04 June 2009

Thoughts on Election's Eve

Its a bit quiet here this week because I've been spending most of my time away from the house and out with my grandparents. My grandfather is in hospital this weekend so my mother and I are looking after my grandmother at the family homestead in shifts.

Actually I'm doing an early afternoon shift in the hospital with my grandfather and then am out for the rest of the day and night in Howth, which is one of the few situations that have made me see why some folks in this city might actually own a car. Luckily there's a bus that goes pretty much from directly outside my door out to the hospital (about 30 minutes), then I get a bus back into the city centre (20 minutes), then a bus out to the homestead (40 minutes), and finally the last bus back into town (30 minutes, he's really in a hurry to get home), consequently I am getting a lot of reading done this week (just about to finish up "Wednesday is Indigo Blue", a pretty interesting Oliver Sacks-esque compilation of synesthesia case studies).

I grew up in my grandparents' house, and although I moved out almost as soon as I went to college I still dream about being there more often than I dream about being in my own house. Parts of it have changed over the last 18 years, but other things remain the same and can be quite jarring when you walk into a room and suddenly are twelve years old again.

The toughest thing so far though has been seeing my grandfather in hospital. He's doing very well for his age, and the procedures he's undergoing (at this stage) are pretty minor. He's in good form and still has the energy to slag off the Greens every time I visit, but as I sit and talk with him I'm very conscious of the fact that he's in his 80's, and for the first time in my relationship with him he no longer seems immortal.

My grandfather was a military man for most of his life, leaving a farming life behind at eighteen to join the army as an officer cadet, and serving until he retired in his sixties. Over the course of his career he was a champion showjumper, a military diplomat, and served abroad with the UN where he was wounded by a machine-gunner in Cyprus. He dined with Presidents and Emperors unafraid to speak his mind to either, attended the funerals of Soviet leaders where he stood (albeit very reluctantly) side-by-side with Fidel Castro and watched as clods of earth were thrown on the bodies of dead tyrants, and yet seemed to have the respect and admiration of all who served with him for never forgetting who he was or where he came from. He was, and continues to be, a giant in my eyes.

Talking with him yesterday his biggest annoyance was not that he was sick, but that his stay in hospital would cause him to miss the elections tomorrow, for he has voted in every single local, national, European or Referendum election since 1942. Although we rarely see eye to eye on individual candidates or parties (he remains a product of the civil war with an almost religious devotion to The Big Fella), I inherited both my obsession with politics and my "anybody but Fianna Fail" mentality from him. Always fond of a good political argument, in the absence of anyone else in the house willing to spar with him his major past-time now seems to be watching Fox news at night, just to raise his blood pressure; he said "why would I want to listen to someone that I agree with, where is the interest in that?".

I talked with my sister about sneaking him out of the hospital tomorrow, but he's recovering from an operation and it just isn't feasible. He said yesterday, "sure what difference will my one vote make anyway?", and I think that hurt most of all to hear, for I know he doesn't believe it for a single second and its cutting him up to be trapped inside and unable to make it down to the polling station.

I'm off to see him now, with a few printed pages from IrishElection.com to keep him going through today's mainstream media blackout. I only hope that in fifty years time I'm still as passionate about our democratic processes as he is today; with his blood flowing in my veins I seriously doubt I'll have any choice in the matter.

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At 12:10 pm, Blogger Kate said...

Tears, Unkie Dave.
You made me cry in work!
Beautifuul written and no, I don't think we have any choice. :)


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