This piece was published in the Pasadena Star-News on May 12, 2002.
She finally made good on her promise; she pulled down my pants and spanked my six-year-old bare bottom. I was a willful child and my mother spanked me many times before. This was different – I had crossed the line.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest in the 1950’s, back when little kids went out to play in the morning and returned at lunchtime, full of stories to tell their mom, while they sipped tomato soup and munched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
One summer morning I was playing with my friends deep in the excavation of a new home in our housing development. The contractor had just dug the basement, so I was several feet below the ground. I started to clown around, pulled down my cotton shorts and pretended to pee on an imaginary toilet.
Suddenly Mom appeared. She caught me in a shameful act, and she was mad. I felt a strong tug on my arm as she dragged me home. She sat me down a little too hard on a chair and scolded me – wagging a finger in my face. I was scared out of my little kid’s mind.
My mother taught my siblings and me by example to control our temper. When Mom got mad, we paid attention. Dad got mad a lot. Even though he usually had a good reason, we just didn’t take it as seriously. He was stern and he didn’t take any guff.
A product of her generation, my mother called herself a “housewife” while she raised her brood of five children. Her husband and children defined her. Content with that label, she never rebelled.
These days she calls herself a widow, having lost her mate of 56 years late in 2000. Life is difficult and she struggles to find her way alone. She’s learned to stand up for herself, even though she resides in the assisted living wing of a posh retirement community.
She lives in a luxurious facility with a caring staff. She is connected to immediate help via a medallion she wears around her neck and has pull-cords all over her little apartment. Staff members are always there to assist her, twenty-four/seven.
Mom eats three meals a day in the lovely dining room with windows that are flooded with Arizona sunshine. The ambience is that of a fine restaurant. In order to ensure that everyone is accounted for, residents sit in assigned seats. Two of Mom’s companions were congenial, like her, but the other was a problem.
Mom would describe comments “Lydia” made about the staff, her tablemates and anyone else she could think of. Mom didn’t like Lydia’s caustic comments, but she didn’t know what to do.
After several months of this nonsense, my mild-mannered mom had had enough. She gave Lydia a talking to. Lydia had crossed the line.
A lifelong bully, Lydia tried to intimidate my mom, but it didn’t work. Mom asked the staff to assign her to another table. She had to get down to the dining room 30 minutes earlier than usual, but she adjusted. She missed her congenial tablemates and they missed her.
Last week Mom called to tell me she’s back with the pleasant companions, far from Lydia. Her fellow lovely ladies stood up and asked to be reunited. I told my mother I was proud of her. She had led that revolt. Her anger was appropriate, her challenge to Lydia was well placed, and the resolution was just.
Though I still follow my dad, who never suffered a fool gladly, I try harder to emulate my mom, who holds her tongue a little too long, but finally lets it fly free on the wings of justice.
Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.
This piece was published in the Pasadena Star-News on February 7, 2021.
Much was made about how old Joe Biden was when he ran for president, especially by the 74-year-old former president who called him Sleepy Joe. Biden was a Senator for 36 years and then spent eight years as President Obama’s Vice President. He decided to get into the 2020 presidential race after he was shocked to see a vicious white
supremacist rally in Charlottesville Virginia. He won the presidential election and was inaugurated on January 20.
The United States Senate has 100 members, two for each state. I feel the need to mention that because it seems some people don’t know basic civics anymore. Twenty-one of the Senators are over age 70 and four are over age 80. That means that one quarter of our Senators are well over retirement age.
There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. They represent portions of the state, not the whole state, so they are supposed to be closer to the people. Many Americans can’t name their Congress member, so I don’t think they feel too close to him or her. I didn’t look up the age of every member of Congress, but they tend to stay on the job well into old age too.
My point is not ageism. I voted for Joe Biden because I thought he would be able to save us from four more years of a corrupt president who was rapidly dismantling the country. Biden projected dignity, experience, and most of all, his trademark compassion that we Americans so desperately need. His historic nomination of Kamala Harris for Vice President affirmed his willingness to move forward into the 21st century and not promise to return to the good old days that never existed.
Mitt Romney is 73 years old but has been a Senator for just two years. He lost to President Obama in the 2012 presidential race and graciously conceded when he was defeated. He won Utah’s Senate race in 2018 and stood alone as the only Republican to vote for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Mitch McConnell, 78, told a reporter in October of 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” His agenda was clear.
McConnell has represented Kentucky in the Senate for 36 years, one of the poorest states in the country, with a 16.4% poverty rate. Clearly these old Senators differ in their morals and in their devotion to the people they govern.
Our Senate and House of Representatives have failed to govern the country for several years. Whether it is because of the older Senators who have been around for decades or not, something is not working. Some people blame Congressman Newt Gingrich, who was Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995-‘99, and ushered in warfare politics with an us-versus-them mentality. His approach was nurtured by Fox News and it has metastasized.
One good thing that came from the Trump administration was that millions of Americans were outraged enough to get involved in the election. President Biden received more than 78 million votes and 306 Electoral College votes. Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and to claim the election was “stolen” was expected. But the fact that 147 Republicans voted against certifying the election, even after seditionists stormed the Capitol and endangered their lives, is worrisome. Refusing to accept reality and then lying about it to their constituents so they can keep their seats will lead to more dysfunction. Something has to change.
Republicans are enthusiastic about free markets. OK: They, as legislators, are a commodity in the free market of running for office. The voters are the currency by which they keep their jobs. If a private company had one in four workers who were well past retirement age, they would most likely urge them to take a retirement package. Other’s would simply show them to the door. Voters can show incompetent, corrupt, or very old Senators and Representatives to the door by voting. It’s up to us.
Kathleen Vallee Stein