I met Herb the day we moved my mother into an assisted living facility in our small coastal town in California. Herb announced himself by scooting into the room with his walker asking, "Where's my New York Times? I haven't had it for days!" It was pretty clear that he not only read the Times regularly, he retained what he read, and so we engaged in some political chit chat from time to time. I started bringing him my old New Yorker magazines, thus avoiding having to recycle them myself and giving him the chance to catch up on more in-depth news analysis.
One day I noted that there was an interesting article in The New Yorker about Michelle Obama that I thought he might be interested in. "Oh yes," he said. "I've read about the Obamas, but I don't know much about them. I'll read it!" That prompted me to lend him my copy of Obama's book, Dreams from My Father , and it started us off on conversations about politics whenever I would visit my mother. Halfway through the Obama biography, he confessed that he was a little worried about how Obama got himself out of his teen age rebellion. "I have to finish it," he said. "I have to find out how he turned out so good!"
I'm not sure how old Herb is -- but certainly over eighty -- he has had a stroke and is still a little wobbly. But there is nothing wobbly about his brain. He reads everything and watches a fair amount of news on his own flat screen TV as well. During the primary season, one day he declared triumphantly, "I made my son drive me down to the County Building so I could change my political registration." "Really," I said. "What political party did you change to?" "Oh, I've been a lifelong Republican, but I changed to Democrat so I can vote for Obama. I really like the guy! Of course I can't tell my brother who lives in New York about this. He would disown me!" When I walked in one day in my "Got Hope" Obama t-shirt, Herb asked if I would order one for him, and I did. When his came, he proudly declared, "I'm having dinner with my son tonight. I bet HE doesn't have an Obama t-shirt!"
Today as I was leaving, Herb called out from the dining room, "What do you think about Obama's switch on public financing? The commentators are having a field day with him. But it's a smart move. He wants to win!" As I drove home, I thought to myself -- with all this talk about young people getting involved in this election, we may have missed an important population -- octogenarians are fired up and ready to go!
Follow Linda Bergthold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lab08