring the contents on his resting place. Then I will go back to the Prius which Jay’s son gave me when Jay died, the one his Joanna drove, and I’ll make my way home.