Episode XXIX of "The Events of Election '08," a series of spoken word works by Mike Varley covering the 2008 campaign. For more entries and entertainment, check out mikevarley.com
On Absentee Elders
We lined them up three rows deep in the nursing home lounge where they watch DVD’s. Election Wednesday for Absentee Elders, sitting there wheelchaired in silent company.
Patton’s army of registered voters, honor bound to a process they no longer understand. The ethics of voting in the nation most human: should those whose rights are worth calling to question be allowed to answer for thee rights of others? The answer is tucked into Gladys’ afghan, along with the soup spoons she stole from her meal tray.
The election board arrives to make it all official – a supposed PH-balance of conservative and liberal. Changing intonation for their candidate of choice, unable to pronounce the name Bob Barr. Seeking out the residents they know will vote their way, for after all these invalids are former corner neighbors. It’s sloppy and it’s shady and it happens in your city. An untold wealth of voter fraud for Rove to shelter and pity.
Magnifying glasses the size of a skillet to see the tiny words on on the paper print ballot. Shawls, lap robes, bed pans, floral printed mu-mu’s. Glasses bought by Medicaid, unsightly, bulky hearing aids, fingers warped by trials never meant to be described. Hair the color of poster paint or gray as Scranton April, or bald and Excemaed, flaky reminders of indignities received like communion. The grace of the aging, a stiff-jointed sureness, resides in their liberal usage of silence.
What motivates them? War bonds, GM cars and Uncle Sam Madonnas. A tireless courage that saw them through wars, their success earned them television – their success snuffed the source.
And now they do what they can: check marks like lightning bolts you draw in grade school skies, shivered from their medicine that stalls the full moon tide. And they wheel themselves out like they’ve been to confession, or donated patriot blood.
Nowhere is it written that you can’t be old and proud. There’s valor in the simple act, backed by lives of actions loud. May we be so fortunate, may we be so blessed, to ride our wheelchairs high.