I grew up with a father that had served in World War II. He was a flight instructor in the Army Air Corps. He was 26, newly married to my mother, and stationed in Deming, New Mexico. It was his first time away from home.
My father did not see the war. He never left the United States. As an instructor, he was kept on his base, training every young man who came through. His students became bombardiers. Some came back.
Years later, he would always tell me that his greatest regret was that he wasn't sent overseas. As he would tell this story, my mother would be murmuring, "Well, I prayed harder than he did." She had moved to Deming, New Mexico to have their first child, and she didn't want him to get any closer to the war. They were married until the day he died.
The years my father served in the Army Air Corps greatly influenced the rest of his life. He remained a teacher, whether it was to his kids, his employees, or his community.
And the greatest lesson he lived everyday and taught me was that all people should be treated decently. Your character as a person meant everything. Be decent, be honest and above all else, treat others as you would like to be treated. It was called the Golden Rule.
He taught us that you do not judge people by their skin color, their gender, their religion, or how they live. When a black family moved onto our street in the 60's and several neighbors made inappropriate comments, my father calmly told them that he hadn't gone to war to fight for freedom to not uphold liberty in his own backyard.
When my sisters and I questioned the Catholic Church, going on to become Buddhists, atheists and for a short time, a Mormon bride, his only comment to us was to love someone or something more than yourself, and try to help your fellow man.
One of my big life lessons was when I was 12. My mother was inviting her hairdresser and his "friend" to the annual Christmas party. Mr. Moheed had become my mother's friend and she was excited to invite him. It was my father's face that I remember, he was carefully picking his words as he said, "But Doris will they be comfortable in a room full of strangers?" and my Mother responded, "Well, we will just make sure they are." After the party, my father could only talk about what a sharp dresser Mr. Moheed was. "Great guys," my father would say.
He went on to own several businesses. He made money, he lost money, and he made it again. During every Sunday dinner, my father thanked the Lord that he was alive, and immediately after dinner and a cigar, he would announce to everyone at the table, "I'm so damn rich," but he was not speaking of money. He was deeply grateful to be an American
We talked and fought about politics at the kitchen table when my mother would let us. He did not vote for a party, he voted for the man he thought would do the best job. I voted for George McGovern and later he would say, "Neesey, you were right, Nixon was a crook."
As I watched the debates these last few weeks, read every website, Democratic and Republican, I could only think about character, decency and helping others. Because that's what I know and that's what I was taught.
I started writing this post before Mega-Storm Sandy. As I reread it just days before the election, I find my own words even more important to me.
America is facing devastating times. We need to pull together, be decent and help each other. I didn't think about whether the folks waiting in line for gas were republican or democrat. I just donated to the Red Cross and prayed for them all.
I am choosing to vote for a man that believes in helping others. That sanctions a woman's right to her own body. I find it fascinating that so few people talk about babies and economics. If you have no money and have babies, times are tough. If you don't believe me, visit India, Mexico, any country where women have not been in charge of their own productive rights. I have said this before...spare me the dead fetus speech...feed the babies, old people and vets that are here.
And I want every gay person to have the same rights that I have, because I believe in decency and rights for all. And if one more "friend' on Facebook tells me that they LOVE their gay friends but are voting for Mitt Romney, my head will explode. Because decency doesn't discriminate.
Let's lift each other up. Now, more than ever. Vote on Tuesday.
Denise Vivaldo is the author of eight cookbooks. And she's voting for Barack Obama.