My Mom, Angeline Hansen, was a 5’2” dynamo. The daughter of Czechoslovakian and Croatian immigrants, she was born shortly after her parents arrived on our shores. When Mom was just five years old, her mother died in the Pandemic of 1918.
The oldest girl in a family of six small children, Mom did her best to help her father with the younger children. Because the family was very poor and she was needed at home, Mom dropped out of school after 8th grade. She was married at 16 and had her first baby at 17. 23 years later, the last of her four children was born. That was me.
Mom’s life had been hard; yet she persevered. And because she had wanted for much, she was determined that her children would have the education and opportunity she did not have.
Mom was a role model of good citizenship, volunteering in my classroom and at our church, and helping out in the community anytime there was a need. Long before “pay it forward” had been coined, Mom often mentioned the caring neighbors who helped feed and clothe her and her siblings during tough times. As a wife, mom, and grandma, Angeline Hansen definitely “paid it forward.”
At the age of 87, Mom faced declining health, and was growing deaf. My family moved her from her long-time home in Lewiston to a wonderful care center in Boise. Getting acclimated to her new home, Mom had just a few requests. She asked that we decorate her room with an American flag, photos of all her children and grandchildren, and a tapestry of Jesus. She also asked me to help her register to vote in her new precinct.
Voting had always been a big deal in our family. Mom, a homemaker, and Dad, a mill worker, would always get dressed up to vote, and they would bring home sample ballots for my sister and me.
As election day approached that fall, I asked Mom if she wanted to vote absentee. The answer was a firm, “No.” She wanted to go to the polls and cast her vote in person.
Early in the morning on election day, we walked slowly into the polling place, my arm linked in hers. Mom turned to me, smiling but with tears in her eyes, and said, “I just love it when they say, ‘Angeline Hansen has voted.’ It makes me feel like I’ve done my duty.” I gave her a hug.
Mom’s polling place was in a gymnasium, and the voting booths were busy. When a booth was available, Mom voted. Then taking my arm, she slowly returned to the table to give the poll workers her ballot. “My name is Angeline Hansen, and here is my ballot,” she declared.
The young man at the table took her ballot and quietly said, “Angeline Hansen has voted.” I could tell Mom hadn’t heard him and asked him to please repeat what he had said a little louder. The young man willingly obliged, saying in a more audible voice, “Angeline Hansen has voted.” I looked over at Mom and could tell that she still hadn’t heard him.
Knowing that this would be the last time Mom voted, I asked the young man, “Could you please just belt it out?” The young man was a bit taken aback by my request but looked up with kindness at Mom who was waiting with anticipation. Then – bless him – he stood up, and in a booming voice declared, “Angeline Hansen has voted!” Everyone in the gymnasium turned to look. But Mom just beamed and loudly whooped, “Woo-hoo!”
Like Mom, I typically enjoy voting in person. But this election, because of the pandemic, I’ll be voting absentee. When I drop the ballot in the mail box, I’ll be thinking of Mom. I’ll remember the joy and pride she took in voting, and I too will exclaim, “Woo-hoo!”