Election Day jitters
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Election days always seem eerie to me, even before I had the uncomfortable distinction to cover them as a reporter.
This may have to do to my general discomfort with change.
Freud once noted that people seek an unchanging condition, striving throughout life to come up with a situation in which nothing ever changes: this, of course, is death.
We like to think things change for the better, and perhaps they do, but I keep looking back in time to other periods of my life and realize that I had a better handle of things then than I do now, even if I am in reality better off now.
The death of my uncle Ted earlier this year shook me more than I realized, partly because he was the last member of my extended family, and for the first time, I face the future alone – without any remaining connection to the house I grew up in.
I remember Ted pulling me aside after my mother’s death in late 2001, and saying how we were the last of the clan. Later, I was shocked to hear of his moving out of the state, part of that mass exodus to find greener pastures in the south. Ted was always typically American, falling into the social patterns that later generations read about in sociology classes, moving to Toms River when that became fashionable, and then to South Carolina when New Jersey proved too burdensome.
He never told me he moved, and I found out only after his daughter arranged to meet me in Toms River for a talk.
Yet in truth, the losses have been mounting since 1989 when Ted’s brother, Harold died at 54. Although his sister Alice died in 1975, her death seemed a fluke – not so much the product on inevitable age. Harold, Grandma, Albie, Ritchie, Frank, my mother, and finally Ted, and I am here looking back to those simple days of the late 1970s early 1980s when all of them seemed content in their lives and the future seemed full of peace and potential.
This, of course, is not MY election day, but rather one for the town I cover, so I shouldn’t feel so full of foreboding, but I do. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that tomorrow is my birthday, and that I will be one year short of 60 – and this makes me recall my 29th birthday and how much I dreaded the change to 30.
Perhaps I feel back because Pauly’s mother passed away a few weeks ago, one more rung in the ladder down into my own grave, or by the fact that my best friend, Pauly, is planning to retire later this year – after he turns 62.
I should be grateful. I found my neighbor sweeping my sidewalk this morning as a pay back for letting her use our driveway. I did good deeds yesterday helping one of my work mates with a side project – I even gave her a computer.
But somehow, nothing seems enough.
At least my kid is no longer angry with me – perhaps because it will be my birthday soon, perhaps because she is on a similar path and needs to me to hold on longer for her than my uncles did for me. Perhaps she just needs a friend, and I’ve tried to be that for her.
All these thoughts went through my head as I strolled down Broadway in Bayonne today to cover some veterans event, thoughts about life and about the passage of time, and about the concept of elections, how they mean change – good or bad. Some study quoted on the radio this morning noted that people are NOT being taxed more than they were in the past. I’m not surprised. We live in a very spoiled time, people professing patriotism as long as it doesn’t cost them anything, people lacking the basic social graces people had in the past.
I think that’s what I miss most: basic courtesy, which I have seen eroding for years.