My grandmother was 28 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her high school sweetheart husband had recently left her with two kids, one mortgage, and no job. She beat the cancer, remarried, and went on to lead two separate companies throughout her career. She received her bachelors degree through an online program a few years ago and is currently working on her masters. She has been my best friend since before I could speak and my biggest champion even when she knows I am making mistakes. Her love has filled the void in my life left by my parents and her words have served as a guidepost in every tough decision I’ve had to make. She is kindhearted, empathetic, and the strongest woman I know. She also voted for Trump.
I was devastated the morning after the election. I went to bed early Tuesday night and assumed I would wake up into a world where women were validated for their intelligence, qualifications, and perseverance. I spent the days that followed the election assuring my 13 year old smart-as-a-whip daughter that everything was going to be okay- that there was still good out there, that I would do everything I could to protect her, her body, and her freedoms, and that she could still reach every goal that she has set for herself. I spent the nights that followed the election sobbing myself to sleep and praying to the universe that I would also believe what I had just told my daughter.
The heartbreak was almost unbearable. The grief I experienced was threefold: I grieved because my country did not hold the same beliefs and values as I did, I grieved because I was a woman and this loss was so painstakingly deep rooted in sexism, and I grieved because my own personal superhero had contributed to this heartbreak. How do I proceed from here?
My grief turned to anger and I shut my grandmother out. I didn’t reply to her texts and I didn’t answer her calls. I missed her birthday. How could I talk to her knowing that she had contributed to my broken heart? How could I be vulnerable with the person who was responsible for my open wounds? I couldn’t. But I also couldn’t shut her out forever. I needed her love and her comfort and her words of wisdom and the security she had provided me for my entire life.
It took two months but I finally called her. She answered the phone so happy to hear from me and the first sentence out of her mouth was, “Well, Al, here’s what I can say to you- you are my favorite liberal!” I laughed because I knew it was true and because I knew there was nothing else I could say to make everything better. The results of the election were not my grandmother’s fault. Trump did not win Florida by her singular ballot. And even if it was her fault, even if it all came down to one lousy vote in central Florida and she alone chose the next President, she would still be my grandmother. She would still be the best person that I know and she would still be worthy of my love. I chose to forgive her even though she never asked for forgiveness. (I’m also running out of family members to love me so I can’t even really afford to fuck this up.)
We have not discussed the results of the election or the current political climate in the world and I don’t think we ever will again and that’s okay. I’m allowed to be my own person and make my own informed decisions and stand on my own convictions. And so is she.
There’s a story that she likes to tell about me when I was a small child. I begged her to take a walk with me around the neighborhood. She agreed but only if I would hold her hand. I obliged and we skipped down the street. I promptly let go of her hand and ran ahead. She yelled after me and I came back, apologizing that I would not let go of her hand again. We continued down the street and I dropped her hand for the second time. She came up behind me, picked me up, and carried me home kicking and screaming. She scolded me saying that we could no longer go on a walk together because I did not listen to her instructions. I cried and screamed and cried some more but my grandmother would not give in. The walk was over and I was so, so mad at her. After a bath she tucked me into bed that night and told me that she loved me and I said it right back.