This week marks my mother’s Yahrzeit, the 6th anniversary of her death. I think of her often, and she was especially on my mind this past week as I watched the Democratic convention on TV. Yes, I watched the whole thing, except towards the end when I couldn’t stay awake and had to watch some of the best speeches the following morning. She likely would have done the same, glued to the TV and the uplift we desperately need in these despondent times. I frequently think that as much as I miss her, I am relieved she hasn’t been here for the last 3 ½ years, how disturbed she would be by our current so called leader and his minions, how disheartened she, a lifelong Democrat with strong values of fairness, would feel witnessing all the mean-spirited vitriol and disregard for human suffering from this administration.
I know there was criticism along with praise of the proceedings, and I agree with much of it and yet… It was a telethon — of decency and empathy — it was an infomercial — for voting. As a social worker who once served as president of the local League of Women Voters, my mom would have loved it all, the inspired engaging roll call, the ordinary people speaking their truth and pain, the sense that here was a much loved man with character so unlike the man whose name he did not speak. I know she would have cried when Brayden Harrington, the young teen with a stutter spoke, that she would have gotten verklempt at some of the other more moving stories. She would have loved both Obama speeches, saying how much she missed them.
She would have called me and asked what I thought, bonding over our shared sense of possibility in a time that feels so hopeless. Biden wasn’t my first or even second or third choice but I’m committed to his campaign. I don’t know who she would have wanted as a candidate but she was a pragmatist, she’d be all in too. I still remember his first tragedy as a young senator when his wife and daughter died in a car crash (in Philadelphia, major Delaware events were local news), how he became Amtrak Joe taking the train home every night from the capital to be with his sons. We knew his political history from its start, and it seems a fitting final chapter to have his praises sung like they were.
This coming week I will once again be glad that my mom is not here to witness the Republican convention, the attacks laced with venom and duplicity, the tactics as yet unfolded that leave me with dread for how my momentary idealism will shatter from the onslaught. But for four nights I watched and felt glimmers of hope; perhaps unfounded, but the anguish and sadness I’ve felt these past years and the sense that we might transcend it felt shared. As contrived and overproduced as some of the programming was, it still felt humane and left me feeling less isolated. That alone was worth the hours spent watching for the bright spots from regular people and those well known, speaking to me and Mom, whose spirit was with me every moment, her optimism swelling and assuaging the fear I felt as it ended, waiting for the other shoe (combat boot?) to drop. Through the best and the worst of times, she believed that, as Lincoln said, we can still appeal to the better angels of our nature. I try to do the same.